SOEST GUITAR CELEBRATING 40 YEARS AT THE TOP OF THE GUITAR INDUSTRY
FROM THE BARN TO THE BARN
Anyone who knows anything guitar, especially down Southern California way, either has heard the name Steve Soest, heard the stories of Steve Soest, has had an instrument repaired by Steve Soest, has bought a guitar or amp from Steve Soest, knows Steve Soest, has seen Steve Soest play, or has been in a band with Steve Soest. Whew!!! I just realized I have done all of the above. It’s no wonder I’m so tired all of the time (heh, heh). The name Steve Soest is pretty much synonymous with the word guitar – period!
This year Steve Soest is celebrating 40 years in business. His business started out in a barn 40 years ago and now he’s back with his latest shop set up in a barn. 40 years in the guitar business combined with being right up there at the top is quite an accomplishment.
Jackaboutguitars is extremely pleased to announce that the ‘Legendary’ Steve Soest will be fielding your questions about guitars in his new column “KEEPIN’ IT REAL” right here on Jackaboutguitars.
I just have to borrow a page from Steve’s website just to give those of you that don’t know Steve, a bit of an idea of who and what this wonderful guitar man is all about. Just check out his client list right here before you continue reading the interview:
SERVING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY FOR OVER 40 YEARS…
HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF CLIENTS THAT HAVE MADE USE OF SOEST GUITAR’S VARIOUS SERVICES OVER THE LAST FORTY YEARS…AND HUNDREDS MORE YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF…YET:
FENDER – CONSULTANT TO CUSTOM SHOP/ARTIST RELATIONS DEPARTMENT AND REGIONAL SERVICE CENTER (1978-2011)
GIBSON – FACTORY WARRANTY CENTER (1981-PRESENT)
OVATION – FACTORY WARRANTY CENTER (1981-2011)
YAMAHA – FACTORY WARRANTY CENTER AND PROJECT CONSULTANT (1987-PRESENT)
G&L – FACTORY CONSULTANT (1995 – PRESENT)
DUESENBERG USA – SERVICE TECH AND CONSULTANT (2005-PRESENT)
IBANEZ U.S.A. – BUILT PROTOTYPES FOR STEVE VAI “GEM” MODEL AND SERVICE CENTER (1978-1992)
DANELECTRO – DESIGNER, HISTORY, REVERSE ENGINEER AND CONSULTANT ON RE-ISSUE AND NEW MODELS (1997 – PRESENT)
and, past and present…
DAVID HIDALGO (LOS LOBOS)
THE ROLLING STONES
SLASH (GUNS AND ROSES)
STEVIE RAY VAUGHN
ROBBY KRIEGER (THE DOORS)
BILLY ZOOM (X)
JOHN DOE (X)
EXENE CERVENKA (X)
JANE WEIDLIN (THE GO GOS)
MIKE CAMPBELL (TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS)
JOHN ENTWISLE (THE WHO)
BRIAN SETZER (STRAY CATS)
MIKE NESS (SOCIAL DISTORTION)
TONY KANAL (NO DOUBT)
TOM DUMONT (NO DOUBT)
THE DIRTY HEADS
ROME RAMIREZ (SUBLIME)
NOKIE EDWARDS (THE VENTURES)
CESAR ROSAS (LOS LOBOS)
DAVE ALVIN (THE BLASTERS)
PHIL ALVIN (THE BLASTERS)
KID RAMOS (THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS)
REVEREND HORTON HEAT
EDDIE BERTRAND (EDDIE AND THE SHOWMEN)
TEISCO DEL REY
VINCENT GALLO (YOKO ONO, SEAN LENNON)
KIM SHATTUCK (THE MUFFS)
JAMES HARMAN BAND
HOWARD LEESE (HEART)
THE ELVIN BISHOP BAND
THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS
DIANA ROSS BAND
MARC FORD (THE BLACK CROWES)
CHRIS ROBINSON (THE BLACK CROWES)
DEAN DELEO (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS)
LYLE WORKMAN (STING, BECK)
CARL “SONNY” LEILAND
5 BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA
BUZZ OSBORNE (THE MELVINS)
JOHN BAZZ (THE BLASTERS)
DENNIS DENEL (SOCIAL DISTORTION)
JOHNNY “2 BAGS” WICKERSHAM (SOCIAL DISTORTION)
BRENT HARDING (SOCIAL DISTORTION)
JOHN JORGENSON (THE HELLICASTERS, ELTON JOHN)
DUNCAN CAMERON (THE AMAZING RHYTHM ACES, SAWYER BROWN)
LARRY HANSON (ALABAMA, BILL MEDLEY)
BRUCE KULICK (KISS)
MARK ST. JOHN (KISS)
PHIL CHEN (ROD STEWART BAND)
CUB CODA (BROWNSVILLE STATION)
BRIAN MASHBURN (SAVE FERRIS)
ROBERT JOHNSON (ENTWISLE’S OX)
DAVID PACK (AMBROSIA)
JOE PUERTA (AMBROSIA)
RON EGLIT (DICK DALE’S DELTONES)
ASHLEY KINGMAN (BIG SANDY AND THE FLY RIGHT BOYS)
LEE JEFFRIES (BIG SANDY AND THE FLY RIGHT BOYS)
MICKEY ROONEY JR.
