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Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Musical Instrument Museum, Part 9

The next section of the museum is one of my favorites — displays of artifacts from famous performers such as Alice Cooper. On this visit, it appeared that the display area was much larger than my previous visit and contained many more items from many more artists.

First known as the Earwigs, then the Spiders, and later the Nazz, the band Alice Cooper became an international sensation. Formed in Phoenix in 1964, the group soon showed an affinity for the theatrical and the bizarre. Sporting black makeup and featuring outrageous costumes and stage acts — including gallows, a guillotine, an electric chair, and live snakes — Alice Cooper was one of the most influential and commercially successful "shock rock" acts. The band topped the charts in the 1970s with albums such as School's Out (1972), Billion Dollar Babies (1973), and Muscle of Love (1973).

Lead singer Vincent Furnier launched a solo career as Alice Cooper after the band separated in the mid-1970s; the original members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

The photo shows the "mirror suit" worn on three world tours (2009 to 2012). It is displayed with a severed head used in the guillotine act and cane used during encores of "School's Out".

The next set of displays honored the blues — a style of music that first emerged among African-Americans in the rural South in the early 20th century. Using a standard verse form — a repeated phrase followed by a different closing line — these musicians voiced life experiences and personal hardships through expressive lyrics, emotive vocal sounds, and flattened or bent notes.

Many early blues musicians played homemade acoustical instruments, including diddley bows, cigar-box guitars, jugs, and washboards. As African-Americans moved from rural areas to cities, the blues sound became more urban, incorporating electric and amplified instruments. Still a treasured part of American musical heritage, blues has inspired genres as diverse as gospel, jazz, rock, soul, and rap.

The photo shows a "Duolian", a resonator guitar made of metal and wood. It was restrung for a left-handed player and displayed with a slide.

And what would the blues be without the harmonica? The earliest harmonicas were made in the early 19th century based on earlier Chinese instruments.

From the Smithsonian, "In the early 20th-century, southern black musicians found the devil in the harmonica. The cheap and portable instrument was made by Germans for use in traditional European waltzes and marches, but when it made its way to America's Southern neighborhoods, black musicians began to develop a totally new way of playing, which bent the harmonica’s sound (quite literally) to fit the style of the country’s increasingly popular 'devil’s music', or rather, the blues."

Traveling blues musician Leroy "Bluesdog" Falcon, Jr. began collecting autographed harmonicas in the 1980s. Twenty years later he completed this art collage dedicated to blues legends.

In the earlier LAHP series from my first visit to MIM, I shared a photo of this very same piano. It is a Steinway Model Z upright piano delivered to a home outside of London belonging to John Lennon. This piano became integral to the creation of the ex-Beatles' solo music and is best remembered as the instument on which he composed his visionary plea for world peace, "Imagine".

[Photographer's note - the light and dark area on the front of the piano appear to be stains but, in fact, are reflections — again this instrument was encased in Plexiglas, which reflected the legs of the many people paying homage to both Lennon and this historical piano.]

Johnny Cash, "Man in Black" —

"Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black"

The Grammy that Johnny Cash won in 2002 for "Give My Love to Rose".

In 1994, high school friends Jesse Carmichael, Ryan Dusick, Adam Levine, and Mickey Madden formed the band Kara's Flowers in LA. In 2001, with the addition of James Valentine as the new lead guitarist, the band was renamed Maroon 5, and they soon released their debut album, Songs About Jane, featuring early hits "Harder to Breathe", "This Love", and "She Will Be Loved".

This photo shows Adam Levine's Ibanez JEM 20th Anniversary electric guitar, featuring LED lights inside its clear acrylic body. It was damaged severely after Levine tossed it in the air during a performance, never to be played again.

This photo shows a StingRay 5 electric base guitar owned and played by founding band member Mickey Madden.

The photo forming the backdrop shows Adam Levine, lead vocalist and coach on TV's singing competition, The Voice, since its inception.

Speaking of superstars — none bigger than Taylor Swift. The guitar is hers, a Les Paul Special made by the Gibson Guitar Corporation and played by Swift to perform the song "Red" on the RED tour.

[Photographer's note: I thought it was a strange to use a bright red backdrop for a bright red guitar. Maybe it's just me but I think more contrast was in order here.]

And here is a wireless microphone made by Sennheiser Electric Corporation. It is ornamented with sparking red rhinestones and used by Taylor Swift on her RED tour.

The shirt is from French Connection, the pants are from DL1961, the shoes are from Miu Miu. This outfit was worn by Taylor Swift when she sang "Born Again" on the RED tour. The guitar is a Custom 614ce (acoustic-electric) from Taylor Guitars and played during that same song.

Last for today is more from Taylor Swift, specifically the outfit she wore as she sang "Mean", the hit single from her Speak Now album. The banjo is a Boston 6-String made by Deering Banjo Company and played by Swift to accompany that same song.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com