Unofficial Harmony Guitar Home Page

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I am always interested in hearing about unusual Harmony guitars. Email meand I look forward to hearing about your unique guitar.

 

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  • The Harmony guitar book you have all been waiting for is now here.
    Read all about the guitars we love in the first printing of the book the cronicles the history and the guitars produced by this USA guitar maker.
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    Harmony Guitars

    ·         Harmony Electric "Bob Cats"

    ·         Harmony Caribbean and Colorama Guitars

    ·         Rebel with a Cause

    ·         Other Instruments by Harmony

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     Some Important Links

    François Demont Harmony Data base: This site has the most comprehensive assortment of Harmony Guitars On the Internet. Models, pictures and other information. A must for all Harmony Fans.

    BROADWAY Music's Harmony Home Page: This is still one of the more complete sources of Harmony Guitars.

    ·         Bill Arnolds Harmony guitar page check out his collection of Harmony Guitar Pictures.

    ·         Silvertone/Harmony Guitar and amp pictures by Dan Marvicsin. He has a nice selection of of instruments, so take a look.

    ·         Ameritrash

    ·         More of the unusual

     

     Harmony Guitars, the Peoples Guitar

    What is known about one of the most prolific manufactures of guitars in this country? There has been a lot written about the Harmony Guitar Company, but there isn't a lot of information on these guitars. These guitars continue to show up everywhere. Many a guitar student started on one of their student instruments. How many beginning players had a sunburst Stella by Harmony to learn on?  . Most of my basic knowledge about them comes from what I've read in American Guitars by Tom Wheeler and from the ones I've seen or owned over the years. From the acoustics I used to sell to the yard sale electrics I used to find, I've seen quite a few different guitars.

    My experience with these guitars goes back to the early 60's. My first guitar was a Harmony acoustic and learning to play guitar was inspired by one of these student instruments. The guitars in my store at that time were mostly Harmony made, and I would spend hours looking through Jobber catalogues at these guitars. Targ and Diner, Buegelson and Jacobson, and C. Bruno had pages of assorted Harmonys to look at. I alwaysloved the look of the Black Sovereign with white pickguard that hung in the store. This most expensive guitar Grandpa Dave stocked, a whole $ 80, always caught my eye. The last new (old stock) American made acoustic finally was sold around 1980. This was after I borrowed it to travel across country. I remember playing that little "O'" style guitar, jamming on a California beach. I was always impressed by how it was able to project and carry a tune, given the circumstances.

    What is known about these Harmonys? The Harmony name was a registered Trademark # 627412. Established in 1892, one of the largest manufacturers of student guitars rivaled only by the likes of Kay, they produced countless numbers of instruments. Surviving up until the time the import manufacturers took over the market, Harmonys were everywhere. The general quality of Harmony instruments was lacking the attention to detail that the more expensive guitar makers were able to achieve. They would ultimately slop glue all over the inside and do other things to reflect the fact that they were mass-produced. At the height of the guitar boom in the 60's, they were making close to 1000 guitars a day and finding their way into many American homes.

    . Harmony was after all, one of the most prolific manufactures of musical instruments.  Harmony was one of the largest manufactures of musical instruments. They supplied many of the big mail order catalogues through the years. Sears marketed many of the Harmony instruments under the Silvertone label. After all, Sears owned this Chicago guitar company. These instruments were the same Harmony made instruments except for the label and accounted for almost half of the instruments made. Little was done to differentiate between them. There were also a large number of "House Brands" made by Harmony. At one point, before WWII, there were 57 assorted names on the same Harmony instrument. Wholesalers and private labels would use these guitars as a part of their line. Along with manufactures like Kay and Regal,Harmony supplied a lot of instruments over the years. I have had many other type of instruments made by Harmony. By 1915 they were the largest manufacturer of ukuleles in America. They not only made ukuleles and banjos but they had a whole line of these folk instruments. Their baritone ukes and tenor guitars still show up as unplayed cast offs from the main stream of instruments. The long neck "Pete Seeger" banjos I've seen have had both the "Holiday" label and Harmony label. They made an interesting bluegrass banjo with a Bakelite/plastic rim and resonator. Harmony also made violins during the early part of the century. At this time they were America's only large-scale violin manufacture. After giving up violin making for 19 years they began again in 1938 to fill the need of the student violinists. 

