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 Post subject: Tom Presley is Now Here
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:28 pm 
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Within the last few days -

New user TomPresley is now a member of the forums;

Check it out - it appears that he can be contacted privately ........

RCSBlues :oops: :up:

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:52 pm 
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:D :up:

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 3:25 pm 
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How do we know it's the real Tom, I used to be 'Bob Barker' on another website... In all seriousness, this is great. Let's be polite and not bombard him with too many questions though.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 3:31 pm 
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I really doubt that it's the "real" Tom. The "real" one is only 30 years old, still hangin' out with a bunch of really cool musicians, and designing guitars and amps. The one listed in the forum is just some SOB trying retire in a year or so, so he can get to doin' what he wants to do! :)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:54 pm 
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It's true, what a delight to welcome to our Electra fan community a truly important guy, a genuine innovator who took his brainstorms to the people. Tom Presley has joined the forums, ladies and gentlemen, and as seldom as we get to celebrate a real celebrity, I'm gonna say let's hear it for Tom!

For those new to the Electra brand, Tom Presley was SLM's guitar designer from the mid-70's through the brand's close in 85 and beyond. Under his hand, the Electra guitar brand went from an off-the shelf reselling of standard copies to a new era of original models with features and quality that were otherwise custom-only, before there was custom shop. Remember, it wasn't until 83 that Fender sold a strat with a 5-way, stock. Innovations like coil tap, phase reverse were secrets mainly only the stars and certain guitar technicians knew about. Tom brought these features to the mainstream audience, along with numerous other innovations in design and materials and an eye for serious quality in terms of what a musician cares about.

After the Electra brand Tom was involved in numerous other projects, such as the development of the budding Alvarez brand. Like so many creative people, Tom's done a lot and is doing more. I don't know, if you asked me to recall details of what I did at work thirty years ago, I'd be stumped. Also, he's a busy guy and we shouldn't presume he'll have too much time to spend with us here.

That said, I have a million questions myself. Hopefully Tom can recall some stories about the various models and how he designed them. There are many people here who are quite passionate and personal about their Electras, and any details of their creation are interesting.

So I'll start off with some questions -

What was your favorite Electra guitar model?


Do you recall any interesting or unusual stories around any model?


How did you come up with the unbalanced coil pickup setup? Is that technology being used today?


(for the MPC fans) were there any MPC module concepts that didn't see the light of day?


What other brands besides Electra have you had a hand in?


What projects outside SLM are you proudest of?


thanks Tom!


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:56 am 
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Ok, now I'm totally humbled! Thanks, and always with the passing of years, I'm likely given credit for things that I only brought in an as conceptual thought.

Before I answer your specific questions, I wanted to point out that I was hired at SLM as a "newby" and knew very little about the guitar "business". I was playing in a fairly popular group, worked as a studio musician, engineer, owned a watch repair - jewely shop, a little electronic business and was doing amp mods, guitar mods and building a few guitars on the side. We've all been there. Ya gotta eat, and support a new family. My wife and I moved into a 120 year old house near St. Louis with the intent of restoring it. Our new next door neighbor was the sister of Curt Trainer (later, the actual "Dad" of the MPC) and Curt and I became lifelong friends. He went to Gene Kornblum and told Gene; "you gotta hire this guy!" Gene, Curt and a couple of other guys convinced me to sell the jewelry store, abandon all these "hobbies" and start a career with SLM. I think the conversation took 10 minutes! Over the next few months, I was introduced to the guitar "business". I was a little disappointed. The entire world was caught up in making copies of Fender, Gibson, Gretsch etc. You get it? Here I am, a kid with about 1000 ideas of changing the world and I'm stuck just doing the same thing over and over again and making it cheaper! Somewhere along the line, the management of the company got tired of my bitching - sorry but that's what it was. I didn't know about RoI, R&D cost anaysis and market elasticity. My entire scope of business at that time was - it's broken - ya fix it. It could be better, make it better.

Now came the dilemma; make a Strat cheaper. How do you do it? It already has a slab body, bolt on neck, embedded maple fingerboard, brittle frets, stamped bridge, single coil frets and a pre-assembled electronics in the pickguard. Cheap Labor! That’s when it dawned on me that I had to ask Gene the real question; “Boss, what’s gonna happen when Fender takes production off-shore.” Response: “They’d never do that!”

The question finally sunk in and that’s when SLM decided to grow our own. I had a mission.

“What was your favorite Electra guitar model?”

That’s a tough one. It’s kind of like asking; “who’s your favorite son, Jason or Sean.”

I can say that the most challenging were the MPCs. There were complexities in getting M.G. (trading company) to assist in funding, Kasuga to make them, Amerel to design and fit the modules, AND to get them to a marketable price. Though the concept of the MPC design was Curt Trainer’s, I had already built in some circuits in some Strats and LPs, I had never set up “production” of a guitar. Consider that the first MPCs were sticking stuff in a production Kasuga LP copy with all of the intrinsic issues of Japanese production at the time. We had to overcome numerous issues – pressed tops, inconsistent pickup output, frets made of chrome plated chocolate cake and “almost maple” necks. If we were going to make $1000.00 instruments, things had to change a little or a lot!

That’s where my “favorites” start. Vulcans – generation 2. Solid, carved tops, real nickel silver frets, specific pickup manufacturing that WE designed and controlled, and North American maple for necks. Part of the transition incorporated the new LP body with the upper bout cut, changing the neck to body weight ratio and re-design of the neck pocket for the “heelless cutaway”. I now had the core foundation to make a unique design with some features that could set us apart, and one to lay the MPC on.

The next transition came from the Spectrums which still hold a special spot. I had already done numerous Strat mods for local musicians prior to SLM. I already used 3 performance Strats with goofy pickup mods 1-1-2, 2-1-2 and 1-2-1. Yep, I hacked 3 pre-67 Strats to drop in pickup configs. Still have one of them in pieces by the way.

We changed the body cosmetics, designed knobs, dropped in un-balanced coil pickups, had this goofy idea for black hardware, Imron finishes, flat black necks, and really sound manufacturing fundamentals. We still had work to do, but the foundation evolved!

“Do you recall any interesting or unusual stories around any model?”

Ok, I’m likely gonna get sued over this but there is a “book” around the Leslie West model. We had just finished the design with Leslie. By this time his career was a little un-stable but John Maher our marketing/artist relations guy at the time, hooked up with LW and we cooked up this idea to have Leslie come to St. Louis for our National Sales Meeting. All the reps, some distributors and Gene would be in attendance to see our new models, presentations and look at the new marketing programs for the year! I was READY!

So, about 10pm the night before the meeting, I get a call from John; “You gotta get over here.” “Didn’t Leslie’s flight get in yet;” I asked. “Oh it got in – you gotta get over here NOW!”

When I got to the hotel, I saw John’s car in the lot with John running around yelling; “Sh**, Sh**, Sh**.” It’s then that I noticed that the windows in the car were down, and a 300lb lump in the back seat. Being the get it done, planner guys, we took the bull by the horns and started making plans for new jobs. John was sure that he could get work at Musician magazine and I was pretty sure that I could go to work for Osborne computers.

After the “responsibility” bug hit, John made a call to a guy he knew at a “Big and Tall” mens shop in Westport Plaza and convinced him that he should open the store for a celebrity. Karpowicz and a few of his guys showed up and the transition began. We picked up a White Suit and killer hat for LW, a bottle of Jack and other essentials. 4 hours later the work was done. I don’t know if LW even woke up during the deal but by morning, he was standing in front of the entire SLM team, plugging in his brand new LW model.

“Hey, you guys know who I am?” “Ya’all think Disco SUCKS?!!!” “Me Too!” “I wish some of it would “SUCK ON ME!!! Right then he had one of the Amerel boys beat on a cow bell and he started the licks to Mississippi Queen as well as he ever played it. . . I think I passed out.


“How did you come up with the unbalanced coil pickup setup? Is that technology being used today?”

I was winding some coils on a trusty Singer sewing machine in my basement. I had about 15 production bobbins, some Duncans and others and was tearing them apart, measuring output, and comparing them to some buckers and favorite single coils in my stash. I had a jig with a couple of scales embedded and would mount the pickups and strum them, measure them and compare both audio and recorded output. Along the way, I messed up the mix of “A” and “B” coils/bobbins and ended up with a coil “A” set combined with a coil “B” set. Weird, there was more definition a little less output, and none of the whoompy BS overtones that I was trying to get rid of anyway. They’d match the input gates on the MPCs and still have a strong LP Timbre. A by product was that we could phase cancel almost as well as a full matched Humbucker, and have a killer coil tap.

There were several winders that kind of duplicated the idea over time but they simply reduced the wind count on coil A and increase on coil B. However, every one that I’ve torn down missed the fact that we used different capacitance wire on the B coil as well as different magnet content and mass. So a simple change in hysteresis loop, pf of the wire and you get a new design concept.


“(for the MPC fans) were there any MPC module concepts that didn't see the light of day? “

The “Arbeiter” Fuzz Face module. Ok, so I’m a thief. I always played a Fuzz Face and liked it. So I took my old one, gave it to Karp and they copied it. For whatever reason, it never really passed audio testing and I junked it. Tim Harman has one of them in a prototype guitar of mine.

The true Analog Delay never was in a full production – a few were made though.

Wireless module – FCC issues ate us alive – so we simply planted a Shure/

Digital circuit service module. We loaded a Vulcan bridge with Quart in each saddle and ran the 6 outputs to a hex pre-amp module and from there to a DSP service module. We were going to MIDI this rascal. We had the front end but nobody had the back end! Powering it was another issue and we solved that with a stereo plug running 18 volts from a transformer back at the amp to the stereo plug on the guitar.

After time we did make a few Westone Panteras with the design and Trevor Rabin used one for some tunes on the Union or Talk tour. Barcus made some of the interfaces for us and I still have one of those somewhere around.

“What other brands besides Electra have you had a hand in?”

Alvarez was our bread and butter. After ’77 I was very engaged in the design and development. Kazuo Yairi, Kawakami-san and the entire Alvarez Yairi team were inventors, so they came together making original cosmetics and design integrations that distributed all over the world.

Crate, though Curt’s concept was an area of engagement and the SLM guitar shop did mods on the Crate designs and made many suggestions to the audio.

The Blue Voodoo was really a mod to the standard 6LC/KT88 mods that I’d done many years before and I was called in as an influencer only. In fact, my son still performs and records with a Voodoo. It’s a better recording amp than any of my Marshalls or Twins.

For a period of time, If any product was sold by SLM ,except violins, ( – oops the Alvarez Electric violin was an SLM guitar shop thing too), it passed through my team. We did cabinet work for Audio Centron, Proximity power amps – have one of them too, Elka synths, Zeron Mikes (Fostex) and a mess of other stuff. It was a fun time!

What projects outside SLM are you proudest of?

Ever hear of the Accutron Watch? Index wheel re-design…integrated with the quartz tuning fork modulators.

Spectrum Analyzer Flow Scan Meters – Lana and I integrated florescent meters into the standard meter circuit on our kitchen table. We prototyped 24 of them. That project ended up in Gene’s hands and was sold or traded to “Pioneer” in exchange for use of the “Pioneer” brass instrument name. About a year later, they were selling these as commercial sound reinforcement equipment overseas.

Since then, I’ve been working at Matrix Integration as a “Solutions Architect” designing networks, running the “Practice” and having fun in the Networking industry.

Sean’s group, Lucid Hue is another fun project. He’s a virtuoso player, well seasoned writer. They are now on sabbatical since Sean recently became a dad on his own.

Jason wants to re-start the American Luthier brand and take the original concept to production. I told him that I’d help him do it once I retire from Matrix and we’ll start this whole Electra, Westone, Alvarez thing all over again!

I apologize for the lengthy post but I bet it covered ALL of your questions . . . right?

Tom


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:53 pm 
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:hyper: This is really good info and I would like to thank you for time and input to this forum. You have answered many questions and it is nice to hear it from the source. Please feel free to share more info as we all are fans of your work here in the Electra Forums. Thanks again :up:

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:54 pm 
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Great info!

I notice you list motorcycles (one of my passions too). Certain brands/styles/eras?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:36 am 
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All, thanks for the kudos!

X189 is a motor head too! I've been a dirt rider since the late 60s and have owned a mess of 250s - Mako, Husky, Ossa, Suzuki - I still have a very old semi-restored Yoshimira TM-250 on a 400 swing arm. I've also owned Honda, Harley and my latest resoration is an 87 Yamaha Venture Royale with low miles. Really handles nice for a 1500 - easier to handle than a GW - and is very quick!

So, don't get me started because I have more opinions about bikes than guitars! You need at least 4. True Moto-Cross, Cross Over Dirt 400, Low Rider Custom and a Touring something or other. Oh, maybe I need a 5th - Sport Touring......

Lana thinks 2 or 3 is enough. My "opinion" is that she is wrong.

Tom


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2010 11:20 am 
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Yeah - that's like saying only 1 or 2 guitars is enough .................

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2010 3:42 pm 
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well after 25yrs of marriage I have learned to start high and hope she will offer a number that is still allowable. If you want 25 guitars ask for 40 and they may settle for 25 lol it is always an educated guess anyway.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:55 am 
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...or just get an unknown-to-the-wife studio or garage to stash a few of your treasures! :wink:

Heck, adulterers have done it for decades with rented apartments/condos/trailer houses/caves........at least we're being faithful........just not 100% truthful.... :blush:


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:47 pm 
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Always stay one ahead. I have 4 Electras and 3 X wife's!


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