"Godfrey Townsend: John Entwistle’s Other Guitarist."
That was the title of a feature article that appeared in Long Island’s Good Times Magazine in 1996. I had just finished my first tour as the front man for The John Entwistle Band, handling the dual tasks of lead guitar and lead vocal.
There has always been the curiosity of those who (unaware of the difference in spelling) assume I am related to Pete Townshend of The Who. It was also a running joke within the Entwistle band as he introduced me onstage every night by saying, “On guitar and vocals, Godfrey Townsend, no 'h,' no relation.”
As I had mentioned in my previous blogs, I had been intrigued when I was 13 by seeing Pete Townshend’s name on the back of the album cover for The Who’s rock opera Tommy. As a result, I bought the album and became a huge fan of the music of The Who.
You can imagine the feeling of fulfillment almost 30 years later of having John Entwistle introduce me every night onstage within a reference to Pete. Although, whilst growing up and teaching myself how to play “lead” guitar, I mostly listened to players like Clapton, Page, Beck and Hendrix.
I always considered Pete a “tasty” lead guitarist but respected him much more as a genius songwriter and an amazing rhythm guitarist. He practically single-handedly invented the “power” chord. Anyway, here it was 1996 and I was getting ready to embark on a cross-country tour as John Entwistle’s guitarist/vocalist. All those years of listening closely to every nuance and phrasing of every guitar lick and vocal part was about to prove worthwhile.
It certainly contributed to the ability of the John Entwistle Band to maintain the authenticity of The Who’s powerhouse sound. Another huge factor was John’s humongous bass rig and my three stacks of amps. At one point, I was using two stacks running in stereo out of an Eventide Harmonizer and another stack in the middle with a dry signal. My rigs changed several times over the six years from Hiwatts to Trace Elliots to Peavey 5150s to Line 6.
I remember being at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California, with Entwistle before the first tour started and knowing I needed to get “geared” up for a proper tour, he asked me what type of amps I wanted. Being given a choice, I quickly answered, “Marshall.” Off we went to the Marshall booth. Unfortunately, at the same time, Slash was doing some sort of appearance and here I was, standing there with the bassist of The Who, not being able to get anyone’s attention.
That didn’t last very long before John said to me, “@#$% this. Follow me.” Next thing I knew, we were standing at the booth of Hiwatt amps and John was making arrangements for them to give me two 100-watt heads and four 4 X 12 cabs. I used them for a week or so, but they were a little too clean for my taste. They were very loud and punchy but had no real gain or sustain. I never use a distortion or overdrive as I usually depend solely on the amp’s drive.
Another company John was associated with was Trace Elliot. John managed to get them to send me two 100-watt Bonneville heads and four 4 X 12 cabinets loaded with Celestion speakers. They later sent me two 100-watt Speed Twin heads as well. They were pretty good-sounding amps, but they didn’t travel well. A small design flaw had them blowing up every other show and I was down to one working head when we stopped by the Peavey factory/showroom in Meridian, Mississippi.
I left there with a pair of EVH 5150 stacks. These were also great-sounding amps but this time, ironically, they were TOO dirty and distorted for my taste. (We also got another stack of speakers and a separate power amp to put on John’s side of the stage so that he could hear me too.)
Another running joke; At the end of the first tour we were sitting at an “End Of Tour” party (like ya do), and someone asked John what he thought of my playing and singing, to which he replied, “I don’t know. I haven’t heard him yet.”
To give you somewhat of an idea of John’s rig (although it really had to be seen and heard to be believed), John was running a stereo/bi-amped rig with about 1800 watts. (4 x 600 watt Trace Elliot power amps in his rack/one for a spare).
As a matter of fact, he used four bass port cabs and four 2 X 12 cabs when he toured with us and only two when he toured with The Who. (When it’s The John Entwistle Band, and YOUR name is John Entwistle, you can play as loud as you like.)
We played lots of rock clubs and the occasional casino gig or festival. John’s bass rig actually rivaled some of the PA systems in some of the “smaller” clubs.
We toured the USA and Canada as The John Entwistle Band in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001 and released a live album that was recorded during the 1998 Left For Dead tour called Left For Live (1999). Also in 2001, I toured the US and Japan with John Entwistle, Ann Wilson of Heart, Alan Parsons and Todd Rundgren on a “tribute” to The Beatles tour called, “A Walk Down Abbey Road."
I switched to Line 6 somewhere around 2000. Most gear and tone purists might say “Yuck!” at this point, and I would totally understand where they are coming from. There are several reasons I logically chose to go with the whole “modeling” technology.
• I mostly use a Marshall-like blues-rock tube-crunch tone and the JCM 800 models in the Line 6 heads are pretty good. (take off the noisegate and the cab simulator and you have a pretty natural sounding basic Marshall tone)
• Doing away with traveling down the road with unpredictable tube heads, sorted the problem of having them blow up mid-tour. (I traveled for several tours with a spare head in my rig that NEVER got turned on)
• Having the convenience of delay/chorus/wah and volume pedals/boost and tuner ALL in one pedalboard with a single ethernet cable connector is a BIG advantage.
I’m currently touring using a Marshall JCM2000 Super Lead head / Marshall 4 X 12 cabinet and a Line 6 POD XT Live running directly into the effects loop return.