    Over the years the Harmony style of making guitars evolved just like the rest of the manufactures. The pre-war guitars, through the 40's, had clubbier necks. Earlier ones were v-ed. Some of the Archtops had a bigger paddle like headstock similar to the evolution of Gretsch Guitars. Into the 50's the graphics changed as with the size of the headstock. Smaller and simpler seemed to be the direction. Even the color of the logo seemed to change as time went on. When the guitar boom of the 60's happened, the guitars got simpler and more mass-produced. After all, they were making an average of 1000 instruments per day, during this period. That's a lot of guitars! The detailing on the headstock on the Patrician went from an ornate red, white and blue to a simpler plain graphic. The earlier guitars had some inlay on the headstock, while later it appears most decoration was stenciled. Even the sound hole rosette on some of the flat tops was stenciled on. Cheaper models almost always had painted binding along with painted fret markers.

    Most of the guitars I see appear to be from the sixties. Mainly because of the guitar boom during the Beatles generation, there were a large number of guitars sold at this time. Possibly even one half of all the guitars made in this county, more than all the other manufactures together. Most of these were the flat top acoustics. Many a beginner started with a sunburst Stella by Harmony. They bought this name in 1939 and continued to make them as a low-end student guitar. These small body guitars still show up from time to time. Most have a floating wood bridge with the pressed metal tail piece. Some of the older ones have a piece of metal fret like material for a saddle. These models have been seen with both 3X 3 tuners and 6 on a side headstocks. Some of the other budget small guitars have a screwed down rectangular bridge, with many of the older ones being made with solid wood, a lot of them birch, (You can usually tell by the cracks when they dry out.) As you go up the quality scale of these guitars you find Harmony made some nice solid spruce or mahogany top grand concert size guitars. Some of these guitars from the sixties had tortoise binding and pickgaurds. Still a far cry from their Gibson or Martin Counterparts they were nice little guitars. The ones which I have encountered are nice sounding and ones that don't need a neck set are nice playing. The graphics on the headstock varied from plain "Harmony," in script, with "Steel reinforced neck, " to the addition of a musical staff. I still use one today for my camping guitar. The sound projection in the open air, at the beach, is a far cry above many other guitars. Imagine having the original camp guitars by Harmony with the stencil scenes on them. These, along with the cowboy-stenciled guitars, have become quite collectable today.

    The better instruments made by Harmony were their Sovereign line of guitars. They acquired this name in the late 30's to represent their more popular instruments. By getting Players like Roy Smeck to endorse their instruments some of these instruments were made to cater to the more serious musician. They had the characteristics of the Gibsons that they were competing with. Large pickgaurds with painted details seemed to copy others. They still had their own unique details. These larger sized guitars had solid tops and real binding. In 1970 Harmony even made an 8-ft version for a NAMM show. This guitar showed the same details of its smaller counterpart. Currently owned by Collector Scott Chinery who said, "These Harmony Sovereigns are one or the best valued Collectable."

    The electrics made by Harmony ranged in price and quality. They made many a student instrument. Some of the solid body electrics were fundamental instruments. Their pickups and sound set them aside from the later imports that flooded the market. Models like the Stratotone or the BobKat were designed for the beginner player. Some of the more basic Fender style Harmony electrics were no competition to the real thing, but they did have their place.

    Some of the more sophisticated electrics took on the characteristics of the Gibson ES guitars. The Harmony Rocket made to emulate the ES 330 style guitar, was close. Many had 3 pickups along with 6 volume and tone controls. Using DeArmond pickups, along with others, they were able to achieve the sound quality that is still desired today. "Three Pickups', DeArmond designed for today's sound " boasted advertisements for the H-75 and H-77. Maybe they were also trying to copy the Imported Teisco guitars with all the bells and whistles that were coming into the country. There also was an H-62 model that was a knock offof a Gibson L-5. Not bad for the budget minded Jazz guitarist.

    Even Harmony basses had a certain appeal to the beginner players. They made basses that emulated the Fender style. They also made hollow bodied bass guitars, along with an acoustic bass. They generally were not up to the same quality of the ones they copied, but this was why the less sophisticated player, could afford to get an instrument they could utilize.

