26 May 2006

Jaco And The Corn Flakes Box


I wanna tell the people who read your mail that one story about Jaco Pastorius. Hold on. I'll be right back. And try not to butt in!

Hey You Guys:

You may not know this about my brother Greg, but he has many talents other than being a genius inventor and loveable old crank. He is also a very talented musician and luthier, so he not only plays basses, he makes 'em, sometimes from the remains of old Chris Craft cabin cruisers, sometimes from fine endangered hardwoods, and sometimes from crap that's just laying around the house.

Take the time he made a bass with a Corn Flakes box for a pick guard. Way back in 1984, he had this piece of shite '62 Fender p-bass reissue that he wanted to turn into a fretless jazz bass. So he took a pair of needle nose pliers one day and yanked out all the frets and filled in the neck with plastic wood.

(Greg: Oh I did not! Me: Shut up! I'm telling the story!)

No, honestly the thing looked like hell. And it didn't have a pick guard. So he just up and cut the shape of one from a Corn Flakes box (those were MY Corn Flakes, by the way, you breakfast stealer!) and then just freakin' poured Verathane or whatever the hell it was all over it right there on the kitchen counter...and spilled some, too, thank you very much!

(Greg: I cleaned it up! Me: Like hell you did! You thought you could make it dry up by blasting it with my blowdryer - which died, thank you - and that didn't even work. So we had that gummy patch on the counter forever. And you guys over there, stop snickering about the blowdryer. It was the 80s. Men had blowdryers. And Greg, I never got my deposit back on that apartment, either. Greg: That's because our roommate Kelly burned the kitchen down. Me: Well, that's another story.)

So yeah, so now he's got this petrified Corn Flakes box cover that he screws to the beat-to-shit body and multifariously-pigmented neck of this Frankenstein of a bass of his. Then he put a different tail piece on it and some different pickups or whatever. Actually, he coulda put curb feelers, chrome spinners and ermine mud flaps on it for all I know. I don't know much about stringed instruments.

(Greg: I'll say. The only thing you can play is the stereo. Me: Shut up!)

Okay, so then he gets accepted to the Musician's Institute in Hollywood and goes down there and is all wowing 'em with his amazing musical prowess - and LO! Who should come to the Institute for a bass clinic but JACO PASTORIUS. Okay, a bunch of you in the front row are scratching your heads, so let me spell it out for you: Jaco is considered far and wide to be the greatest bass player who ever lived. No, seriously. 'S'a'fact. And so Jaco sees my brother over there playing his bass, going Bow-bikka-bow-bikka doodley oodleyoodleyoodley - bweeeewuuuwweeewuuuuh! on his FrankenBass, and he's all like, "Hey man, you're a pretty bitchen bass player, and that's a pretty freaked out bass you got there." And Greg's all, "Yeah I made it out of groceries that I stole from my brother."

(Greg: I did not! Me: Shut up! I'm telling the story! You wanna tell the story, go get your own blog, call it How My Brother Ruined My Jaco Pastorius Story dot Blogspot dom Com, and friggin' tell the story yourself. Greg: I'm going to punch a sheet of my stationery as hard as I can. Then I'm going to put it in an envelope and mail it to you. When it arrives, take the sheet of stationery out of the envelope and apply it to your nose.)

So then Jaco's all, "Hey man, can I play the FrankenBass?" And Greg's all, "For a dollar. PSYCHE!" And Jaco's all, "Check out your razor-sharp wit, man!" And then Greg's all, "Here you go, knock yourself out." And he hands Jaco the bass.

What happened next is history.

So then Jaco is like, "Hey man, that's the best bass I've ever played. Can I have it?" And Greg goes, "No." And Jaco's like, "Why?" And Greg goes, "That box of Corn Flakes was the last one that Kellogg's issued with the planar-geometric rooster illustration on the front. It's, like, priceless." So Jaco whips out a Sharpie and signs the pick guard. Later, Greg busts out some more Verathane and ruins another apartment when he laminates over Jaco's autograph.

The really sad part of the story is that although Jaco was a musical prodigy, had serious troubles with drugs and alcohol, not to mention mental illness. On September 17th, 1987, outside a club in Ft. Lauderdale, Jaco was beaten to death by a bouncer when he tried to get in without paying.

My brother Greg, on the other hand, came down with a strange illness that afflicted his hands. Now he can only play the bass and dial the telephone, but somehow inexplicably cannot answer correspondence. His hands just curl up like that witch's feet in The Wizard of Oz - you know, the one the house fell on - whenever he tries to pick up a pen. It's called gregorian hand-withering syndrome. And it must be stopped in our lifetime. Send donations to: GHWS, 40 Knucklebone Lane, Sho' 'Nuf, Shackabama, 24242.

(Greg: Retard. Me: Corn Flakes stealer. Greg: Tooth jockey. Me: Low-charisma. Greg: Mountebank.... )


luke keen said...

hmmmmm, serious noodlings there

is it me, or does it sound shit?

Thaddeus Gunn said...

I think the audio on it is prolly a little less than excellent. You wanna hear the real deal, pick up one of the Weather Report albums if you don't already have one.

becky said...

Story is amazing on it's own. Add in the brotherly banter and I literally laughing my butt off. Never tried to send my sister a punch through the mail before... Gotta try that one.

Kim said...

Mmmmm CornFlakes. I'm going to listen to Weather Report right now!

Gregory said...

Errata: the bass that I modified was a "J-bass" (Fender Jazz Bass), not a "p-bass" (Fender Precision Bass). I bought this particular J-bass - a '62 re-issue - because it was virtually the same bass that Jaco used, and could be converted to a fretless bass using the same techniques that he employed.

Thaddeus Gunn said...

Errata: Yo mama look like a j-bass. (Hey -wait a minute...)

Marshall said...

So is that really Gregs bass in the YouTube Video??

Thaddeus Gunn said...

Yes, Virginia. That's really his bass.