Photo: David Glover and Tam Tam

© 2016 tamtam.no

Years ago I was totally immersed in Bluegrass music. I was pounding guitar and playing fiddle.


I hitched a ride to Nashville where I lived for about 5 months, going out every night to the old Station Inn.
After I finished my day job of busing dishes and doing room service at The Country Music Hall of Fame Motor Inn…. What a gig !!

 

While at The Station Inn, Roland White, who was tending bar, sold me an LP called “Appalachian Swing “ by The Kentucky Colonels which featured Roland on mandolin and his brother Clarence White on guitar. Everything in my life from that day forward changed when I dropped the needle down on that vinyl and heard Clarence for the first time. I was sold.

I put the fiddle down…many were happy about that I’m sure!.... and my pursuit started ….my pursuit to somehow crack the Clarence White code on acoustic guitar. I was obsessed believe me… and I tried everything, and if I had run into Robert Johnson I would of asked for directions to The Crossroads!


A few years later I was playing with a bluegrass band in Montana, performing with a picture of the obscure and little know Clarence taped to my guitar.. like maybe that might help?…..when a fellow came up to me at the break, Denny Thompson as a matter of fact, and said “I see you have a picture of Clarence White on your guitar… You ever heard him play electric ? “   What !!  Electric guitar!!  What??? ….. he then went on to inform me that Clarence had played with The Byrds and had even invented a device , along with Byrd drummer and best friend Gene Parsons, that allowed you to pull down on the neck and raise the B String one full step up in pitch !   Wow, this is getting exciting I thought !! So I found a Byrds record …set the needle down and OH MAN !!!  Shit !!... once again Clarence got me… this time real bad….

 

So to get to the point here, I got a Telecaster….1977 is the year this takes place… sent it to Gene Parsons before I even played it, and  had him install a Parsons/White Stringbender in it.

 

I’ll never forget when me and Will drove up to Gene’s cabin and workshop hidden in the deep woods of Northern California.

He was busy digging a ditch on his place. Stopped what he was doing, got the guitar out of the shop and led me into the house, plugged it in .. showed me one thing and said “Well, here ya go…. Knock yourself out !”and went back outside to his ditch digging…..

 

I’d never played an electric guitar before….. so the first time I stummed one it had a stringbender in it !!  and even crazier.. I looked down at the amp he plugged me into and it was a Blackface Fender Vibrolux…and stenciled on the top of it in white letters it said  CLARENCE WHITE   THE BYRDS…… and that was the day I started the second leg of my Clarence White journey that I’m still on.

 

And what a journey it is...
 
 

Seven or eight years ago when I was living in Austin, I was in a bar one night watching a band who had a guitarist that was doing amazing things with a B-Bender the likes of which I hadn’t heard since the early 70s.  During a break, he and I happened to be outside havin’ a smoke and I mentioned to him that he must be a Clarence White fan.  Having been fortunate enough to have promoted several Byrds shows way back when, as well as having seen the band many, many times, I was quite familiar with Clarence’s wizardry with a B-Bender.  Well, the guy just about fell over and there ensued a long conversation between us about Clarence.  That guy is Mike Beck and that was the beginning of our friendship.  I’ve seen Mike play a bunch since that night and as I’ve told many of my friends and colleagues in the Music Biz, there’s really nobody out there these days who plays a guitar the way that he does.  Of course Mike has his own style, but when he taps into his Bender and you close your eyes to listen…well, it reminds you of you know who.  He’s got incredible chops and technique plus a great sense of melody.  When Mike plays that guitar, you simply do not want him to stop.  Remarkable.  
Hugh Surratt 
Label affiliations:
London, Arista, A&M, RCA, Geffen
Musical Director KMET



 I met Mike Beck at Gene Parsons’s house in California back in the 80’s he was just starting to get into playing a Parsons/White string bender on his Telecaster. Like me Mike loved the playing and sound Clarence White had going on back in 1969/70. It’s now 2017 and Mike has become a master at the string bender. His work with The Bohemian Saints is a sweet balance with the Saints lead guitarists sound, very tasty. Then he switches gear into a full on lead guitarist with his Norwegian band. Still adding the classic bender sounds in classic songs.

. (|:-{Dinky Dawson -Byrds soundman at over 200 shows and recordings -1970-1972


 "MIKE BECK IS A VERY TASTEFUL, SOULFUL GUITAR PLAYER, BOTH ACOUSTIC AND ELECTRIC WITH SHADES OF CLARENCE WHITE STRINGBENDER"  
Gene Parsons 
Byrds Drummer 
Inventor of The Parsons/White Stringbender

 

I've known Mike for over 25 years, and first played with him in 1991.  It has been interesting watching him develop as an artist and guitarist over the intervening years.  When I first played with him, he was already impressive in his use of the b-bender.  Unlike most players, he was tasteful and relaxed in his playing, not trying to sound like a cheap steel guitar, but using the bender to add fluidity and range to his guitar work.  Over the years, he has continued to develop along those lines, and is certainly one of the few best b-bender players I've heard.  On top of that, he is a terrific songwriter and artist!  I am proud to consider him a friend.
Bob Warford 
B-bender Legend 
Guitarist for Linda Ronstadt, Everly Brothers, Emmy-Lou Harris, Ricky Nelson, and many others