TONY DEAN (THE POINTER SISTERS)
JIMMY PEREZ (THE POINTER SISTERS)
RICHARD STEKOL (HONK)
WILL BRADY (HONK)
BETH FITCHET-WOOD (HONK)
PATRICK BOLIN (PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE)
LOS STRAIGHT JACKETS
THE CADILLAC TRAMPS
TREVOR RABIN (YES)
THE SMUT PEDDLERS
WILL GLOVER (THE PYRAMIDS)
STEVE PUCH (DAVIE ALLAN AND THE ARROWS)
My name didn’t make this list as I guess I was never a real client. You see, Steve was always such a GREAT FRIEND, he wouldn’t even charge me, and besides that, he would even give up his time to teach me how to do the repairs myself! (My apologies to Slash, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Stevie Ray, Brian Setzer, Eddie Van Halen, and, well really, all the folks on the client list that are listed above. It’s all in who you are lucky enough to hang with. Many thanks Steve!)
TELLING IT LIKE IT IS
Here’s what Steve had to say when we had the opportunity to snag him for a few minutes for an interview:
JAG: Tell us a little about your business. When did you know that guitars would be your life?
SOEST: Well, I started playing for fun in junior high school and was able to make enough money playing gigs through high school, and a few years of college without having to get a day job. I worked at Rickenbacker after high school for a while, and started thinking I could make a living in the music business. I dropped out of college in 1972 and started a guitar repair shop in the back of a pawn shop in Orange, CA. The owner was a musician, so on weekends, I continued to play gigs, and scour the swap meets and garage sales for instruments, and resell them through the shop.
JAG: What do you like most about your business and what are your favorite things about your business?
SOEST: I’ve been lucky enough to incorporate my three favorite things into the business.
- As far as the repair end goes, I really enjoy taking something that’s primarily unusable and making it into a great playing and sounding instrument.
- Playing: I’ve been able to play live gigs and do studio work non-stop since 1964, and have no plans to stop! I have been able to play live and record with many of my idols and influences, which has been an incredible experience. I’m playing more now than ever, and having a blast doing it!
- I was lucky enough to be involved with the “vintage” guitar phenomenon from it’s beginnings in the late 1960s through it’s current anemic condition. The hunt, the catch, and the sale are all equally exciting, and studying details of these classic instruments allowed me to become a consultant to major manufacturers for their “re-issues” of instruments from their golden/classic years. This information/knowledge has also been quite helpful in repairing and modifying instruments in my repair shop.
JAG: I can remember once in a while that you would get calls about guitars that other people had and didn’t know what to do with them. Do you still get the “widow” calls and the “pot of gold over the rainbow” as I remember in the early years?
SOEST: Not as much as before. With the internet, social media, cable TV, etc. there is a lot more information out there for people to help identify what they have. When ebay came along, you didn’t need to know anything about details – all that was necessary were good photos, and let the bidding begin. Things got a lot more serious when the “big” money entered the picture!
