DIY Reader Guitar: Tribute to Ry Cooder

DIY Reader Guitar: Tribute to Ry Cooder

My introduction to Ry Cooder and slide guitar came with the 1986 Walter Hill movie Crossroads. As a teenager desperately looking for music with more feel than the hair metal bands my friends listen to, I started buying Chess releases by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, so I already knew I liked the blues. I was particularly drawn to the sound of the slide, but I really didn’t know how it was done. Crossroads I helped fill in the blanks, and before long, I was buying my first guitar, putting a piece of cut copper tubing on my finger, and trying (and failing miserably) to mimic the sounds I heard Ry Cooder make. For me it was magic: how he made everything appear Very well?

Arlene Roth to the rescue….

Arlen Roth and Hot Licks came to the rescue Guitar slide VHS video, which I requested via an ad in Guitar Magazine. He was the guitar instructor at Ralph Macchio Crossroads, so I figured if he could teach an actor with no prior experience playing guitar, he could teach me. He put in the open tuning, gauges, left and right damping techniques, and with that solid foundation I was able to take off for myself. Roth had a different tone from Cooder with his heavy brass slide versus Cooder’s glass, but he had the same kind of charm in his playing. I was particularly fond of Roth’s black map-style National Newport map that he used in the video. I’ve never seen anything like it. Someday ….

Speaking of great guitars, Cooder’s famous Codercaster with its Valco overhang steel pickup, big plate, and Teisco gold-foil pickup was simply unobtainable. This was, of course, back in the days before there was a cottage industry producing simulations of this previously unique machine.

Fast forward a few decades, and my admiration for these routers hasn’t waned, but I’ve never been able to get a great national electric on a map. I also never jumped on the Coodercaster bandwagon, as the repro market is in full swing. The yearning for both was still there, but in the case of the National Maps guitars, the collector’s market priced them too high to afford. However, I came across a used Eastwood flight map for a good price on Reverb. It’s red, not black like Roth National Newport, but the red and white color scheme reminded me of JB Hutto’s Airline, so it will do.

There’s even a little JB Hutto in the CooderMapster’s mixed genes.

When I received the guitar, I loved the way it felt and played, but I’m not a mediocre guy (the pickups have been upgraded to Duncan ’59s). Then it hit me: Why don’t you make it a Coodercaster? I got lucky with a couple of Cooder’s vintage gold foil Tesco pickups freed from a wrecked guitar, so all I needed was a Valco steel pickup. It will be hard to get a viable original. I also don’t like the idea of ​​harvesting pickups from perfectly well-working zigzag steel for my vanity project, so I’ve come down to Mojo or Lollar. I went with Mojo because they seemed to be able to solve the notorious gradient issues without using special wires.

I could feel my way through the wires, but I knew some routing was needed to install Mojo, so I had it done by Gavin Gaines at Southeast Guitar Repair. My idea was to mount the gold flakes on a small cut-out piece of material the size of a hamburger ring, and it worked really well. The Mojo truck needed a winch to get to the proper height, and the pickguard had to be trimmed down a bit, but other than that it wasn’t difficult. However, the string spacing needs help. The treble strings were fine, but the bass strings lacked punch and volume, so I ordered a new Tune-o-matic bridge. I then grooved the saddles to match the pickup pole, which resulted in a noticeable improvement in tone.

And it has a great tone! The 24.75″ gauge and largely hollow construction of the Map makes it look a little different than the typical Strat 25.5 gauge and steel body, but it’s recognizable as Coodercaster-ish. The pickups are beautifully balanced, with Mojo stainless steel being shiny and cut, while gold foil provides warmth and resonance.The built-in pickup setup doesn’t have the dreaded phase issue.The additional volume control also allows for a bit more flexibility than a typical two-knob Coodercaster, allowing for individual volume control on the pickups.

Since it’s a flight map and a Coodercaster, it’s called CooderMapster. When I play it, it reminds me of my guitar heroes Ry Cooder and Arlen Roth. I say to them: Thank you, gentlemen, for the instruction, the pleasure, and the inspiration.

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