ABOUT:: Billy Z
fender 5c5 pro mod
      ABOUT:: Billy Z's Fat Mod Marshall 2203
      ABOUT:: Jet City 20 Mod
      ABOUT:: Fender Bassman head Mod

I don’t know why my parents took me to the music store to buy me the Bass guitar and amplifier, but in 1967 they did just that. Being frugal people, they settled on a nice used Harmony H22 and decent used Supro Thunderbolt amp. Prior to that I played Trumpet in the school band and was first chair most of the time, until my parents bought me that Bass guitar, big mistake. So, I was 13 years old and had no idea what to do with my instrument. I never took lessons, no one to take them from anyway. But, I discovered something very important. If you have a Bass, someone will find you. All bands need a Bass and no one plays them. So I quickly found myself in a band. They showed me how to tune, what string to play. You see the bass is tuned so low that you can get away with almost anything, especially if your tone is dark and muddy.
We even got asked to go to parties. They wanted a band and we were free, just let us have some cake and eat it. There were girls too and they actually seemed to noticed that we existed (which never happened before). We all plugged into a Sears Silvertone Six ten.
Light shows were all the rage too, so I took a coffee can and put a bunch of blinking Christmas lights in it, shined it on the band, psychedelic. Later, I took an old record player motor, and a cardboard record jacket with a thin slit cut in it. Attached it to the motor, put a small can with a light in it behind the cardboard. When I turned on the motor and light it was instant Strobe! Oh the blue smoke.

Notice the Christmas light wheel.

A new guy joined the band, he had previously been in a real band (opened for the Doors). He knew chords and progressions. He even had a guy come over who had some real nice Fender gear and showed use how to play Purple Haze and other really cool songs. We played a Battle of the Bands and won. Of course the other bands said it was rigged, it wasn’t. We were the “Electric Apple”.
All the while I was saving up my money from the paper route for a better Bass. I Bought a Hagstrom and a Fender Bassman with a 2x12 cab.

I was uptown Daddy. Another thing I found out was, better gear gets you into a better Band (sometimes). At the time we were living on a military base in Alaska and some GI’s found out about my Fender Amp. They wanted to rent it from me for their guy. I said “No way, My Amp and I am the only one playing it”. Guess what, they asked me to audition for their band. I was 14; they really didn’t want me, only my amp. They said I was in. But, we had to rehearse, get tight, be professional. You see, these guys were all from Detroit, Motown. They had joined the Air force to avoid being drafted to Vietnam as grunts. They had played with a lot of great artist like James Brown, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and others.

They taught me how to really play Bass. Turn it UP. Play on the beat, Cool Groove lines, and look good doing it. We had a fabulous Singer/band leader; he could play all the instruments better that any of us. One night our drummer could not make it and I was panicking. The singer wasn’t worried; he was going to play drums. HE Killed! Did a smoking drum solo all while singing, the crowd went wild. Later, I said, why didn’t he play drums all the time, he was so much better than the other guy. He looked at me and scolded me, He was to be in Front of the band, dancing and strutting around the stage, he was the showman. Not hidden behind the drums. We were the “Traditions”. We played every Friday and Saturday, I made $100-200 a night. I was only allowed one drink per set and it had to be 7n7 or CC n 7up, so it looked liked ginger ale. I could not sit at the bar either. My folks had signed a legal guardianship over to the guitar player, so I could play the clubs at 14.

You know that thing about better gear getting you into a better band. Well, another GI really wanted into “The Traditions” So he goes out and buys a Brand New Kustom 200 Bass Amp and 2x15 cab along with a Fender Precision Bass. Yep, He was in and I was out. Besides, they wanted to start touring around and the bars downtown would not allow me in regardless of the legal guardianship. I was devastated. I swore that would never happen again. I went out and bought a Kustom with 2 ea 2x15 JBL bottoms.

I was a Badass Bassman. Soon after though, a guy from high school asked me join his new band a power trio. His name was Richard Pasillas, he was a fantastic guitar player with a reputation. I was now a Rocker. We played almost every weekend too; one of our first gigs was the high school Prom after party up at the ski lodge.

