True Tone is now on the web at: http://www.Truetone.us

THOMAS LEARY - Welcome to the Mule Dog Magazine interview Pete.

PETE BARTKUS - O.K. We've been here 25 years. I've been in the business 30 years. I have had a lot of famous people come in the store. The beach boys were here and gave me 3 free tickets for their show. Whenever they get a Waterfront Festival or a concert at the Metro Center I always get some famous player who's got a problem with his instrument and I have to fix it. John Sebastian, formerly of the "Lovin' Spoonfuls" came by after playing the "On The Waterfront" festival. We talked about using different types of wood to produce different tones on acoustic guitars. He asked a lot of questions but never bought anything. The most famous artists are lucky, they endorse an instrument and then get one for free or at cost!

TOM - Are you the only guitar repair man in town?

PETE - Pretty much. We do brass and woodwinds too. My boy Brad does that mostly. He won a RAMI award for the best horn player and plays all the instruments so when he repairs them he takes care of all the fine points. He's been doing it for over 20 years. We're members of NAPBIRT which is National Association of Professional Band Indtrument Repair Technitions. Last spring we went to a band instrument seminar in Elkhart Indiana where they make Selmer and Bach horns, huge facility! We went through the whole thing. It took a whole day. If you want a job go to Elkhart. They work seven days a week, even on Sunday.

TOM - I was looking for fewer working days a week. Three days....

PETE - (laughs) You've got a point! But anyway, that was a seminar with the finest technitions in the world and Brad loves to go to those. He learns a lot about how to repair. He's very technically minded. We should talk about guitars. I'm mostly involved in that, especially with the Garth and the GB-7C model there, we are talking $1,649 on the Steve Warner model $1,899. They are available now at huge discount prices! They're hard to get. Garth buys 20 a month and gives them away one at every show! Folk singer Jim Post bought a 150th anniversary Takamini guitar from me and uses it in his "Mark Twain" show.

TOM - That's a beautiful looking guitar.

PETE - The old Garth model that he used to play isn't too expensive. They're only $600 used if you can find one.

TOM - I wish I'd got one when they were only a couple hundred.


PETE - I sold them when they were a couple hundred. I was the first dealer in Rockford to sell them.

TOM - I should have bought one. I did buy one of your violins for about a hundred, a hundred and twenty.

PETE - No kidding!

TOM - Yeah, I use on the the album, on "BLUEGRASS BABY". All I can do is saw (saws away on an "air violin"). For any complicated violin parts I have the string synthesizer, but I can't get the same effect out of the string synthesizer that I can out of a real violin.

PETE - Yeah, you've got to have a good quality instrument, but you know these violins are not very expensive, and they're still really good.

TOM - That's a wonderful deal!

PETE - (taking a beautiful brown Guild guitar from the wall) where can you buy a guild with hard case, all solid wood, American made, price of $699 plus a huge discount?

TOM - American made?

PETE - Oh sure, Guild's made in Westerly Rhode Island. I can hold it here, do you want to take a picture of me holding it?

TOM - Yeah, I want to caption that picture; "PETE PUSHING THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF HIS GUILD GUITAR" (BOTH LAUGH). I like that twelve string, it's a little fancy but it's beautiful.

PETE - That's a Bajo Saxto, completely different tuning than a regular twelve string. We're the only store in the whole area that sells Mexican guitars.

TOM - That's wonderful inlay work!

PETE - Isn't that beautiful! The back and the sides are solid rosewood and it's only $549 then add the discount and you're in.

TOM - Brand new?

PETE - All my guitars are brand new and I'll guarantee the best prices in the area. I also make guitars. Here's one I cut out of ash. It has Bartolini pickups, which are one of the finest in the world.

TOM - Great color, looks like a flying V or a Thunderbird.

PETE - Some have push and pull pots. What it does is puts the pickups out of phases, coil taps and adds compression. You can get twelve different tonalities from these. I've been building guitars for 25 years. My guitars are all over the world! I recently got a call from a guy in Rumania saying "We have your guitar, True Tone".



PETE - I go back many years. I go back to the medieval times before they came up with all these big amplifiers when we used the megaphone.

TOM - So you're a renaissance man.


PETE - I used to play weddings and grange halls with an accordion and a guitar. It was all acoustic. There were no electronics and no drums! When I started out there was no amplification so you would use a megaphone.

TOM - Like Rudee Valie?

PETE - He was still alive and going when I started back in the 30's. Then my guitar player Barney Riverdahl found a Gibson amp. They were the first ones that came out and were little ones with a light grey finish. He plugged it in and wow, he was drowning me out! I had to have a couple of little crystal mikes put in my accordion and bought a little Gibson to keep up with him. That's what started me in electronics and then of course from that point on the accodions added more electronincs for the bass and the treble.

TOM - They're part synthesizer really.

PETE - Now they've got all different features with synthesizers. Getting back to guitar, it was an accompaniment instrument with the big band era.

TOM - The Gibson hollow body, L7?

PETE - The L series all had single coil pickups. they didn't come out with the wumbucking pickup until the 50's. Seth Lover came out with that. I've got a Seth Lover model. Even during the electronic age into the 60's country western was nothing but acoustic. Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, and Gene Autry played strictly acoustic. That was classic country.

TOM - In country music now the hottest acoustic electric guitar is Garth's Takamine.

