Chesterfield Kings members publish 'Rolling Stones Gear'

05:29 PM, Feb 07, 2014

(Paul Cooper)/


Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff music critic

See the authors

Greg Prevost has set up a 3 p.m. Saturday book signing at the House of Guitars, 645 Titus Ave., Irondequoit. He will play some of the acoustic Delta blues music that he’s been writing the last couple of years. He’ll be accompanied by a handful of local scenesters and former members of The Chesterfield Kings.
Andy Babiuk has a 3 p.m. March 1 stop at Record Archive, 33 1/3 Rockwood St.

The publisher was expecting 500 pages. He got nearly 700.

Rolling Stones Gear: All The Stones’ Instruments From Stage to Studio is as weighty as it sounds. Andy Babiuk’s third book of musical archaeology, this one co-written with former bandmate Greg Prevost, is a coffee-table book — no, a coffee-table sized book — that’s both eye candy for casual fans of the legendary rock band and an overwhelming encyclopedia for gearheads who want to see a photo of Keith Richards’ 1954 Fender Esquire guitar with its original input jack.

Released this week, Rolling Stones Gear (Backbeat Books, $60) uses the same format as Babiuk’s two previous books, Beatles Gear:
All The Fab Four’s Instruments From Stage to Studio and The Story Of Paul A. Bigsby: The Father Of The Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar.

It is a lavish blend of arresting graphic design with text that meanders from the academic (“The 24½-inch scale Flying V guitars were built of korina, a trade name for white limba, a West African hardwood …”) to the historical (“At the Stones’ insistence, Jack Good had booked the legendary Howlin’ Wolf on the same Shindig! episode …”) and the salacious (“Keith, who had begun adding heroin to his array of intoxicants …”).

Both Beatles Gear and this book are supposed to be historical documents for something super important,” Babiuk says. “How was that music done?”

The men behind the book

Babiuk and Prevost are in a firsthand position to understand how the music was made. Their Rochester-based band, the acclaimed garage-rock revivalists The Chesterfield Kings, smelled as Stonesy as one of Bill Wyman’s old Linear-Concord tube amps (there’s a photo of one on page 46).

Babiuk owns the Fairport boutique guitar shop Andy Babiuk’s Fab Gear and is a guitar consultant for major auction houses and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. He is in the midst of a national promotional tour for the book. His new band, signed to Universal Records, is releasing an album at the end of the summer. He’s also working on a new version of Beatles Gear that will almost double its current 256 pages.

Prevost has been a writer for a host of underground fanzines for years, and does consulting work in the world of vintage rock, television and film.

They each had separate scheduled book events on Saturday; Babiuk will also do a signing at 3 p.m. March 1 at Record Archive. One book, separate events: The longtime rock and roll partners, next-door neighbors in Charlotte and now co-authors haven’t spoken to each other in months.

Prevost says he spent 10 years researching the Stones, unraveling mysteries such as what songs were recorded in what sessions, laying out a basic structure of the band’s history, wondering, “Am I wasting my time?”

But talking to guys like Dave Hassinger, who produced much of the Stones’ best-known work, was the reward. Hassinger shared the story with Prevost of how his third wife offered some Valium to keyboardist Jack Niztsche at a Stones recording session. Mick Jagger took note of it and wrote “Mother’s Little Helper.”

I must have read the thing six times and was getting sick of it,” says Prevost. “But when it came here to the house, I started looking at it and said, ‘Wow, it’s kinda good.’ “

The key to Rolling Stones Gear was access. “I thought The Beatles were a tough camp to break; they were very guarded,” Babiuk says. “The Stones were way worse.”

Yet Babiuk, working through contacts such as the band’s equipment manager, got through. He was backstage during concerts, taking note of how the band operates. He considers Bill Wyman to be the unofficial band historian, and visited the longtime Stones bassist at his London home. Richards allowed Babiuk to go through his thousands of guitars — most of which he never plays, stored in several locations in several countries.

The guitars are the key

It’s the guitars that tell the Stones’ story, and in several instances Babiuk proved useful to the band, “helping them realize the importance of various guitars,” he says.

Babiuk stumbled across one in Richards’ collection that he suspected was the Gibson “reverse” Firebird VII guitar that Brian Jones played during one of the band’s appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Just as he did in 2012, when the PBS show History Detectives asked him to authenticate the long-lost electric guitar that Bob Dylan used at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Babiuk used old photos to confirm the Firebird’s identity by the guitar’s wood grain.

Guitar Player magazine is impressed. For the first time in its 46-year history, a guitar slinger like Eric Clapton isn’t on the cover; the new March edition features Rolling Stone Gear, accompanied by a 24-page article.

I was at a convention on the West Coast last week and we went out for drinks afterward,” Babiuk says. “And one guy told me, ‘You’re the only guy in the world who got The Beatles to play ball with you. Then you turned around and did it with The Stones.’ “