JAG: How about rare finds? Do they happen much anymore? I vaguely remember a day back in about 1976? or so, when I was lucky enough to go along with you on a guitar buying (searching) trip in Southern California and I’m pretty sure that I remember that we saw 3 Hofner 500/1 Beatle Basses for sale that day.
I think that was the same day we also saw a Tweed Fender Princeton amp from February of ’57 at a pawn shop in Rialto, California that was in mint condition except for a cigarette burn on the top of it. You were so very kind to let me have it. I think the price was $65. I still think about that amp quite often. I needed money several years later and you sold it to John Entwhistle of The Who for me. I now had a ‘Who’ story, but I’d sure like to buy it back again as I know he’s not using it. Tell me, do cool, old, guitars and amps ever turn up any more that you can get for a decent price, or are those days gone forever?
SOEST: I guess that pretty much ties in with the last question… not so much anymore. Even the pawn shops don’t put much out for sale these days. They all have ebay stores and anything that even resembles a vintage instrument ends up for sale on that site. In the ‘old’ days there just wasn’t the wealth of information that’s out there now.
I used to be able to take my old dodge van out a few days a month and actually fill it up with cool stuff, just in Southern California. The out of state trips were insane! You could call on an ad in the paper, then call back in a couple of weeks, and the instrument would still be available. There were just “used” guitars… the “vintage” word didn’t start being used until the mid-late 1970’s.
JAG: I can remember a time when I delivered 3 blonde dot neck 335’s to Norman Harris for you and came back with one guitar and more cash than I had ever had on my person in my life. I was a little nervous driving back to Orange County from the San Fernando Valley that day. These days, what makes up a good day as far as finding or selling guitars and amps?
SOEST: If you even SEE a cool, old American-made guitar or amp , that’s a great day. Buying and selling are very difficult….. the sellers, being as educated as they are, are still wanting prices from the peak of the market (2007/2008), and the buyers are quite aware of the vintage market downturn, and can be very picky with the amount of stuff flooding the market. Sales are now based on the ‘best’ or the ‘cheapest’ of any particular model. I attribute the condition of the ‘vintage market’ to a trifecta of current conditions:
- The economic downturn we’ve all experienced over the last several years. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by it. (especially musicians!) after forking over you hard-earned cash for housing, food, insurance,transportation, and other neccessities, there just isn’t enough left over to pay $20 grand for a fairly common, used, beat-to-hell sunburst 1963 Fender Stratocaster!
- Guitarists who are starting out today are looking up to their idols and influences who are NOT playing expensive, rare instruments from the 1950’s and 1960’s. They are perfectly content with a $90 import Les Paul Junior replica with a bolt-on neck (think: BIC disposable lighters!)
- The manufacturers who are still in business today are still flourishing due to the fact that they recognized the lust for the gear from their “golden” periods, and found a way to re-create the stuff as an affordable alternative to the mouldering originals. Along the way, some even cared enough to actually decipher some of the magic of the old instruments and incorporate into current manufacturing processes (lighter weight bodies, thin nitrocellulose finishes, rolled over fingerboard edges, scatter-wound, looser coil pickups, light-weight hardware, tube amps, cool pedals, etc.) for the working musician, there is no better time than now to be able to create great tone on a budget. It amazes me to see the quality of the gear coming in from Asia….. sorry, but it’s true!
JAG: With reference to repairs, what type of repairs make you feel the most accomplished?
SOEST: Probably any type of service where the customer has pretty much written the instrument off as junk, and I can hand it back to him as something I would be happy to take on stage or to a session.
JAG: So then you do still have those days where you breathe new life into an instrument: like a broken head stock and bringing that guitar back from the dead…
SOEST: Sure, a lot of times a customer will bring a guitar in for some minor setup, and they don’t even realize that their pickups aren’t even working properly. That seems to make them very happy to get the instrument back to it’s full potential.
JAG: Is there any type of repair that you’d just rather not deal with?
SOEST: Yes, finishing (spraying lacquer) is a whole other animal. I’ve been smart enough to leave that to a small handful of guys who excel in that area.
JAG: Do you ever get asked to do a modification that might be damaging to a nice vintage instrument and do you try to talk the owner out of it by letting him know that it will probably lower the value of the guitar?
SOEST: Yes, definitely. I have lost business over the years refusing to do mods that weren’t reversible. I still hold to that today. Maybe it’s bad business financially, but if it was only about the money, I would have stayed in college and become an accountant or something financially rewarding.
I know they always say “the customer is always right “, but I take issue with that….. I believe that “the guitar is always right“. Their usual response is “it’s MY guitar, and I’ll NEVER sell it!! (of course, it usually pops up on ebay a week or so later). To that I say, “thanks for stopping by”. Often I have to convince a customer that he’s dealing with the laws of physics, and it’s not practical to put .008″ gauge strings on a Gretsch hollowbody with a Bigsby tailpiece, and then set the action at 1/64″ at the 12th fret…. He can’t understand why it buzzes and won’t stay in tune! There is an awful lot of teaching/education involved in the guitar biz.
JAG: Forty years in business is quite an accomplishment for anyone. What do you owe your success to?
SOEST: Not being smart enough to seek out gainful means of employment, and being part of a family that has no use for fancy cars, boats, or multiple residences. That aside, probably trying to treat the rock stars and the novices all the same, and not selling someone something they don’t really need. I suppose that doing consistent, quality work at a fair price enters in there somewhere.
JAG: What (or who) got you interested in playing guitar?
SOEST: Larry Hanson, of course. He was the first guy to put a guitar in my hands. (Note: We will be featuring an interview with amazing guitarist Larry Hanson in the very near future.)
JAG: What year was that and how old were you at the time?
SOEST: Must have been 1964, I was about 13, in the 7th grade.
JAG: Who were your influences in the beginning? Later on?
SOEST: Originally it was the instrumental rock guys (since we wouldn’t dare to attempt to sing). My older brother had a Dick Dale record (Surfer’s Choice) and a Venture’s record (Twist With The Ventures) that I listened to constantly. I loved all the surf music records, and bands like the Fireballs from New Mexico. Later on, John Fogerty with Creedence Clearwater Revival was a major influence. I liked and listened to Hendrix, Clapton and the other rock gods, but never tried to incorporate their styles to my own simple approach.
JAG: Tell me about your 1st guitar? Was it acoustic or electric? Your 1st amp?
SOEST: My first guitar was a late 1950s Kay archtop, cutaway electric that my Grandfather got from a guy at the racetrack that owed him money. Man, that was a beautiful thing! My Mom took me down to Sears to get my first 1-12″ Silvertone (made by Danelectro) amp…. tremolo!! YES!! I laid a small metal trash can down in front of it to create a reverb effect.
JAG: Tell me about your 1st band. Favorite bands you’ve been in?
SOEST: First band was with Larry Hanson (guitar) and Mike Molano (drums). No bass, of course. We didn’t even know anyone with a bass at that time. I don’t think we even had a name! (most bands back then had a name, but didn’t even have a band). We played at a little hamburger place called “Ray’s Texas Belle” in Westminster, California. The guy gave us $2 each, and all the hamburgers, fries and shakes we could wolf down! There have been many bands over the years (including Dick Dale’s “Del-Tones”) of course. Whatever band you’re in at the time is your favorite, otherwise you wouldn’t be there. I tell myself I’ll quit when it’s not fun anymore. Fat chance.
JAG: I remember those inexpensive burgers at Ray’s Texas Belle! Great memories. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in Raincoat Harry(subbing for Gerry Huerta), Flax with you, and then later on, a shot at playing with you and Dick Dale and The Del Tones. One thing I thought was really cool during that time period was when Dick Dale wanted to go out and play a gig with Flax. That was fun. You even turned me on to that Guitar Tech gig going out on the road with Ambrosia which was quite an experience for me. Then, later on, you joined Bob Mytkowicz and myself in Route 66 several times.
JAG: What age were you when you knew being a musician was going to be a path you would follow (besides guitar repair and restoration)?
SOEST: Probably early on. Like everyone else my age, seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show sealed the deal.
JAG: I know what you mean there. (See http://www.jackaboutguitars.com/category/about-me)
JAG: Are there any particular styles of guitar (or types of music) that you prefer playing more than any others?
SOEST: Surf instrumentals have played a major part in my musical life, but I’ve played just about everything you can think of. I’m looking into forming a polka band right now, but I don’t look good in lederhosen, so I might have to re-think that one.
