I think it was the late summer of 1980 and Powder Blues was topping the national charts with ‘Doin’ It Right’ (On the Wrong Side of Town). We were in Toronto appearing at the (now long-gone) Ontario Place Forum on the Lakefront. It was a fantastic evening with the seating sold out and perhaps an additional ten thousand people sitting on the grass banks surrounding the circular, slowly revolving stage.
We went through our usual set for the time and about halfway through played the classic slow blues ‘Personal Manager’ which we had recorded for our first album. During the guitar solo in the middle of the tune, I strayed from the arrangement on the record and improvised a longer solo which culminated in my playing ever higher notes on the high E string of the guitar.
When I finally ran out of room on the fret board and could no longer bend the note any higher I proceeded to fret the string against the neck position Gibson humbucking pickup cover producing a very clear and sustaining G note two octaves above high G, a note which for obvious reasons is rarely if ever attained on a guitar. The crowd applauded and we went on to finish the set with a number of encores; all in all a memorable night. The high note however was completely forgotten by me until perhaps seven or eight years later…
I was in the band room of a Toronto nightclub between sets and Jeff and I were having a drink and chatting. He told me that he had been front row in the audience that night back in 1980 at the Ontario Place Forum. The then fourteen year-old Jeff had asked his mother to bring him to hear the band. He recalled the solo in Personal Manager and said he had always wondered how I had managed to play the double high G note.
Being a Stratocaster player he wouldn’t have been able to easily fret a note on a Strat pickup and being blind he of course couldn’t see what I was doing at the time. When I explained to him about how humbuckers usually have a flat metal pickup cover and how I’d fretted against the cover he burst out laughing and said “I knew there was a trick to it and I’ve waited seven years to know what it was!”
Musician, songwriter, producer, founding member of Canadian blues/rock band, Powder Blues (currently enjoying their 35th anniversary), and more recently director of the west coast based Pacific Audio Visual Institute… Tom Lavin has had a long and storied career.
Jeff’s first release, the 1986 double A-side single, ‘Adrianna/See The Light‘, was recorded with Tom’s help at his Vancouver studio, Blue Wave. (Coincidentally, ‘Personal Manager’ was a recurring cover selection in early JHB set lists.)
Oh, and Tom Lavin is also a hell of a nice guy. ~Rog