FAM­ILY OF MAN

We get up close and per­sonal with the war-torn gui­tars be­long­ing to Deke Leonard and Micky Jones from Welsh rock­ers Man

Guitarist - - Historic Hardware - Words David Mead Pho­tog­ra­phy Joby Ses­sions

Man were orig­i­nally formed in the late 60s and, with their art­ful meld of blues, art-rock and ex­tended live jams, have of­ten been com­pared with fel­low psych-rock­ers The Grate­ful Dead. Sadly, both long-stand­ing gui­tarists in the band are no longer with us, Micky Jones hav­ing died in March 2010 and Deke Leonard in Jan­uary of this year. On 10 June, a me­mo­rial con­cert was held for Deke at The Princess Royal The­atre in Port Tal­bot and Gui­tarist was in­vited to Swansea’s Sonic One Stu­dios to view a range of in­stru­ments owned by Deke and Micky that were be­ing prepped for the gig.

Micky’s son, Ge­orge Jones, was our guide to the in­stru­ments’ his­tory – a for­mer mem­ber of the Man band him­self and now play­ing with the aptly named Son Of Man, in­tent on keep­ing his fa­ther’s and Deke’s mu­sic alive. These gui­tars rep­re­sent a di­ver­sion from our usual His­toric Hard­ware fod­der: no mu­seum pieces or glass case dwellers here. These are in­stru­ments that have spent years on the road, mod­ded, prod­ded and proudly bear­ing all the scars as­so­ci­ated with life in mu­sic’s front line.

Mick­yJones’s1960/’61 Fen­der­stra­to­caster

One of the cu­ri­ous things about this gui­tar is that there is no neck date – pos­si­bly lost when it was stripped of its orig­i­nal fin­ish around 50 years ago. “It’s al­ways been known as a ’61 Strat,” Ge­orge tells us, “but I did a bit of re­search and I think it’s a tran­si­tion – a ’60/’61. It’s hard to tell, but it’s def­i­nitely from one of those two years. The gui­tar pre­vi­ously be­longed to John Cipol­lina from The Quick­sil­ver Mes­sen­ger Ser­vice and it was orig­i­nally Fi­esta Red; you can still see specks of it down by the springs round the back. It was pur­chased by my fa­ther from John in 1974 on Man’s first tour of Amer­ica.”

It was love at first sight for Micky: “He put his hand on the neck and knew it was ‘the one’,” says Ge­orge. “He went to see John and said, ‘This gui­tar is perfect, it’s mine. How much do you want for it?’ John said $100 and they struck a deal.”

A bargain, then! So what other mods has the gui­tar had in its life­time? “It’s got Gib­son 1960s gold ‘top hat’ knobs on it and it had a leather scratch­plate on it,” says Ge­orge. “Micky swapped out the scratch­plate for an orig­i­nal ’63, the neck was shaved down so much that you can see the truss rod through the back of the neck and it’s be­ing held in by some epoxy resin. My luthier said you can’t make a truss rod ad­just­ment be­cause the epoxy will pop out! It’s a C-shape neck, but it’s ex­tremely thin. The tuners are Grovers and I emailed Grover years ago and they said that they’re ac­tu­ally off a banjo and are ex­tremely rare.”

Is the gui­tar still in use? “It was off the road for a long time, but was used on the lat­est Son Of Man al­bum. It’s re­ally nice to get it back into work­ing con­di­tion. It’s a very del­i­cate gui­tar, so I’ve been very cau­tious about tak­ing it out, but I do use it a lot.”

dekeLeonard’s‘BuLLs­eye’ 1963LesPauL­cus­toM

Deke was closely as­so­ci­ated with the ’63 Les Paul Cus­tom, bought in London in 1972 or ’73. Ge­orge ex­plains: “The bulls­eye is Deke’s third at­tempt at paint­ing it. First of all, he painted a pic­ture of Napoleon on it and if you see some footage on YouTube of the farewell at the Round­house con­cert from 1976, he painted a tribal ef­fect on it and then he painted the bulls­eye – a long time be­fore Zakk Wylde, I think!”