JAG: Who are some of the people that you’ve played with along the way?
SOEST: Lots of people you probably never heard of! Among the well-known would be….. Larry Hanson (The Righteous Brothers, Alabama), Dick Dale, George Tomsco (The Fireballs), Dick Dodd (Mouseketeer, The Standells, Eddie and The Showmen), Eddie Bertrand (Eddie and The Showmen), Nokie Edwards and Mel Taylor (The Ventures), Paul Johnson (The Belairs), Duncan Cameron (The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Sawyer Brown, Dan Fogelberg). There are a lot more, but I can’t remember off the top of my head. You can see the complete list on my website : www.soestguitar.com
JAG: I also remember that you played with Chuck Berry and The Surfaris also. Who are some of the people that you are playing with now?
SOEST: I’m currently playing with singer/songwriter Michelle Mangione and keyboardist/vocalist Angela Riggio. We have an original project, playing and recording Michelle’s original material, and a classic rock band called “Superlark” (Tom Kolb from Musician’s Institute and my son, Jesse, alternating on guitar.)
JAG: What are your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
SOEST: Guitar projects: Doing the reverse engineering and design work for the current Danelectro Company.
Music: Recording and performing with the Michelle Mangione Band.
JAG: The Danelectro thing was big and I remember how good I felt about your huge involvement with that project as you were the ‘Danelectro Guy’ from wayback. Nobody knew Danelectros inside and out like Steve Soest.
JAG: Has your biggest thrill playing taken place in the studio, or been during a live performance? Which do you prefer, studio work, or live performances?
SOEST: That’s hard to answer. I thoroughly enjoy the balance of all my projects……. Live memories would include looking over at Nokie Edwards (from The Ventures) and thinking, “Crap, I’m playing “Caravan” with Nokie !! In the studio, it’s most about getting the perfect tone and perfect part for a song (and NOT using “auto-tune”.)
JAG: Do you have any particular favorite guitars that you like to play? amps? Any particular combination of guitar and amp that you like to use for whatever different types of playing?
SOEST: Since I’m playing mostly bass these days (since the early 1970s, actually…. has it been that long?) I have a collection of stuff that I personally love to play. I sold all my vintage stuff (except for a few) at the peak of the market, and bought instruments that I wouldn’t be afraid to take to a bar gig. The combination of a koa-wood Ibanez acoustic/electric bass and a SWR LA-12 amp is magical for acoustic work.
I sold all my big bass amps and bought a nice P.A. to get the stage volume down. Now everyone is much happier. My favorite electric gig bass amp is an old black 100 watt solid state Ampeg with a 15″ electrovoice speaker. It’s amazing, and it was only $60 at an antique swap meet. Most of my electric basses are Fender (Japan issues), that weren’t sold originally in the U.S.. They got it figured out a long time ago!
JAG: A lot of people like to talk about their collections – guitars and amps they’ve picked up over the years, or the ones they have sold along the way that they wish they still had. Are there any you’d like to share about?
SOEST: Deke Dickerson (fabulous musician, historian, author) is publishing a new book about weird guitar acqusitions/stories. He has the scoop on most of my cool old stuff, so you’ll have to read that when it comes out. I don’t regret selling any of them, because like most working musicians, I had to sell one to buy the next two (or pay the rent).
JAG: I can’t wait to see Deke’s new book. Did you ever think that you would be such a key figure in so many people’s lives concerning guitars? And you played such a key role in the new Danelectro Company. I remember just how much you loved Danelectros way back when. It seems the Danelectro thing was always what you were supposed to do.
SOEST: Never imagined it, or even planned for it. Just lucky I guess. Being in the right place at the right time and being able to say “yes” right away without thinking about it is very important. The Danelectro project has been a very positive and important part of my life. I always recognized them as a fabulous, inexpensive instrument, and it was important to me that we carried that philosophy into the new company. The 1998 56-U-2 was a lot of bang for your buck! ($299.00 list) A lot of love went into that recipe!
JAG: My wife knew I wanted one badly as my old copper 2 pickup Danelectro Silvertone had been stolen some 14 or 15 years before. She bought me a copper one for Father’s Day that year and that’s the one that sits out on a stand in my bedroom. It’s still very cool and I like it a lot. I also have a blue sparkle double cutaway 12 string which is the only 12 I have. But it’s way cool too.
SOME RAMBLINGS ON NEW GUITARS…HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE NEW STUFF
SOEST: You know, I never thought I’d say this, but the instruments now coming in from Asia amaze me. In the old days the quality of that stuff was always hit or miss… bad fretwork, poor finishing techniques, green wood, inferior electronics, you name it! But now, it’s a whole new world out there. Everyone has CNC machines ,which with proper programming takes the wood shaping experience, accuracy and consistency to a new level. New finishing technology and techniques assure top quality results every time, and the component (electronics, tuners, bridges, etc.) quality is at an all-time high.
The fear and stigma of purchasing a questionable “import” no longer is an issue when considering an investment in an instrument! Many of these are coming across my bench these days, and a good number of them have fewer issues than their U.S. counterparts! (Their “inspiration”…flattery is fabulous until it affects your bottom line.) Lots of pro touring musicians are using imported guitars these days.
As far as domestic production is concerned… yeah, so it took most of the U.S. companies close to 40 years to “get it” (and “get it“ right!), but I’ve always said that the ones who will continue to thrive will be the ones that actually build and sell to public demand, not what the suits THINK that people want in a disconnected company board meeting. Although some of the manufacturers are doing both (do we really need a self tuning robotic guitar? If you can’t learn the basics of tuning your own axe, maybe you should stick with Playstation/X Box or play a keyboard of some sort. A little effort is not too much to ask for before you hit the road with your new haircut and clothes, is it rockstar?)
The companies who have not gone belly up are the ones who recognized the demand for their “golden age” instruments, and put in the effort to figure out how they made them back in the day. All that stuff adds up, there are no mysteries to it…wood selection (type, weight, mass, etc,), hardware component materials, (machined, cast, plating etc.), electronics (pickups….bobbin material, magnetic alloys, winding technique and tension etc.), finishes (nitrocellulose vs. poly, thin finish vs. thick), overall “feel” of the instrument, rolled edges on the fingerboard, original spec bindings and pickguard thickness, neck angles and shapes (relic-ing/distressing anyone?)
Acoustic instruments have really improved as well…they finally peeked inside and saw the importance of NOT overbuilding…lighter bracing, thinner tops, better bridge plate material, thinner finishes, either non-existent or thinner pickguards, doing away with laminated tops and going back to the use of hide glue in construction( hint: don’t put medium gauge strings on your new re-designed “vintage-style” guitar! The guitar will love you, and you will love it. stick with lights or medium light, and you won’t open your case to find a pile of kindling inside). Of course, this isn’t all inclusive, but I’m sure you get my drift!
With the decline of interest from the general working musician in PURCHASING AUTHENTIC “vintage” examples(due to the unwillingness of many dealers to adjust to the new world order, still asking figures from the mid 2000’s peak market) there has never been a better time to buy a new instrument from the savvy manufacturer.
The interest in the “vintage vibe” has NOT declined…after all, there used to be just “used” guitars until the mid-late1960s when people realized that a 10 year old Gibson or Fender was quite a bit cheaper (and generally of better quality ) than a new one from a company who had sold out to a large conglomerate who might favor quantity over quality!
Nothing wrong with making a profit, but don’t raise the price on a Snicker’s Bar after you cut the size and change the recipe! Originally, that was the basis for the rise in interest in “vintage” (rather than just “used” guitars. It had nothing to do with “investment quality” (whoopee!!! sell the stocks, art and coins and buy me some old git-tars!!)
Back then, there weren’t investors or “collectors”…it was just us poor musicians wanting more bang for our buck! and I do mean BUCK… we’re not making any more playing a bar gig now than we did back then) My hat’s off to those companies that have responded to the wishes (and demands) of us poor musical suckers, and FINALLY started making great stuff again (even if it did take over 40 years to get back on track).
You may wonder what I base all this rambling “insight” on? After running a repair shop for over 40 years, you eventually see just about every make and model from every period, from every manufacturer come across your work bench and if you pay attention to detail, it sure doesn’t take long to figure out what’s going on first hand!
