Send a Message to Fred LeBaron

Trying to get back in the game

This is me in the Badlands last summer with my daughter Kitty. I've lost a lot of weight since then, honest!

Not fade away

Playing the guitar, and music in general, seems to come easily to some folks. I'm not one of them. I've been playing since 1964 (ok, I took about 25 of those years off), but haven't progressed much. I guess I lacked the patience to really learn, since actually "practising" was never my strong suit. CAGED, barre chords, enough to sing along with... that was about it. Lately though, I've become more enthused about learning new and different things. That's what I enjoy about this site. I'm 52 now, a lawyer with 4 kids, I enjoy mostly acoustic stuff (like Clapton Unplugged, Vertical Horizon, old blues), but am interested in learning to play more solo type things too. I also enjoy motorcycling on my old Yamaha V-Star Classic, and am taking Karate lessons with my 7 year old. Part of what got me back into the guitar thing was playing worship type music with the youth group at our church (they were desperate and not too picky -- just my speed), and I'm enjoying playing there, too. I recently ran across a really fun web site that gives the flavor of what the "band scene" was like back in the day in good old Grand Rapids Michigan. If you want to check it out, it's at http://www.grandrapidsrocks.com/

Gear and Stuff

One thing I like about being older and having a job is that I can actually afford to buy a decent guitar. My first few (paid for with lawn mowing money) seemed really lame at the time, but now I'm nostalgic for them. I've always liked the look of a sun-burst with f-holes. My first real guitar (I played a baritone uke for a while, if you can believe it!) was a Harmony Patrician, an arch top with a moveable bridge that drove me nuts when I changed strings. I also had a Harmony Strato-tone electric, a Les Paul style (well, loosely anyway, a single cutaway small body) made out of masonite, I think. I played that in a lot of bands and had fun with it. Now I have a nice old Guild D-25, a reddish mahogany arch-back behemoth that is a real warhorse. I also have a nice Yamaha that I really like. It's an APX8a acoustic electric. Thin body, sunburst, nice trim around the sound hole. I recently bought what is to me my dream guitar, a Martin NAMM100 Special. It's a 000 size with a venetian cutaway, tortoise binding, sunburst, of course, and cool snowflake abalone rosettes on the fingerboard and bridge. It sounds great too, rich and deep, not too boomy (I never liked that about Martins). I am working hard on figuring out how to explain its appearance in the line-up to my wife, who thinks I already have way too many guitars ("Explain to me again why it is that you need more than one?") I play those through a Fender Acousti-sonic Jr. I also have a thin-line Tele, natural mahogany (with f-hole!) that I play through a little Marshall DSL 401. It sounds cool when I rock out on Crossroads, my favorite Cream song from back in the day (I saw them play it live in Detroit, '68). I'm looking to expand my effects array, and am thinking about a Pandora PX4. Last weekend I got sucked into buying another new instrument -- a baritone guitar, at a Vintage Guitar show near here. It is a very interesting instrument, big with a rich lower register. I gather from surfing the web that it's like the one Ani DiFranco plays, an Alvarez AV SB-2. Still trying to figure out how to tune it, let along play it. Man, the fun just never stops with this guitar stuff, does it?

Musical Influences

  • Del Shannon -- I loved this guy's music before the Beatles showed up, and he's from my home town.
  • Frank Salamone -- He taught me how to play acoustic blues
  • The British invasion -- They made all the old stuff sound so fresh again

Favorite Recordings

  • "Blue" Joni Mitchell - If songs are like tattoos, are tattoos like songs?
  • "Screaming Infidelities" Dashboard Confessional - I wish I could write and sing like this.
  • "Red Dirt Girl" Emmy Lou Harris - She's the coolest