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Telecaster - "Going electric"

Clarence's first electric guitar seems to have been a red 50's Telecaster with a maple neck. It can be seen in early photos of The Reasons, a band that became known as Nashville West. This Tele was sold to him in early 1965 by James Burton, who helped Clarence get started playing electric guitar.

Later, a white '53 Telecaster became his main guitar and Clarence used it on such recordings as "Sweetheart of the Rodeo". He traded this Tele to Bob Warford for a Noble acoustic, which became his primary flattop until a few months before his death. Gene Parsons installed the prototype Parsons/White String Bender on Clarence's other Telecaster. It was a 1956 Tele (neck plate serial number 12350) with a two tone sunburst body, a maple neck and a white pickguard. It is first pictured on the CD re-release of the Nashville West album. For this first bender, Gene used parts from a Fender 800 pedal steel that he obtained from Sneaky Pete Kleinow as well as pieces that he machined himself. This instrument became Clarence's primary electric and he used it until his death in July, 1973. It is now owned by Marty Stuart.

Clarence was using this guitar when he officially joined The Byrds in September, 1968. Pictures from the Newport Pop Festival show that it had a black pickguard and no neck pickup at that time. Clarence later replaced the neck pickup and added a dark pearloid pickguard before eventually installing his trademark red-brown tortoise one.

Clarence with guitar After recording the "Ballad of Easy Rider" album, the neck pickup was replaced by one from a Strat. It may have been rewound by Red Rhodes who was a well known Steel player in California as well as being an amplifier expert. Red rewound the neck pickup which may have included an extra boost coil. There a number of theories about Clarence's pickups and how he changed them but not much has been confirmed. It seems that he used Red's Velvet Hammer pickups for some time.

Clarence utilized an out of phase switch which can be heard on "Blue Canadian Rockies" from the "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" album. He also added two Keith tuners on the high E and A strings. These banjo tuners raise or lower the strings to a pre set pitch. On his trademark instrumental "Nashville West", Clarence dropped the high E to D to get an open G chord on the four high strings. Marty Stuart later moved the A string Keith tuner to the low E string.

Clarence's guitar had stickers added such as the Nudie one and a Frankfurt sticker that he obtained when The Byrds played in Frankfurt, Germany on June 20, 1970. Road manager Jimmi Seiter put it on and Clarence liked it! Also a Satellite logo from a Plymouth car was added as well. This all created a very unusual and easily recognized guitar. There are rumours that Clarence may have owned a Stratocaster or a Jazzmaster but there is no real evidence to support this.

Clarence used heavy Gibson picks as well as his middle and ring fingers for his hybrid picking technique. He used light gauge strings, .009 to .042 but replaced the third with a.013 to get a snappier sound. He also applied baby powder on the neck of his guitars.

Amplifiers - "Getting it real loud"

Clarence usually used Fender amplifiers although he owned a Rheem amp which was similar to a Vibrolux. It's reported that he played really loudly. He had a very light attack with his pick and fingers and the volume of the amp enabled him to play with a lot of dynamics.

With Nashville West, he played a blackface Vibrolux with 2x10" speakers. Gene Parsons said that Clarence added an auxiliary Altec Voice of the Theatre speaker.

When he was with The Byrds, Clarence used Fender Dual Showmans with 2x15" JBL speakers. He also had a Super Reverb which was sometimes connected to a Fender Vibratone, a rotating speaker similar to a Leslie. This can be heard clearly on some of the later bootlegs and the "Muleskinner" album. He occasionally used Twin Reverbs, Deluxes and Bandmasters.

In the studio, Clarence often played a Princeton Reverb or a Vibrolux and sometimes recorded directly into the soundboard. Studio tube compression was often added to his guitar tracks.

Footpedals - "Don't step on my ..."

Clarence had a series of fuzz pedals. First was a Fender Blender, then a Gibson Maestro fuzz box and finally a Valley Arts fuzz which was eventually stolen.

By Thomas Eric Kuhn

And now enjoy the Clarence White bio- & discopraphy!