Tal Farlow and Petillo; Farlow is playing his Petillo Masterpiece Point Archtop guitar,
co-designed by Petillo and Farlow
Ingrid, Adrian and Jim Croce with Petillo in his first shop in Wall/Belmar Township, NJ; Croce holding
his custom Petillo made with Brazilian rosewood, 1971
under the saddle, and these things work on
pressure. The saddle is on top of it, and the
when the strings vibrate, it sends a signal
through that into the strip that gets put
through a series of electronics—with a big
hole cut in the side of the guitar with a bunch
of stuff, like equalizers. All that information
is sent to the amplifier, and you get a signal.
You don’t need to have a mammoth amount
of electronics and a big hole cut in the side
of your guitar. The essence of good science
is simplicity, and that’s what we strive for; a
simple way of doing something that is excellent and works. That’s the bottom line. I studied this for a while and it was a challenge,
just like the frets. We wanted the sound of
the strings going through the wood, exciting
the wood fibers, and then coming into the
pickup. When you strum an acoustic guitar,
you hear the sound coming out because the
wood is making that tone.
It took me seven years to figure this out. I
did hundreds and hundreds of experiments.
There are only two wires, and there are passive electronic components attached to the
element that enhance the harmonics. The
pickup is attached to the wood, the wood
vibrates from the plucking of the strings, and
that translates to the wood fibers as they
become excited, which the pickup senses.
That in turn, sends that signal to the amplifier without the interference of equalization
and all that other stuff. Once again, it’s the
elegance of simplicity. You get the natural
sound of the guitar without cutting holes in
it. You’ve got a really nice guitar and you
want to cut holes in it? What are you, nuts?
Let’s do a little name association.
Guitar in progress for Bruce Springsteen
I’ve known Bruce since the early sixties
and he’s been a very good friend and client. The Fender Esquire guitar he plays
he bought from me for $180. That guitar
has been rebuilt many times, and that’s
the guitar we experimented on with all the
different frets. I knew he was going to be
successful. The first time I saw him play was
with Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom, and I said
to myself that he was going to be great
someday. Bruce is a storyteller/entertainer
who has figured out a style that is the most
unique thing anyone has ever had. I wish I
could figure out how to bottle all the
energy he has! I’d be a millionaire.
Tal was the sweetest guy you’d ever want
to meet, a very kind man and a great
player. He’d come by here every Saturday
and sit and play. People would come in
and listen and just fall over. He’d show
you anything. We made three guitars for
Tal. He came up with a guitar stool that
had effects and a tape player built in, and
Gibson was going to build it, but Tal got
sick and died of prostate cancer.
I met Tom through Howie Epstein, Tom’s
bass player. Howie was living with Johnny
Cash’s daughter and Johnny told him about
me. Howie had a fretless bass, an old
Fender that he had found somewhere. He
told me that no one could figure out how
to cut the slots for the frets. He sent me
the bass. I did the work, and then started
getting all the Heartbreakers’ instruments.