A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 27, 2016
Whammy Bar (vibrato for guitar)

American singer and guitarist Lonnie Mack (1941-2016) had a 1963 hit song titled “Wham.” Mack became known for the use of a vibrato bar on his guitar., which would soon be known as a “whammy bar.” Musician magazine (April 1991) explained in a Mack profile:

When Lonnie first attached the Bigsy to his Kalamazoo guitar, it was known as a vibrato unit. Somewhere along the way, people started referring to it as a “whammy bar.” “I’ve been told that it’s because of a song I did called ‘Wham’: People would say, ‘Use that “Wham” bar.’” Of course, there are other designations. An old Louisiana boy named Bucky Lindsay used to tell me, ‘Shake that ‘coon’s dick!’”

“Whammy bar” has been cited in print since at least 1980. 


Wikipedia: Vibrato systems for guitar
A variety of mechanical vibrato systems for guitar have been developed since the 1930s. They are used to add vibrato to the sound by changing the tension of the strings, typically at the bridge or tailpiece of an electric guitar using a controlling lever (often referred to as a whammy bar, vibrato arm/bar, or tremolo arm/bar). The lever enables the player to quickly vary the tension and sometimes the length of the strings temporarily, changing the pitch to create a vibrato, portamento or pitch bend effect.

Instruments without this device have other bridge and tailpiece systems. The mechanical vibrato systems began as a device for more easily producing the vibrato effects that blues and jazz guitarists had long produced on arch top guitars by manipulating the tailpiece with their picking hand. However, it has also made many sounds possible that could not be produced by the old technique, such as the 1980s-era shred guitar “dive bombing” effect.

Wikipedia: Lonnie Mack
Lonnie McIntosh (July 18, 1941 – April 21, 2016), better known by his stage name Lonnie Mack, was an American rock, blues, and country singer-guitarist. As a featured artist, his recording career spanned the period from 1963 to 1990. He remained active as a performer into the early 2000s.

Mack played a major role in transforming the hubcap guitar into a lead voice in rock music. Best known for his 1963 instrumentals, “Memphis” and “Wham!”, he has been called a rock-guitar “pioneer” and a “ground-breaker” in lead guitar soloing. In these, and several other early guitar instrumentals, “he attacked the strings with fast, aggressive single-string phrasing and a seamless rhythm style”. These tunes are said to have formed the leading edge of the virtuoso “blues rock” lead guitar genre.
(...)
He used his Bigsby vibrato tailpiece on “Wham!” (and many later recordings) to achieve sound effects so distinctive for the time that guitarists began calling it the “whammy bar”, a term by which the Bigbsy and other vibrato bars are still known. He was uniquely proficient with it. It had been typical for guitarists to tug it gently with their picking hand to produce what Mack called a pitch-bending “woo” sound at the end of a run, once all the notes had been played. Mack, however, often moved it rapidly back-and-forth with the little finger of his right (picking) hand to produce a “shuddering” sound while picking at a 45-degree angle to the strings, and bending the strings on the fret-board with the fingers of his left. Mack can be seen using this technique in the video of a 1985 Carnegie Hall concert, playing “Satisfy Suzie”. Stevie Ray Vaughan observed: “Nobody can play with a whammy-bar like Lonnie. He holds it while he plays and the sound sends chills up your spine”.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
whammy bar n.  (a) (with capital initials) a type of frozen dessert bar; (b) a tremolo arm on a guitar.
1972 Chicago Tribune 13 July iv. 17 (advt.) Whammy Bars..Pkg. of 12..74¢.
1984 Washington Post 6 Mar. c16/1 (advt.) Guitar—Fender Strat., burgundy, rosewood neck, whammy bar, w/ case.
2004 S. Hunter Hell Bent for Leather (2005) viii. 134 Robbin puts his plectrum in his mouth and starts to do a bit of fingertapping… In between the fingertaps, he wiggles his whammy bar a lot, which makes screechy diving noises.

YouTube
Lonnie Mack- Wham
Esteban Rock
Uploaded on Apr 5, 2011
Temazo !!!!!
Artist: Lonnie Mack
Album: The Wham of that Memphis Man
Released: 1964

OCLC WorldCat record
For collectors only : the wham of that Memphis man
Author: Lonnie Mack
Publisher: New York City : Elektra, [1970]
Edition/Format: Music LP : English
Contents: Wham --

19 April 1980, Atlanta (GA) Journal and Constitution, “It’s A Throbbing Sensation” by Steve Dougherty, pg. 46-T, col. 2:
His brother, henry, whose Fender Stratocaster with its custom-made “WHammy bar” leads The Throbs’ stun-gun attack on stage, ...

Google Books
Musician, Player, and Listener
Issues 30-38
1981
Pg. 116:
The whammy or vibrato bar (what would a silver metal-fleck Diamond Ranger be without a whammy bar?) is one of the simplest designs imaginable — and with vibrato bars, simpler usually equals better.

