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To ask any question about Thomas Fraser, just e-mail us and we will try to answer. Below is some technical information on the instruments and equipment which Thomas used.

Guitars : Reel-to-reels : Fiddles

Guitars

Levin Goliath

Described by Guitarist magazine as ' the best kept secret of the guitar world ' the Levin Goliath was purchased by Thomas in 1961 and used exclusively up until his death in 1978.

The Levin Guitar Company was a Swedish firm who were founded by HC Levin in the early 1900s. HC Levin came from Goteburg and was a trainee luthier with Martin in the States before setting up Levin back in Sweden. The company was bought over by Martin in the early 1970s not because of their large stock of wood, but because their guitars were becoming a little too good. The Levin Guitar company used the brand name 'Goya' in the United States.

The 'Goliath' (model no. N26 in the states) was a Dreadnought shape with a spruce top and maple back and sides. It had a shorter scale lenght at 629mm and 43.8mm at the nut. The thin necks compliment an action akin to an electric guitar. A rich and deep bass tone made the Goliath a guitar to rival and indeed beat any other including the best Gibsons and Martins.

Thomas's Goliath guitar was recently restored by Jimmy Moon of Moon Guitars in Glasgow and plays and sounds as good as ever. There are at least two other Goliaths in Shetland, one in Whalsay and one in Fair Isle. The new Thomas Fraser Commemorative Guitar made by Moon Guitars is modelled on Thomas's original Levin Goliath which was purchased in 1960. For a detailed review of the Thomas Fraser Model, click here.

Information on the net is scarce but http://goyaguitars.tripod.com/index1.htm is a good source.  

The Swedish site http://www.gitarren.se/radotips/sernr_levin.html helps you find out the age of your Levin Guitar.  (Top of page)

Reel-to-reel tape machines

Thomas' first reel-to-reel machine was a Grundig and it was purchased circa 1953.  It was the first machine to arrive in Burra Isle, shortly after electric power arrived in the Islands.

The TK35 model was Thomas' 2nd machine and was purchased in 1956. It was a half-track machine which was rare at the time as most domestic machines were in 4 track format. Half track provided a better sound on tape. The machine ran at 2 speeds: 3.3/4 and 7.5. Unfortunately, Thomas' wife Phyllis 'encouraged' the use of the lower speed which although saved on tape costs, made for a poorer sound quality!

Both these machines still survive today. Listening to the recordings, it is curious that it is the sound of the earlier machine that beats the latter. The original TK35 which Thomas used from 1956 to 1978 is pictured here:

Thomas' Grundig TK35 reel to reel machine

Thomas also borrowed cousin Bobby Fraser's machine which was a 4 track Truvox. This machine was used in 2001 to catalogue Thomas' vast collection of songs. The transfer of Thomas' recordings to CD was completed using the classic Revox A77 model. This machine was purchased specifically for this project.

Up until the early 1970s, Thomas used the stock microphones supplied with the tape machines. These were independent of the machine itself, connected with a wire, plastic coated and stood about 4-5" high. Around the early 1970s, Thomas bought a Shure Unisphere 13 Dynamic microphone (model no 588SA).

This mic can be seen in the sleeve notes of the third CD 'Treasure Untold'. Thomas used this mic in conjunction with a small Yamaha amplifier to produce echo effects. The result can be heard on track 22 "Palamino Pal of Mine' featured on 'Long Gone Lonesome Blues'.   (Top of page)

Thomas recorded thousands of songs. A small portion of his tape collection is pictured here. As can be seen a large variety of brands were used. These are the tapes which were used to form the 'Long Gone Lonesome Blues' CD release:-

Thomas's tapes

Fiddles

Aald Dey's fiddle

Thomas' main fiddle was given to him by his Uncle aka 'Aald Dey'. Legend has it that the fiddle was acquired during the Crimean war circa 1860 and survived being cast overboard a ship en-route to Britain.

Again, the fiddle survives and plays today (Top of page)

 

All contents © Karl Simpson 2002-