Based on what I said earlier, the hate mail from the Johnny-Come-Lately Vintage Guitar Dealers who bought their inventory in the mid-2005-2007 era should start pouring in right away!!! Sorry Fellas, it ain’t comin’ back! This should throw more fuel on the fire.
JAG: That answers a lot of questions. Tell us about the future of Soest Guitar. I remember that you had your shop in a barn many years ago right after the repair shop in the back of the pawn shop. After 40 successful years in business, what’s the plan for Soest Guitar?
SOEST: For my shop’s 40th Anniversary, I moved out of the building I’d been in for 21 years, and moved into a 100 year old barn in Old Towne Orange, CA. I’m looking forward to continuing with my customers, and finding time to finish restoration projects on some of my own instruments (if I can find the time). Oh yeah, there was a rumor circulating around when I moved the shop that I was:
1. In a coma.
3. Suffering from 2 broken arms and couldn’t work anymore.
I’m here to tell you that B.S. travels quicker on the internet than the truth!
JAG: Wow! Thank goodness the rumor thing was false.
Here’s a couple of timelines that Steve has graciously put together to show us how he got from point A to point B.
1964 – 1966 I started playing a guitar that my Grandpa got from a guy who owed him money at the race track. I played w/ Larry Hanson (The Righteous Brothers, Alabama, Bill Medley) in 7th grade after seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Our first paid gigs were at Ray’s Texas Belle in Westminster, CA.
(Editor’s Note: JAG will be doing a Feature Post on Larry Hanson in the very near future.)
1966 – 1969 Der Zeppelins (Band) – We played school dances, Marine and Navy Base gigs. Led Zeppelin showed up later so we changed the name to something that I don’t remember.
1969 – 1972 Raincoat Harry – This band opened for National Touring Acts & also did more Marine Bases and School gigs. (Editor’s Note: This was the first band of paying gigs for myself, Jack, initially subbing for Gerry Huerta when he couldn’t make gigs, and later replacing Gerry on bass when Steve Soest & Gerry left to form Flax with Dana Haas. David Gwynn – well known guitarist and producer, was the lead guitarist in this band and will be appearing soon in a Feature Post here on JAG.)
1972 – 1988 Flax – This band played hundreds of Corporate Parties, Weddings, & Bar Mitzvahs w/ Gerry Huerta & Dana Haas. (Later members: Laurie Keiser, Jack Huerta, Steve Wright, Steve Taylor, Jimmy Valdez, Paul Bishop, Chip Walsh, etc.,.)
1979 – 1985 Bass player & Band Leader with Dick Dale and The Deltones. Recorded “The Tiger’s Loose” live at the Golden Bear – 1982. Major Headlining Gigs.
1985 – 1992 A couple of stints with The Belairs Band. Nightclub Rock and Soul Band.
1992? – 2008 The Torquays Surf Band started as a cover band and evolved into an originals recording band.
1998 – 2006 Recorded 4 CDs w/ The Torquays. Several original tunes placed in films and TV, as well as a Surf Guitar Instruction Book by Hal Leonard Publishing.
2002 – 2004 Sideswipe Band – original and cover band with Michelle Mangione, Angela Riggio, and Sally Landers.
2004 – current Superlark Band – cover band to keep us busy when Michelle’s not booked. Nancy Luca replaces Sally Landers. Tom Kolb replaces Nancy Luca.
2004 – current Michelle Mangione Band (original music written by Michelle, with Angela, Steve and various guitarists, (including Tom Kolb, Jesse Soest) released two CD’s, third in progress.
1969 Graduated from High School with no plan & worked as Final Inspection and Shipping at Rickenbacker Guitars, Santa Ana, CA.
1969 – 1971 Attended Chapman College (now Chapman University) in Orange, CA. until I ran out of money.
1971 – 1972 Attended Cal State Fullerton until military draft ended.
1970 – current I started buying and re-selling older used guitars due to lax quality control and the escalating prices of new instruments. This market turned into the “vintage guitar” market.
1972 – 1974 Bought and repaired guitars for Orange Pawn Shop in Orange, CA and learned the pawn business – guns, cameras, jewelry, electronics, etc.,. I started my repair shop in the back room and managed the pawn business.