1 September 1983, Musician, “Stevie Ray Vaughan” by David Fricke, pg. 82, cols. 2-3:
Aside from the reflective decals on the ‘59, the only customizing on his main axe is a left-handed bridge, “so that I could put the whammy bar on top.”

13 December 1989, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “He wrote the book: Lonnie Mack and his Flying V to cut live disc at Fitzgerald’s” by Greg Kor, Tempo (sec. 5), pg. 3, col. 2:
With the wiggle of a whammy bar and the blinding run of notes up and down the neck of his Gibson Flying V, Lonnie Mack launched the modern guitar era 26 years ago.

On instrumentals like ‘Wham!” and “Memphis” in 1963, the 22-year-old Mack took the rough, country-inspired rockabilly style of the ‘50s and rocketed it into the future.

28 August 1990, Boston (MA) Globe, “Stevie Ray Vaughan 1954-1990 Death of a Blues Star” by Steve Morse, pg. 55: 
The album will be on Epic Records, the label that backed Vaughan through his meteoric rise when he won a Grammy for his first album, 1983’s “Texas Flood,” followed by a whammy-bar, feedback-laced hit of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile.”

1 April 1991, Musician, “Working Musician: Lonnie Mack Pulls a Whammy,” pg. 71, col. 3:
When Lonnie first attached the Bigsy to his Kalamazoo guitar, it was known as a vibrato unit. Somewhere along the way, people started referring to it as a “whammy bar.” “I’ve been told that it’s because of a song I did called ‘Wham’: People would say, ‘Use that “Wham” bar.’” Of course, there are other designations. An old Louisiana boy named Bucky Lindsay used to tell me, ‘Shake that ‘coon’s dick!’”

Urban Dictionary
Whammy Bar
A tremolo bar. You screw it into your guitar and when you’re playing you push and pull it to stretch or loosen the strings, heightening or lowering the pitch.
Whammy bars are cool.
by Rohan January 22, 2004

YouTube
Guitarist shows his skills with a whammy bar
froosh
Uploaded on Mar 3, 2006
http://WatchMojo.com/ - A guitarist shows what you can do with a guitar, a gigantic amp and a whammy bar… Awesome.

Urban Dictionary
whammy bar
The “whammy bar” goes by many other names as well: wham bar, wang bar, vibrato tailpiece, tremolo arm, Floyd, etc. (Although “Floyd” properly refers only to the “Locking Tremolo System” designed by Floyd Rose). The names come from manufacturers or from users.

Although some refer to this device as a “tremolo bar” or a “tremolo arm”, the use of the word “tremolo” is misplaced. Tremolo refers to volume modulation. The term was originally used for instruments of the violin family. If a violinist’s (or violist’s or cellist’s or bassist’s) score is marked “tremolo”, it means the player will rapidly move the bow back and forth across the string, resulting in a “trembling” sound.
(...)
The wham bar on the guitar changes the pitch of the gutar’s strings. Therefore, it’s properly referred to as a “vibrato” device, not a “tremolo” device.
You can use the whammy bar for anything from a subtle vibrato to a full on crazed dive bomb.
(...)
by Daniel Eickmann November 03, 2007

YouTube
How to Use a Whammy Bar - Tremolo Bar - Whammy Bar Lesson - Guitar Tricks 39
Guitar Tricks
Uploaded on Jan 21, 2010

YouTube
10 most awesome Guitar Whammy Bar Techniques
Chainsaw Guitar Tuition
Published on Aug 30, 2013

Guitar World
Lonnie Mack and the Birth of Blues-Rock Guitar
Posted 04/25/2016 by Keith Wyatt , photo by Larry Hulst/Getty Images
(...)
At the culmination of the last chorus, Mack debuts one of his signature licks, repeatedly picking a high, bent note while simultaneously shaking his guitar’s Bigsby vibrato arm (which, according to legend, was dubbed the “whammy bar” after Mack repeated the trick on his follow-up single “Wham;” you can also approximate the effect with wrist vibrato).

(Trademark)
Word Mark WHAMMY BAR
Goods and Services (ABANDONED) IC 015. US 036. G & S: TREMOLO MECHANISMS FOR STRINGED MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. FIRST USE: 19820913. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19820913
Mark Drawing Code (3) DESIGN PLUS WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS
Design Search Code 22.01.25 - Batons, orchestra conductor’s; Bows, violin; Conductor’s wands, batons; Drumsticks (musical instrument); Harmonicas; Instrument cases (musical); Music stands; Picks, guitar; Wands, conductors’ and magicians’
Serial Number 73401121
Filing Date October 29, 1982
Current Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Owner (APPLICANT) INTERNATIONAL MUSIC CORPORATION CORPORATION TEXAS 1316 E. LANCASTER FT. WORTH TEXAS 76113
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Abandonment Date March 9, 1984

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film/Circus • Wednesday, April 27, 2016 • Permalink