    . There was a point when the Harmony Company made even some Fender Acoustics and Vega Archtops.  As the competition from the imports forced Harmony to fold a real void was created. It was generally felt that they let it happen. If they could have increased production with more plants they could have kept up with the demand for budget guitars. They had the know how, but they just couldn't make the commitment to expand. At this time they just didn't have the courage to make the investment. It not only opened the way for a real flood of overseas imports, but it marked the beginning of the end for American made consumer goods. Even when the Harmony name was used on these imports into the 70's, the overall quality and mystique was lost. It was a hard thing, to achieve the same quality, when these guitars were becoming even more of a mass produced instrument. But like all the other student grade guitars that were imported at this time, the imported Harmony's were very similar. Maybe it was a sign of the times. Maybe it was a prelude to what was to come. But it sure was a reflection of the state of our country being able to compete, price wise, with the ability to mass-produce goods. You look at these mass produced guitars and see all that was lost with the demise of this company. Harmony still was and is a better product than many of the imports available today. And after all they still are one of the more affordable American Made Vintage Guitars.. It was hard thing to do when you were making a mass produced instrument in the first place. But like all the other student grade guitars that were imported, the imported Harmony's were comparable.You look at these mass produced guitars and see what was lost with the demise of this company. They still were and are a better product than many of the imports available today. And after all they still are one of the more affordable American Made Vintage Guitars.

     

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    ·  ·  Harmony STELLAS

    We all have had them and we all love them. The number of baby boomers who started guitar lessons on a Harmony student guitar was great. They were affordable and quite playable. The student guitars made by the Harmony Guitar Co. of Chicago were readily available to the masses. Most music stores carried them along with a whole assortment of mail order catalogues. Sears, who owned the Harmony Company, made these guitars available to their customers under the Silvertone Label.

    Most of the guitars I see appear to be from the sixties. Mainly because of the guitar boom during the Beatles generation, there were a large number of guitars sold at this time. Harmony made more than one half of all the guitars made in this county, more than all the other manufactures together. Most of these were the flat top acoustics. Many a beginner started with a sunburst Stella by Harmony. Harmony bought the Stella name in 1939 and continued to make them as a low-end student guitar. Using the Stella registered trademark, they marketed these student guitars for the masses. These small body guitars still show up from time to time. Most have a floating wood bridge with the pressed metal tailpiece. Some of the older ones have a piece of metal fret like material for a saddle. I have seen some student guitars with a wood tailpiece from the 40's when metal was a scarce commodity.

    Many Harmonys I've seen incorporate an Hxxx in the serial number. The numbers after the H indicate the model. The numbers before might indicate the sequence number. Dating them seems to be a little more complicated. Some guitars seem to have an F-66, FW-59 or similar number stamped inside the guitar, along with "Made in the USA." This number will indicate the year of manufacture, but it doesn't appear all the time. The F indicated the Fall manufacturing run for the Xmas season. The S indicated that they were being made for the Summer run of instruments. It confirmed the dating of some guitars I have, with what I surmised to be their date of production.

    Most of the model numbers in the later 60's have this Hxxx. These H929 Stella models have been seen with both 3 x 3 tuners along with a H933 that had 6 on side headstocks. These guitars were most commonly sunburst. There was natural model, an H927 during the 60's, along with a tenor HTCG929 and a smaller size H9293/4. I have seen some "bananaburst" or Ivory grained finish on some Stellas from the 40's and 50's, which seem to be a No.928 model of the early 60's. Other models from the early 60's were a No. 1141 and No, 930. These earlier models don't seem to have the "H" in the model number. The model number didn't matter because they marketed an assortment of 6 guitars for $ 144 in 1962. At $ 24 a guitar it gave the young student an affordable option. In the late 60's there was a better quality Stella offered by Harmony. This H942 natural (H943 Sunburst) grand concert size guitar offered "time-tested Stella features of construction and finish," and sold for $ 37.50. With its " Steel Reinforced neck" and "Simulated marquetry ring at soundhole, it was an attractive upgrade to the H929 Stella, with the added feature of a screwed down bridge.

    Some of the other budget small guitars have a screwed down rectangular bridge, with many of the older ones being made with solid wood. (You can usually tell by the cracks when they dry out.) Some of the H150's and the classical H937s were called the Harmony Studio Specials. These were noted as being "Best for the beginners or 'loaner' Guitar. " They had a short 3/4 scale with less space between the frets that made finger placement and chord formation easier for little fingers.

    "Perfection," was Harmonys goal, through out its history. Its claim to have sold "more stringed instruments than all other makers in America Combined- and thus created thousands of friends for Harmony all over the world," held true. They found their way into more American Homes than any other guitar company. They made themselves available to the masses so the student had an affordable option. They are still available today as one of the more affordable American Vintage Guitars. Start collecting today!!