1972 – current Soest Guitar Repair Shop – started in the back of Orange Pawn Shop, then moved to an old barn on East Chapman Avenue in Orange, CA. (various locations over the years in Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Orange, CA and now back in a 100 year old barn in the Historic District of Old Town Orange, CA.
1978 Regional Ibanez Service Center
1979 – current Consultant to over 60 books on vintage guitars and countless magazine articles (Guitar Player Magazine, Forbes, Vintage Guitar, Billboard, etc., Guitar World, Player(Japan), Record, Rolling Stone.
1979 – 2011 Worked with Fender as Consultant and Regional Service Center (added on Gretsch, Guild and Jackson as Fender purchased them.)
1979 Yamaha Regional Service Center
1982 – current Regional Gibson Service Center
1984 Ovation Service Center
1985 – 86 Assembled, wired and set up the first four Ibanez “Jem” models for Mark Wittenberg (Artist Relations) at Ibanez. These were the first four delivered to Steve Vai.
1997 – current Work with Danelectro as Reverse Engineer, Designer, (new models) Historian & Consultant.
The Tiger’s Loose – Dick Dale & The Del Tones Live @ The Golden Bear
Balboa Records 1982
The Many Moods of Teisco Del Rey
A Date With The Torquays
Road Trip with The Torquays,
Somewhere in California The Torquays
Return Engagement The Torquays
Life Beneath The Sun Michelle Mangione
What is a Saint? Michelle Mangione
The Edge of Madness Michelle Mangione /Grace Slick
My thanks to Steve Soest for a great interview. You can find Steve through his website Soest Guitar. It’s well worth taking a look at. His client list is enough to knock your socks off (and more)!
HERE ARE SOME COOL VIDEOS INVOLVING THE VARIOUS TALENTS OF STEVE SOEST
The first one is a cool HOW TO VIDEO on guitar bridge adjustment (setting your string action).
This video is of THE TORQUAYS playing live. STEVE is on lead guitar and they’re doing a song that STEVE wrote called TWITCHIN’. This song is really twitchin’!!!
STEVE and THE TORQUAYS with OVERDRAWN AT CORTES BANK
THE TORQUAYS-EL BAILE DE LOS CHUPACABRAS
THE TORQUAYS WITH PIT STOP BY DUFF PAULSEN
Here’s STEVE with The SURFBEATNIKS playing TRILOBITE! Makes me think of GODZIRRA!!! (Godzilla).
Here’s STEVE playing with THE ELIMINATORS. They’re doing my favorite tune by THE TORNADOS, TELSTAR.
One of STEVE’S current gigs is with THE MICHELLE MANGIONE BAND. Here’s a great song called AMERICA THE BLUE.
Here’s the official music video of MICHELLE MANGIONE’S – WHAT IS A SAINT.
Here’s another cool MICHELLE MANGIONE song called EDGE OF MADNESS. My brother GERRY HUERTA (on lead guitar) got to hook up with his old bandmate STEVE SOEST (and of course MICHELLE and her band) in NEW ORLEANS for this live performance!
STEVE on bass with MICHELLE MANGIONE performing “WHOSE GONNA CHANGE YOUR MIND?”
Here’s STEVE with the one and only TEISCO DEL REY (aka DAN FORTE)!
THE CORAL ALL STARS featuring STEVE SOEST and guitarist JIM WASHBURN joining DEKE DICKERSON at DEKE DICKERSON’S GUITAR GEEK FESTIVAL 2011 honoring VINNIE BELL – CORAL SITARS – MORE – (The Theme From MONDO CANE).
STEVE with LARRY COLLINS & DEKE DICKERSON at GUITAR GEEK FEST 2009 – WHISTLE BAIT (a little bit of audio overload here as LARRY’S amp proved to be a bit much for the camera. He’s ROCKIN’ it!
“KEEPIN’ IT REAL” with STEVE SOEST is COMING SOON!
Be sure to keep an eye out (or two) for the announcement of the launch of STEVE’S section of the blog called “KEEPIN IT REAL” which will have all kinds of GREAT “REAL LIFE” GUITAR INFO YOU CAN PUT TO USE. – Jack