John Morton & His Swept Wing Guitar

SweptWing

We were walking a thin line between ruin and success, fame and obscurity, and any one little factor could tip the balance either way. It was good fortune that Stan was able to get us an apartment right behind the Whisky, and being able to keep our equipment in the van at the gas station on the corner, except that my guitar and amp were stolen from the van. We had parked the van in the gas station and of course locked it up, but shortly after we started keeping the van there someone must have noticed or whatever because the van was broken into. They broke the back window of the van and were able to get out my guitar and Fender amp. They would have gotten more but luckily the attendant noticed something going on and when he back to investigate all he saw was a couple guys jump in a car and peel out.

We were playing lots of gigs so I needed a new guitar and amp right away. Stan took me to Hollywood Music and I picked out a tall Standell amp and I tried it out with Gibson and Fender guitar but they didn’t stand out with that big amp. There was also the fact that I had to pay Stan back with my gig money. Stan had a lot of connections and knew that Joe Hall of Hallmark guitars wanted to promote their guitars for endorsements to get their guitars known, and was giving away his guitar to known artists and up and coming bands to get that exposure. Stan did some calling around that night and within a day or two brought me a brand new blue Swept-Wing guitar with a black hard shell case. It was a unique design like nothing I’d ever seen before. It had a thin, long neck I could easily wrap my fingers around, a chrome whammy bar, brown tortoise shell pick-ups, a three way switch, a large white pick-guard and a futuristic body design that looked like a bird’s swept wing. This guitar was one of a kind. The first time I plugged in the Swept-Wing I knew I had my signature sound for Hunger! The design was so unique that every place I played fans wanted to know if the guitar was designed specifically for me. Stan said it was one of the first fifty made and Robby Krieger had one. How cool was that.

I later met Joe when Hunger! played in Bakersfield, California around March of 1968, it was a strange gig. We didn’t know how we were going to be received, and our first set was unremarkably. In between sets Joe Hall came backstage and introduced himself, he said, “maybe we can get the Swept-Wing off the ground and get people interested.”
“I’ll do my best Joe,” I said.

Before we started the second set Joe came onstage and announced to the crowd, “that tall guy there playing my Swept-Wing guitar is a friend of mine, give him a warm welcome!” That really broke the ice with the crowd, somebody yelled out, “Hey! You guys know any surf music?” I said, “sure do!” I cranked up the reverb and whammy barred all our Hunger! songs. Mike Parkison whirled that Leslie on his big Hammond organ and that night we were rocking. Hunger! became a psychedelic surf band. Joe Hall winked at me and gave a big okay sign.

It’s too bad the Swept-Wing never got the recognition it deserved back in the ‘60’s. Most guitarists never played any gigs with them because it was too radical of a design. I later learned that I was the only known artist to play the Swept-Wing onstage in the 60’s.

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “Strictly From Hunger: A Rock and Roll Memoir” by John Morton. The book is expected to be published in October 2017. For more information and to get updates on the publication visit and “like” the Strictly From Hunger! Facebook page.

 

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