“He put his hands on the neck [of the 1960/’61 Strat] and knew it was ‘the one’” ge­Orge jOnes

Has the gui­tar been mod­ded in any way? “Ab­so­lutely no mod­i­fi­ca­tions what­so­ever, as far as I am aware. He took the pickup cov­ers off – they’re long lost – but the knobs and the hard­ware is all-orig­i­nal. It’s tuned to open G and, un­for­tu­nately, is un­playable at the moment as a gui­tar in stan­dard tun­ing be­cause the neck has warped, so it needs a neck re­set, but Deke had been us­ing it in open G for about 30 years.”

The ‘Bulls­eye’ has orig­i­nal PAF pick­ups and bears Deke’s favoured ver­sion of open G tun­ing: GGDGBD (bass to tre­ble). One mys­tery re­mains, how­ever. “It’s got a name writ­ten on it – John J Welch – and my­self and Deke’s wi­dow, Mary, have been try­ing to find out who he is. We’ve looked on Face­book, but noth­ing… It was com­mon back then for peo­ple to have their names on their gui­tars and cases, but we’ve no idea who John J Welch could have been.”

Micky’s1961sG/LesPauL

This gui­tar has been in the wars, hav­ing suf­fered three neck breaks in its life­time. “It’s fallen off the stage, it’s had a stage cur­tain fall on it, a cym­bal dropped on it and when dad stepped on stage and started play­ing, it broke at the 12th fret,” says Ge­orge. “It’s got a dif­fer­ent head­stock on it – I be­lieve the neck and the head­stock are from a Gib­son acous­tic – and I think Micky, tir­ing of the break­ages, asked a luthier in London to make the gui­tar stronger. So it’s got two truss rods – they’re in­ac­ces­si­ble, you can’t get at them – but the neck is solid and some­how they man­aged to put the orig­i­nal Brazil­ian rose­wood fin­ger­board back on, which is in­cred­i­ble. It’s not had a re­fret since then, but it’s get­ting very low. It’s got orig­i­nal PAFs on it. They’re over­wound: the neck is 8.7k, the bridge is su­per-hot at 8.9k. It’s got a Bigsby B7, which wasn’t orig­i­nal to the gui­tar… It’s a bit of a mon­grel gui­tar, to be hon­est, but it works!”

Un­be­liev­ably, the gui­tar cost £55 when it was bought from a gui­tar shop in New­cas­tle in the early 70s. “Micky orig­i­nally had a Gib­son 335, but, un­for­tu­nately, on tour with Deep Pur­ple in Switzer­land in 1971, it got stolen from the back of the van – the only thing that got taken. Micky’s had lots of lovely gui­tars over the years, but ac­cord­ing to leg­end, that was ‘the one’. A beau­ti­ful gui­tar. He needed a new gui­tar and so the first per­son he called up was Alan Ro­gan, Pete Town­shend’s gui­tar tech, who went on a mis­sion to find Micky a new gui­tar. He went up to a shop in New­cas­tle – he heard they had a Gib­son SG up there – and I think Micky, be­ing a Jerry Gar­cia fan, was veer­ing that way. Micky gave Alan £50 and he went into the shop, tried the gui­tar, loved it and went to buy it, but the gen­tle­man be­hind the counter said, ‘That will be £55, please.’ Alan said that he had £50 and that he’d trav­elled a long way, couldn’t they come to a deal? But the guy said no, he wanted £55. Alan left the shop and was sit­ting in his mother’s house with no gui­tar – and Micky needed one quickly be­cause they were get­ting very busy. So he looked around his mum’s house and in the cor­ner of the room he saw a trum­pet, so he half-inches his mum’s trum­pet, goes down to the shop and part-ex’s the trum­pet and 50 quid and gets the gui­tar!