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    ·  Harmony Flat Top Guitars 1950-73

    There was much more to Harmony’s flat top guitars than their Stella line. Of the thousands+ of kids who started playing guitar, some were fortunate enough to step up to the better made, or “professional” line of guitars. Harmony was most diverse with the different models they offered; they had to keep up with the demand of what was becoming a cult phenomenon. The flat top guitar had transcended the country music genre, and with birth of the folk music revolution, was here to stay.

    Harmony Guitars line of Acoustic guitars was quite extensive, by the late 60's. And why wouldn't it be? By the 1960’s there was a music revolution-taking place in this country. They had to cater to the demands of the baby boomers that wanted to be a part of this revolution, so they continued to make an assortment of instruments to cater to this demand.

    From 1950 when Harmony offered three flat tops (other than the three Stella guitars they offered,) they grew to giving their customers a choice of 20+ different acoustic flat tops by the 1970’s. This also is an indication of how the flat top acoustic guitar grew in popularity. While they still offered acoustic archtop guitars, no self-respecting “folkie” would be caught playing one.

    By 1961 they were starting to establish the different models in the line. The Harmony Jumbo Sovereign, Model No. 1260 with selected mahogany back and sides, spruce top was the best they offered for $ 72.50. They did offer a Model No. 1203 that was the smaller version, both with pinless bridges and “Slim Line: neck with “Torque-Lok Reinforcing rod. Their Grand Concert guitars were offered as a mahogany top model No. 165, a spruce top version of this guitar and a model No. 162, their less expensive model at $ 42.

    The late 1960’s yielded away to an ever-increasing line of flat top guitars. The Jumbo sovereigns offered a natural model No. 1260 with a pinless bridge and a deluxe sunburst model No. 1265 with a deluxe pin bridge. The catalog boasted this guitar as being “a professional type addition to the famous family of sovereign quality guitars.” This guitar had a tortoise headstock overlay, along with oversized double pick guard. The model No. 1203 was a Grand concert model “full toned, responsive for solo playing.”

    The other models in this line were the Model No. 162 Folk, offered in both full and ¾ size, and they still offered the Model No. 165 Grand concert size that was all mahogany. Adding these to the studio specials and Stella line of flat tops, Harmony was offering more and more acoustic guitars each year.

    The 1971 catalogue showed there was a whole assortment of upgraded Sovereigns. The Jumbo sovereign changed the pickgaurd design, while some of the other flat tops remained the same. A sunburst H1266, Black H1264, both with double pickguard and a Natural H 1260 all had the finest “single-thickness” spruce top. The H1266 Sovereign Deluxe Jumbo model was the fancier guitar they offered. "For Outstanding appearance and performance, a professional guitar of carefully selected materials." It's spruce top and mahogany sides and back, were made to emphasize sustained deep bass and brilliant treble tone quality. The sunburst model that had tortoise overlay on the headstock, block inlays and it’s fancy bridge, made this guitar it’s top of the line instrument. It sold for $ 169.50 in 1971

    The other H1203 and H1204 Grand concert sovereigns were also their nicer models, appealing to the more advanced or affluent player. The H182, H1204, H1203 all had slim line necks with celluloid bound headstocks. The H1204, the one that Grandpa Dave stocked, was black, with large decorated pickgaurd. There was also an HTG1201 Tenor guitar that was available. "Harmony Acoustic guitars lead the industry in value-giving. Nowhere will you find greater excellence of construction and finish-and beauty of tone- at the respective prices of the dependable instruments," boasted the 1971 catalogue.

    The most interesting additions were the model #s H180 and H181 acoustic guitars. These grand concerts guitars had an adjustable bridge and more unique, a 6 on a side tuner set up. The Harmony H168 pumpkin finish and H167 sunburst, also had six on a side tuners. These grand concert folk guitars had a “tone quality of superior quality.” This year they offered a more deluxe Stella line of guitars. The H942 and H943 were grand concert size Stellas that were moderate priced instruments. The model No. H159 was the moderately priced Jumbo that was offered by Harmony. This natural colored guitar had a stenciled sound hole rosette and large pickguard that was screwed down. Harmony strived to offer guitars a all price points. This guitar listed for $ 49.50 compared to the Jumbo sovereign that listed for $ 149.50. A guitar for everybody!

