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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 17, 2011
Playing on home bass
By Zach Simeone
KNOX An unfinished five-string bass lays face down on Brett Pulliam’s working table, its body a mosaic of several different woods that fit perfectly together.
Hanging not 10 feet away is a four-string instrument, with a smooth, cream-colored wood body. Next to its bridge, a red light is built right into the body of the bass, about three inches in diameter, which glows when a small cord is pulled.
Pulliam, a timber framer for close to 20 years now, and with 30 years of woodworking experience, started building basses about two years ago. He works out of his woodshop at his home in Knox. He’ll be plucking away at a bass he built for himself on Saturday in a BluesTones concert to raise funds for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo marching band and sports boosters.
“I call it my retirement job,” he said of his new bass-building business, Chiselhead Bass. “I’m probably a better builder than player.” Chiselhead is a nickname given to him by his late friend Brian Sweeney, who used to start their conversations with, ‘Hey, Chiselhead,’ ‘Hey Swizzlestick,’ or ‘Hey, Muzzleloader,’ to name a few examples.
“I was looking to upgrade from my starter bass guitar,” Pulliam explained. “I got onto eBay and some guy had a guitar for sale, and he had about 40 pictures of it, all apart and in pieces. And I looked at it and said, ‘Hey, that’s just a piece of wood. I could do that.’ And it just took seeing it all taken apart and broken down.”
Pulliam went out, got some books, did some research, and started building.
“The timbers aren’t getting any lighter, and I’m not getting any stronger, and I was looking for something to do that was a little less strenuous, but still what I’m interested in,” he said.
He sells solid-body electric basses on his website, ChiselheadBass.com, and he plans on eventually building regular guitars as well. But he pans on sticking with electric.
“I don’t know that I’d ever build a full acoustic, but I might do a semi-hollow body and experiment on that,” said Pulliam. “There’s still plenty to learn.”
He and his band mates, all parents of current and former BKW students, have been learning a lot of good old songs.
The BluesTones formed close to four years ago, and they’re just five guys that like to play, said Pulliam.
“I took up the bass at 43,” Pulliam, now 51, explained. “It’s not a bunch of guys that have been playing music in bands since we were in high school. We all kind of came into it later in life, or some of us played earlier in life but hadn’t played in 20 years and came back into it. We have no illusions of becoming rock stars,” he said.
Larry Wilson’s on drums; both Rick Matlock and John Picinich serve double duty on guitar and vocals; and Dwight Brown plays keyboards and harmonica, and also sings.
“Larry does a little bit of backup vocals, too, but the two of us try to hold down the rhythm end of things,” Pulliam said. “I guess if you had to pigeonhole us, we play classic rock ‘n’ roll a lot of Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan. That’s not to say we don’t play some stuff that’s a little more recent, but it tends to be in that same genre.” They occasionally play original tunes, too.
“The genesis of this is that last year, about the same time, we did a benefit for the Haiti earthquake,” said Brett Pulliam, who plays bass for the BluesTones. “We got thinking that we’d like to do something that hit a little closer to home, raise some money for a cause that was right in our backyard,” he told The Enterprise.
Several of the district’s sports teams were inches from the chopping block during last year’s budget crisis, though the school identified last-minute savings that prevented many of those cuts; the marching band was not so fortunate.
With money looking even tighter for the 2011-12 school year, sports teams are raising funds in hope of preservation.
“We all have kids in the school district, or had kids in the school district, who have benefitted from these programs before,” said Pulliam. “We all see great benefit in that in educational terms and personal-growth terms… So, we wanted to make it a little more palatable to not cut these things.”
On Saturday, March 19, from 9 to 11 p.m., the BluesTones will be holding it down in the back room at the Township Tavern in Knox. There is a $10 cover charge to enter the concert area, though restaurant patrons need not pay to dine in the rest of the restaurant.