Down and Dirty with G. Love: The Crucianelli
One day a long, long time ago in 1993, I was walking through the streets of Boston, by Berklee College of Music, in a neighborhood called Fenway. There was a classic guitar shop around the corner from Berklee called Cambridge Music, and they always had the illest guitars in the window.
On this particular day, I was hanging with my two homies from Philly, and we were walking the streets, smoking joints and messing around. I had no idea my musical life was about to change. We walked by Cambridge Music and I stopped dead in my tracks. There in the window was MY guitar.
How much is that doggie in the window!?!
It was really like love at first sight, but with a guitar. There she was, looking fine as can be, The Crucianelli. Some sort of offshoot from the Italian guitar brand, Eko. Some sort of crazy '60s concoction of wood, plastic and metal. Some sort of unmistakable identity with six strings.
The Crucianelli had the look, alright, the Italian answer to the Fender Mustang, blue sparkle on the front, white mother-of-toilet-seat on the back, wood coated in plastic with four pickups and a million switches. I'd never seen anything like it. There it was in the window, 250 bucks.
I ran in and put down $25 to hold the guitar. I ran home got my '80s squire Telecaster and went back to pick up my new axe. The kind man at Cambridge Music gave me $125 for the Tele, I came out of pocket with another $125 and I walked out with the slickest electric guitar I'd ever laid eyes on.
I had just started my band and was gigging around town, three or four gigs a month. At the time, I was using my 1939 Dobro with a homemade microphone pickup that my bass player Jimmy “Jazz” Prescott had made from Radio Shack and spare parts. I was really having problems getting a good sound on the Dobro through this old '60s Earth amp. The band wanted me to get an electric. I found it.
That first night with the Cruc was a night I will always remember. I was at my basement apartment on 39 Gordon St. in Brighton. I was staying there with my roommate from Philly and a colony of roaches that always made themselves comfortable.
I had the red lights on and plugged that Crucianelli into that old Earth amp. The first lick I played was this simple yet profound riff from B7 to E7. It sounded large. That riff became the song called "Blues Music." The song ended up being my first single, and in a lot of ways one of the most important tracks I have ever recorded. A tune about why I played music. All on the Crucianelli.
Nine months later, we got a record deal with 550/Sony Music, and I used the both the Crucianelli and that '39 Dobro through a '60s Ampeg Reverb-a-Rocket II while recording my first record. It was my signature sound - garage band, hip-hop blues.
That was back in 1993. Now it's 2011 and that Cruc is still my main electric onstage and in the studio. The only difference is that the Cruc I play is actually about four different Crucs combined. It's been beat up, smashed into amps and drums, dropped, submerged in sweat night after night, it's shocked me, cut me, given me tendinitis. It’s been to Super 8s and Ritz Carlton’s, been all around the world, been on national TV to basic cable and gotten me paid, laid, swayed and dismayed many a night.
I sweat a lot when I play, so the first thing to go was the electronics. The old switch setup was so kooky that most techs just laughed. Finally, we hard-wired the two pickup settings I used … all bass and treble. The neck went next. The action kept getting higher and the truss rod was fully adjusted. Luckily, over the years, guitar players would bring me a Crucianelli or matching Eko they had found and sell it to me. One time someone even gave me one. In New Orleans, I even found the matching bass for 125 bucks. Like an idiot, I didn't buy it ...
So over the years I've teamed up with Rich Chodak at BlueBond Guitars in Philadelphia to keep the Crucianelli road and studio ready. It always has been a challenge, and Rich has been very creative in his work. Rich owns BlueBond Guitars by 4th and South Street in Philly (www.bluebondguitars.com), and he is a true craftsman.
I recently got a chance to go catch up with Rich after my Gibson J45 was launched out of a fourth-story window by a now-ex-girlfriend. He fixed that Gibson up good.
Last year we were playing a show in Atlantic City. I was talking to my drummer when the strap lock slipped on the Crucianelli. It fell hard to the ground, snapping the headstock clean off. I could’ve cried. There she was, lying on the ground, dead. Well, you guessed it: Rich fixed her up good using some of the other spare parts and really going beyond the call of duty.
She is now back on the road and, with the help of Rich and my stage manager/guitar tech Frank "Big Skrimp" Caraccia, looking, sounding and playing better than ever.
I think music is all about character, originality, tone and feel. Having a guitar that stands out from the pack makes you stand out from the pack. I knew when I saw that old guitar in the window that I was the only one in town who would be playing it, and that was and is to this day important to me.
Keep jamming! G
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.