“Years later Alan in­vited me back­stage to go and see The Who and asked me to bring the gui­tar,” he adds. “So he opened up the case and the Amer­i­can road crew came over and they said, ‘Is that the trum­pet gui­tar?’ Alan said, ‘They all know the story…’ and he was look­ing at the gui­tar and said, ‘You know what? My mum’s still alive and she still asks where that trum­pet is!’

deke’s 70s Fender teLe­caster

The 70s Tele­caster was bought to re­place Deke’s trea­sured ’59 Tele that was stolen in 1993. Ge­orge takes up the story: “I be­lieve

ge­Orge jOnes “Alan half-inches his mum’s trum­pet, goes down to the shop and part-ex’s the trum­pet and 50 quid and gets the gui­tar!”

the Tele­caster is from ei­ther 1976 or ’77,” he says. “It was bought in 1994, com­pletely stock and was to re­place the beau­ti­ful 1959 Tele­caster Cus­tom that was stolen in Aus­tria in ’93. Deke had that gui­tar for a very long time and was dev­as­tated. I was very young when it hap­pened, but I re­mem­ber the look on his face – like he’d just lost a child. It’s very hard to find an­other ’59 and you’d be talk­ing se­ri­ous money, so I think it was just find­ing some­thing that felt as close to that and as rea­son­ably priced as pos­si­ble.”

What about the orig­i­nal ’59? What’s the story there? “It was bought from Ivor Mairants’ shop in London in 1962,” says Ge­orge. “It had been at the back of the shop for two years as no-one was play­ing Tele­cast­ers back then, ex­cept Mick Green in Johnny Kidd And The Pi­rates, who’d let Deke have a play of his when they played in Llanelli. Deke was elec­tro­cuted once when his roadie dropped his Vox am­pli­fier down the stairs and knocked the earth out. He was hold­ing the mic and the gui­tar and he was hos­pi­talised. The neck of the gui­tar was de­stroyed and deep grooves cut across the body and scratch­plate, so Deke had to re­place the neck with a 70s Strat neck, which you can see on some videos on YouTube. Deke re­ally butchered that gui­tar: he cut two holes in it, he also painted a bulls­eye on it. He met Steve Crop­per once, who was hor­ri­fied!”

Ge­orGeJones’GiB­son1963 reis­suees-335

Fi­nally, a gui­tar that Ge­orge bought to hon­our his late fa­ther’s orig­i­nal 335 that was stolen in 1971. “It’s a stock Rich Robin­son ’63 reis­sue, small block in­lay with a fac­tory fit­ted Bigsby,” Ge­orge tells us, “and I was af­ter one be­cause it was Micky’s orig­i­nal gui­tar in Man, used to record the first three al­bums. There’s footage of Micky us­ing it on The Beat Club and it looked huge on him be­cause dad was so tiny. I’ve al­ways been af­ter one be­cause all the guys in the band said that the Strat is lovely and the SG is lovely, but the 335 is re­ally the one that got away. It was the nicest gui­tar he ever had and he re­ally missed it.”

Gui­tarist would like to thank Tim Hamill at Sonic One Stu­dios, Swansea for the use of his premises for this ar­ti­cle

“I’ve al­ways been af­ter [a 335]… The Strat is lovely and the SG is lovely, but the 335 is re­ally the one that got away. It was the nicest gui­tar [Micky] ever had and he re­ally missed it [when it was stolen]” ge­Orge jOnes

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4 1. The 1960/’61 Strat had al­ready had sev­eral mod­i­fi­ca­tions when Micky Jones bought it from John Cipol­lina while Man were on their first US tour in 1974 2. The Strat’s vol­ume and tone con­trols have been swapped for 1960s Gib­son gold ‘top hat’ knobs 3. The back of the neck was shaved down to such an ex­tent that the truss rod be­came vis­i­ble – it’s now be­ing held in place with epoxy resin! 4. Just a smidge of the Strat’s orig­i­nal Fi­esta Red fin­ish re­mains in the trem spring cav­ity

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Ge­orge Jones is de­ter­mined to keep the spirit of his fa­ther’s mu­sic alive with his band, the aptly ti­tled Son Of Man

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