We were so good that after that one gig we were legends, at least within a 20 mi radius. We later become known as “Brown Peter”.

I never did like practicing the bass by myself. Guitar was another matter, I liked to play guitar anytime. My mom had an old Airline acoustic. The strings were a mile off the fingerboard. But dammit, I was going to learn how to play if it killed me, at least till my hand hurts. You want to see calluses from guitar playing, I had em so thick I could sand the paint off a, well a guitar for one. Soon after that, I got a SG jr. Electrified ! Worked pretty good through the Bassman too.
I started wanting to play Guitar for real in the band and I enlisted my friend Marty Beggs to play Bass. He had a cool Gibson EBO. And a Kustom Bass amp with Three 15” jensens. I bought a Les Paul Gold top. Jr’s are for beginners.
The Guitar player agreed to it for awhile. But, after I started writing songs and wanting us to play them, that was the end. I had gotten too big for my britches and I was adios muther fukker.
So I started my own band of monkeys called the “Moose Creek Guerilla Band”.

By this time I had begun finding good used guitars cheap, like this Firebird, and fixing them up. I learned a lot about guitars during this period. I even found a Luthier who showed me a few things about how to set them up in general. Later, I developed my own techniques and making my own tools like special files and nippers, at first I used Tooth paste to polish out an old dull finish. Don’t laugh, it works. I was given a Les Paul jr that had a broken neck and I reglued it back together so well no one ever knew it had been broken.

I started adding pickups and changing tuners over to Grovers, learned what intonation was and even developed my own standard of harmonic intonation that is superior to the way it is taught even today.


I mostly just fixed and modded my own stuff. But, every time I played with other musicians they would try out my gear or comment on my sound and ask me to help them with their guitars and amps. Pretty soon, I was busy and had purchased quite a few expensive tools. I announced I was going to have to charge them something. Surprise, they did not mind. They just wanted me to set them up right.

I got real busy at it and a lot more experience on a multitude of instruments. Like Mandocellos, Violas, Upright Basses. You name it. And oh the amplifiers I have owned, restored and repaired. About this time the vintage thing started to happen. These instruments were getting to be worth a lot of money. I became much more sensitive to keeping things original. And what original really is. By 1980 , I had a pretty large collection of gear, 50-60 guitars and basses, all pre 1970’s most were late 50’s early 60’s all Fender , Gibson, Ricks, Guilds, Epiphone, etc, no junk! JTM 45, 50, jmp, Vox AC30s, Sunn, Traynor, Supro, Ampegs, around 40 old Fender amps from before 1967 all the way back to 1948 . I made them all sound like new and work perfectly, I gigged them all.

People from all over were bringing me their guitars and amps to fix. I was steadily gigging too.

 Dr. Z band

About this time I met George Herrington. He had done work for Chet Atkins, Paul Yandel and other great thumbpickers. He even had a lot of original Gretsch factory parts from when they went under the first time. He sold me some of Chet’s original signed gear from his early period. Like his Gretsch amp and tube Echoplex, both signed by Chet.

George knew his stuff, he taught me all about Transformers and what affect different voltages have on tube performance, and all about speakers too, how to modify anything, make it do anything. George was my Master Class, I was the grasshopper.

About this same time, I met Sam Hutton. He worked at Fender in the early days covering Amplifiers. He knew how it was done and what glue to use, everything. He told the right way to cover an Amp. You have to use Hide glue. Contact cement never gets hard and it affects the tone. Hide glue is actually easier to use. But very few use it today. John Mergili does it right, better than anyone I know today.

One time, I was trying to make this 1968 Twin reverb sound good, it just would not sound great. I thought well maybe if I triode connect the power tubes. That was in vogue at the time. I tried it, but it wasn’t right. So I called Ken Fischer. I had read his article in a funny little catalog from Steve at Angela instruments. He told me to use a resistor that was never mentioned before anywhere. Bingo! I called him a few more times; he was always very gracious and informative.

There is a lot I have learned over the years from many great people, I am still learning.