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The Guitar Hero Series: JP Stratoblogster
Written by Ava

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The Guitar Hero series on Jemsite features interviews with guitarists and musicians who may not have star status YET, but their current situations have shaped them to be who they are--determined, fond of their craft, and heroes in their own right. Perhaps you'll see in these upcoming entries the next Jimi Hendrix, Melissa Etheridge, or Duane Allman. Or perhaps they'll become household names by doing what they do best--ripping a mean riff!

It's ok to call him a Guitar Geek. In fact, he allows it! He doesn't mind the stigma. After all, he does go by the name JP Stratoblogster.

But this Stratocaster fan is so much more then just a Strato geek. He's also a pure Fender Stratocaster aficionado, a guitarist extraordinaire, and the creator of Strat-o-blogster Guitar Blog targeting all thing--yep, you guessed it!---Stratocaster!

Oh, and so much more! Because as you'll hear from JP himself, his blog and life in general isn't all about Stratocasters...but having one around does help!

What's your background in guitars?

I grew up around guitars. My older brother, an uncle and some cousins all played guitar, so guitars were always around since I can remember. My first one had a crank that you turned like a Jack-in-the-Box and played music, except nothing popped out. Another kid told me that Jimi Hendrix was the best guitar player in the world. I still hadn't heard Hendrix when I asked my parents for a Hendrix album for my 12th birthday. They bought me Band of Gypsies, and they HATED it! My life changed forever. BOG still contains the finest nutrients necessary for any nutritious breakfast! When my Father's drinking, loss of a job and parent's divorce occurred within my 13th year, I was livin' on BOG. What other background info. ya need?

Who are some of your musical influences?

The Beatles, Hendrix, Zappa and many of the Classic Rock heroes. Later, I discovered the Blues legends. Michael Schenker's vibrato changed my life. SRV's flow. Michael Hedges tunings and voicings. I dig all genres and try to keep up with Fusion & Prog players as well as acoustic finger stylists. Everything can be an influence. The more variation of influences, the least likely you are to become a clone of one or two players. The door squeaking a certain way might inspire a new phrase.

Are these musical influences the ones that convinced you that Stratocasters were the best?

Sure, some of them. Otherwise, I always just thought Strats looked the coolest. When you combine how Hendrix looked, with the Strat, this casts the icon mold we've seen for 40 years. Personally, the Strat was the first guitar I identified and differentiated from other electric guitars. I asked my big brother, "What kind of guitar does Hendrix have?" He said, "Fender Stratocaster", which I also thought was a cool name. Then I spent my formative years doodling Strats in school instead of getting an education. My first in-person Strat meeting was a horizontal display in a music store window. It was an Olympic White with all maple neck. I still remember just standing there looking at the contours like it was a sports car, a fighter jet or Miss December. That moment was everything. I was 13 or 14.

Why an entire blog devoted to Fender Stratocasters? Why not---er---JEMs?

Actually, Strat-o-Blogster isn't entirely devoted to Fender Strats. The Strat is the icon as well as a platform for other guitars and guitar culture. I talk about Suhrs, Andersons, DeTemples, etc. Anything that starts from the Strat platform and enhances the best aspects of a Strat is a Strat, although I guess we don't legally call it that. So "S-Type" seems to be ok. A JEM is basically an enhanced Strat-there are many.

I also talk about other gear-- pedals, amps, etc., as well as artists. I've given lots of attention to Billy Gibbons- rarely seen with a Strat - because he's got great tone no matter which guitar he plays and he's a very interesting character who most copiously serves up the guitar culture in very sportin' way. Did you catch the Billy-speak there? Gibbons talks the way he plays guitar-I did a blog post all about that. I recently posted about Bluesman Chris Cain who plays 335's. He's just too good for me to ignore.

What's your take on the Stratocaster culture?

Like I said, the Strat is THE icon for electric guitar. The Hendrix silhouette, holding the Strat is a symbol we often see representing Rock guitar in general. The Les Paul shape is popular & iconic too, but not as prevalent as the Strat profile. FMIC's legal team spends lotsa time protecting that shape in a multitude of situations beyond knock-offs by other guitar builders. Icons show up in all sorts of ways. You should interview them sometime. Just don't mention me ok.