    They continued to manufacture some step down version of these guitars. The H166 Folk guitar and H162 offered quality at 1/3rd the price of the grand concert guitars. Selling for $ 64-$74 they had spruce tops and pinned bridges, while the H165/1 offered a grand concert size guitar that was all mahogany. All boasted, “For the exceptional beauty and outstanding eye-appeal of sound hole decoration, you’ll buy Harmony.” Their distinctive sound hole rosette made them stand apart from the competition.

    By the mid 70's the line was simplified. The new Regal Deluxe dreadnaught replaced the Jumbos of a few years earlier. These X-braced solid spruce top guitars used only the finest woods, “to produce the resonant sound for which Harmony was so famous." The only sovereigns, in the line were the H6364, and H6303 Grand concert models. Not quite as fancy as the earlier ones, the still embodied the perfection of tone quality that had made it so popular over the years. These guitars had only Sovereign on the headstock, a departure from earlier guitars.

    The Grand concert guitars by this time consisted of 4 models. Varying in color, these grained spruce top guitars were available in sunburst, mahogany, or natural all with adjustable pin bridges. Only the H6362 had a solid spruce top. There still was a Tenor guitar available. The H4101 had similar features to this guitar, but smaller in size.

    Harmony had the market cornered. They had price points to appeal to all levels of guitar players. Their focus was the beginner market, but they did always try to offer an instrument that might appeal to the more advanced or professional player. They had the goods, but could they survive the 1970’s?

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    ·  Harmony Archtops

    When you start to look though the old catalogues from the 60's you see a great number of archtops that were in production at this time. It would appear that Harmony must have had a large customer base for these "F" hole guitars. The same price point and features held true to these guitars as discussed earlier. Cheaper models almost always had painted binding along with painted fret markers. . Over the years the Harmony style of making guitars evolved just like the rest of the manufactures. The pre-war guitars, through the 40's, had clubbier necks. Earlier ones were v-ed. Some of the archtops had a bigger paddle like headstock similar to the evolution of Gretch guitars, although even into the early 70's the higher end archtops did sport a larger headstock. Into the 50's the graphics changed as well. Even the color of the logo seemed to change as time went on. When the guitar boom of the 60's happened, the guitars got simpler and more mass-produced. After all, they were making an average of 1000 instruments per day during this period. That's a lot of guitars! The detailing on the headstock on the Patrician went from an ornate red, white and blue to a simpler plain graphic. This H1407 polished mahogany model, with solid spruce top had edges bound in shell celluloid. "Fine tone quality for ensemble or solo playing" boasted a 1962 catalogue.

    The number of "f" hole guitars made by Harmony would lend you to believe that there was a great calling for these jazz guitars. The different models, by the late 60's, were as diverse as the kinds of people there were to play them. Their top of the line H1310 cutaway with arched spruce top and "pearlette" block inlays was as good as it got, for the better player. At the cost of $125 in 1970, this guitar was the still a bargain price compared to the Gibsons they tried to rival. If this was out of your budget, for as little as $42.50 you could get an H1215/13 Harmony "Archtone." Still listed as all hardwood construction, these shaded brown mahogany or reddish mahogany were grained to resemble spruce. Even as early as 1962, these budget priced guitars had multilayers of painted binding and fingerboards that were grained to resemble rosewood.

    There were several in between models that Harmony produced. Whether it was the Harmony Master H945 or the Broadway H954, Harmony had the selection. These guitars were 15 3/4 " X 40 3/4 " in size, and boasted "offers tone quality, easy playing, at a moderate price." The Monterey H1325 (16 1/2 " X 41") also had celluloid bound edges with an elevated ovalled fingerboard. The Monterey also had a "Slim line" neck with their "TORQUE-LOK" adjustable reinforcing rod. All these guitars had bone nuts, adjustable bridge and shell or celluloid pickguards.


    Budget priced and fun to play, these archtops made their way into the attics and under the beds of the American household. Pushed there by the demand for flat tops during the guitar boom of the late 60's, these Archops faded into the woodwork. The more serious Jazz player was looking for better quality and the everyday player just wasn't playing this style of guitar. Most makers of guitars just didn't see the demand for these guitars. Today, with the rebirth of the jazz guitar and number of guitar makers making top quality archtops, maybe these Harmony Archtops will come out of the woodwork. They may never come close to rivaling the quality of the guitars being made by today's 2nd generation contemporary luthiers like Kim Walker, Tom Ribbicke, Steve Grimes, and John Monteleone, to name a few. Just as they didn't try to rival the craftsmanship of the first generation D'Angelico and D'Aquisto, