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Ritchie Valens - guitar playing and rig


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Hi all,

 

I've been a Ritchie Valens from a long time back - and I've always felt that his guitar playing was the more overlooked aspect of his career. I'd heard it said that he was a very good player for his age, and that some people considered him a better picker than Buddy Holly himself who he obviously toured with. I'm working on researching this further for a project. I don't know if any of you can help me but here are a few questions:

 

1. On Ritchie's records, which did he actually play the lead riffs. To the best of my knowledge, Rene Hall (the early Wrecking Crew guy) played all the leads on "Come On Let's Go" but it was really Ritchie on the lead for "Donna" and "La Bamba".

 

2. As per 1 above, what about some of the other Rtchie tunes like "Ooh My Head", "That's My Little Suzie", "Hi-Tone", "Bluebirds Over The Mountain" and "The Paddiwack Song" - did he play the solos on those?

 

3. I think it's indeed Ritchie on lead on "Malaguena" and "Big Baby Blues"

 

4. What his rig like? I know he had a green semi-homemade Sears Silvertone flavored thing, and a white Harmony acoustic. Later on once he got famous, he had at least one Fender Strat (black and sunburst) and some kind of Gibson ES-175 thinline. What about amps??

 

Any helps is greatly appreciated - like books, articles, interview, contacts etc.

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~~and some kind of Gibson ES-175 thinline. That was a Gretch I believe.

 

If you ignore the Hollywood hype you'll likely come closer to the truth. Studios were very rigid back then and unless you can dig up then actual facts, its probably not wise to guess who may have recorded the parts. Studios had all kinds of regular studio musicians who would record tracks. Holly was one of the exceptions who was allowed to do many of his own tracks. That too changed later when he found out how much better his songs could sound with added orchestration backup.

 

I've never seen any actual live footage of Valens so I'm not sure what gear he used live. I know when he did his last tour, the guys in that show were all working for the same recording company and were all sharing the same amps. (You can only fit so much gear on a single tour bus) This was common when bands toured back then. The recording company was in charge of your tours and your recording sessions. They may have given you cash for guitars and such, but they sure got it back out of you making you work like a slave.

 

He did get a 6120 Gretch, same kind Cochran owned when he did Ooh! My Head. They rode the same tour bus so I'm sure they were always trading instruments. But you got to remember, Valens really wasn't around very long. He went from High School in 57 to appear on Dick Clark's American Bandstand television show on October 6 of 57, then he died touring in February 1959.

 

That gave him about one year of recording and performing on a professional level. That's like a wink of an eye. Not much time to accumulate gear. The record company was grooming him for big things but it just didn't happen. Holly was at it longer so he had more to show for his short career. The few songs Valens did record were good enough to stay on the radio. Few musicians get hits like he did and fail to get a hit spending a lifetime performing so I'd guess he was given a contract because he was, one of the better players of his time.

Edited by WRGKMC
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I thought Ritchie didn't get signed to Del-Fi with Bob Keene until May 1958 or so, and I think Come On Let's Go didn't hit till later that summer which would make his career less than a year long total. wow. :( I'm pretty sure that when he played Bandstand that was a Gibson of some type? There are few notable pics of it around:

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/forever_22/3549042290/

 

http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2013/sandbox/news/131216/131216/dead-celebs/ritchie-valens-600x450.jpg

 

Did Ritchie actually the Gretsch 6120 he had in Go Johnny Go? Other than that and his old green guitar, I always saw him with Strats in pictures.

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I am pretty sure this is the only known footage of RV playing the guitar. It looks like he does cut to a solo at the end. There is a few seconds of video at his farewell party playing a Start at home. He definitely played a strat on the Winter Dance Party Tour.

 

Try listening to Live at Pacoima Middle School. The albums 'B' side has a lot of takes of hiw different songs. You can hear Bob Keene in the background pushing RItchie to finish the songs. The raw sound of the guitar/band is pretty amazing

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Yeah, I need to get the Live at Pacoima album. I've heard that Ritchie was as good as Buddy Holly was as a lead player (can't remember where I read or heard that from). But it's hard to nail down who played what on those early tunes, haven't ever been able to find a lot of documentation.

 

To the best of my knowledge I think it's Rene Hall of the Wrecking Crew on the solos and fills for "COme On Let's Go". Not sure about "Donna". But I think it is Ritchie's playing on "La Bamba" and other tunes like "Bluebirds Over The Mountain", "Hi-Tone" and "Big Baby Blues"

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This is Ritchie on the 1959 Winter Dance Party. A couple of days before he died. Got a Strat, which, from what I understand, were not very popular at the time.

 

Waylon Jennings, on bass, looks on.

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Edited by Tall
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