As for the culture, it's geeky but it persists cause it's fun. In the mid '70's Les Pauls were way more popular and widely used. They're much easier to play physically and can get a fat tone more easily too. After Hendrix died, there weren't a lot of guitar heroes playing Strats besides Trower , Gallagher & Blackmore. When Jeff Beck got into Fusion and needed to cut through the synths he picked up the Strat. Other players like Nils Lofgren and Mark Knopfler were able to showcase Strat sounds in their styles. SRV & Eric Johnson really brought back the Strat in a huge way, and I credit those two along with Jeff Beck for really creating a sustainable "Stratocaster Culture". Not to ignore Buddy Holly & Dick Dale from earlier on because they planted the seeds too.

The really progressive & toneful Strat players have reintroduced us to the depth & potential of this guitar. Scott Henderson & Michael Landau are big contributors to the culture too. John Mayer with a Strat in the pop mainstream keeps the fire burning as well. Clapton of course, although EC's early & arguably best work was done on 335's and SG's. But he's sure a Strat guy now and a legend, so he sells a few Strats.

As progressive & individual as the Strat can allow a player to be, there's also a huge sector of players whose Mecca is nailing the SRV thing. So the Strat has something for everyone, except maybe Zakk Wylde I guess.

But as far as a specific guitar culture goes, it's hard to find anything more hard core than Telecaster culture. Those Tele cats have a jihad thing goin' on. You don't even wanna mess with a Tele geek. They assemble at the TDPRI Compound for gorilla strategies and hard drinkin'. Nice bunch of folks, but don't ever cross 'em!

What are some of the best things you've uncovered about Stratocasters thanks to your blog?

That's an interesting question, because in order to come up with blog content, I have to research and am always discovering stuff. Anyone who reads a few Eric Johnson interviews uncovers plenty about Strats. Discovering how some EJ Strat features are simply 50's items brought back is interesting. All the Leo Fender lore is interesting. Leo wasn't himself a guitar player but he seemed to nail down some major guitar innovations. He was very curious and interested in guitar players and what they were seeking in an instrument. Just the pickup winding stuff is a huge subject all in itself. But Leo Fender was a real intuitive character.

According to you, what is the Guitar Geek stigma?

Last summer while standing in line at Seattle's Union Station Amtrak terminal with my guitar case, I was approached by guitar writer Robb Lawrence. He was returning to California after touring around his latest book about Les Paul. In the mere 15 minutes before I had to board my train, I got to have a serious guitar geek conversation with a very serious guitar geek. Robb is a collector and owns lots of classic stuff, including some 50's era Strats. One of the last things Robb told me as my wife was dragging me to the train, was that the tap tone resonant frequencies of his '57 Strat were a 5th note apart between the neck and body frequencies.

That's Guitar Geek Stigma! This is what some of us must live with.

What are you planning to do with your guitar playing skills? Is it just a hobby or something more?

I've been getting a lot better. The blog and it's aspects inspire me to play more and sometimes playing inspires the blogging too. I jam locally with friends, and compose. I'd like to do a little roots, blues, fusion type gig, but finding eclectic musicians in my area is tough. Maybe a little Blues gig. I recently sat in with a Louisiana based Zydeco band at a local event. Zydeco is Blues with lots of syncopation, and I really had a blast with those grooves. The drummer used to play for Johnny Copeland and was on that album Copeland did with Albert Collins and Robert Cray. Get in the pocket and hold on for your life! Maybe a Zydeco band. I'd love to hear Allan Holdsworth do a Zydeco album. The universe continuum would re-align itself.

What's in store for the blog and for you?

Good question. The guitar blogger culture is changing. Some key guitar bloggers have gotten out of it and shifted their networking emphasis to Facebook groups. Twitter is creating some strange anomalies. The guitar blog community still exists although many blogs don't seem to last very long.

I pimp some gear as an online affiliate for eBay and other online gear merchants. This provides a little $ for my own gear upgrade and beer fund, which is also an incentive to keep blogging. Mrs. Stratoblogster has a DIY/HGTV home makeover jones to support.

The gear industry as reflected in the marketing we see in guitar magazines, NAMM coverage, etc., is pretty funny sometimes and I've had a good run writing parody posts about the Relic trend for example. There really is plenty to blog about aside from dry gear & artist reviews. I also try to keep the girl guitar players and kid players features going. Those are literally phenomenal topics. So all in all, it's about people. All this gear and culture about Strats or whatever, is human generated so the fun and craziness never ends! My favorite blog is Neatorama. Not a music or gear blog, but I recommend Neatorama as the standard to anyone running any kind of blog.
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