PETE - I was the firs Takamime dealer in the area, maybe twenty five years ago, when the company started! I found out through Charlottes web. A young lady was playing a twelve string there and brought it in to have the machines tightened and the action dropped. The old Charlottes web was over on second Avenue. Karen Howard ran that and still does today but they do it all at Memorial Hall now.

TOM - She just won the lifetime achievement award at the RAMI'S.

PETE - Yeah, right! Great Gal! Anyway, she brought that in and I played that guitar and said "Boy, where in the world did you get this? It's got a beautiful sound, nice tone!" She said "We got it when we were in California." The company was part of the Kamen Corporation that distributed in California. I talked to Kamen and bought about twelve of then. I filled the store up and man was I sellin' those out at $180, $200, six strings or twelve strings! I met Mr. Hirade the inventor of the guitar at the National Association of Musical Manufacturers show in Atlanta about fifteen years ago. I went to the first show in Chicago. Back then the companies would rent a hotel room and put all their guitars in a hotel room, and we'd go up and down in the elevators to see their merchandixe. That's before they had the convention center, so you know how many years I've been in the business! I'm not going to Nashville this year because they don't have a lot of hotels and they put me way out in the boondocks by the college. The big conglomerates buy up all the hotel rooms downtown. They're still not going to hurt me because you're dealing with the owner or the Vice-President. You're dealing with the people who are running the store and not with a salesman. Where do you go for personalized service? You go to True Tone because I deal with people on an individual basis and we guarantee everything!

TOM - You've set all my guitars right.

PETE - Pistol Pete, the hottest guy in Rockford right now, comes in here with all his guitars. He's going to New York for that Jimmi Hendrix contest.

TOM - That's right! He placed in the top twenty.

PETE - He comes in with all his instruments. I just re-wired one of his double neck Ibanez guitars. I fixed him up and he's tickled to death. He comes here and buys strings. Did you see the last guy that came in here? He wants only DR.

TOM - You gave me a set of DR's at our April 22 concert last year. I saved them all year, put them on my acoustic guitar, and used them for the season opener this year.

PETE - Hey! They are some kind of string aren't they?

TOM - They're very loud! Thank you very much.

PETE - Very loud and also round core wire. I met the inventor at the California show in Anahiem and he explained his process. The windings on the core wire are compressed so they don't slip back and forth. He was able to make the core wire smaller so the windings can be of a bigger diameter giving the strings more volume using a round core instead of a hexigon core.

TOM - The strings didn't go out of tune at all.

PETE - They don't go out of tune. He's also got the Zebra string. The Zebra is a nickel wound string and a bronze wound string wound together. It's great for acoustic electric cut aways.

TOM - That will give you the tonal characteristics of both metals

PETE - Both metals.

TOM - You have recorded an album.

PETE - I released an album of traditional Baltic music. I adapted some songs from the late 1800's and early 1900's and wrote a total of five songs of the twelve songs contained on the album.

TOM - Isn't that what many of the classical composers have done? They took folk songs from their native countries and incorporated them into their compositions.

PETE - Right! They took the tradition and enlarged it. I did the same thing plus some all sung in Lithuanian.

TOM - you once told me you were preserving Lithuanian folk songs before they died out. That is one of the most commendable things I could think of! Do you have any tapes available?

PETE - I've got about two or three tapes left. We recorded the album at Studio "B".

TOM - That's where I record. Oh, as a matter of fact, Mike Castronovo of studio "B" just won two RAMI awards for best engineer and best recording studio.

PETE - Finally!

TOM - He co-produced our last album. Remind me to pick up a copy of yours before I leave.

PETE - It's quite unique with polkas and originals in the European style.

TOM - If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: "I've traveled the whole world over and found that everyone loves a polka!!"

PETE - They played the rooster song on WZOK's Sunday night show two weeks in a row!

TOM - You've got a rooster song?

PETE - It's called "Gaidys" (pronounced guy deece) which in Lithuanian means rooster. He's the king of the hill, he takes care of all of the hens.

TOM - Guy deece. (Tom phonetically copies Pete)

PETE - Cock-a-doodle-doo! He's the guy who wakes you up in the morning.

TOM - He's the big cheeze!

PETE - He's the big cheeze. He's in charge and what he says goes.

TOM - He's the top dog.

PETE - the song sounds like the rooster is walking through the hen house. Da da da da da, buh buh buh bum mh, da da da da (Pete hums the spirited main theme of "Gaidys").

TOM - Like a polka.

PETE - Some of the songs are about the communist invasion of the Baltics. After the Nazis got kicked out of the Baltics the Communists came in whech resulted in complete repression under the rule of Stalin. I was over there three times and had trouble finding an accordion. The Communists had stolen all the accordions!! I was visiting my cousin Petras in Klipada along the coast of the Baltic Sea and wanted to perform for the people in the villiage. They searched all over and finally found an old Russian accordion. It was a heavy monster but I managed to play some tunes on it. I put on an hour show for them. I keep in touch with people in Lithuania and try to promote music development there.

TOM - Now it's easy to communicate with people all over the world. If you have a computer on-line you can E-mail anyone anywhere for free!

PETE - You still have to buy a computer.

TOM - They're pretty cheap now. You can get one for $1,000 plus monitor and printer.

PETE - Yea, $1,500, I know it.

TOM - We've got a website.

PETE - I'm hoping to be on-line soon.

TOM - We'll be looking for you. Thanks for the interview Pete.

PETE - You betcha, no problem!!


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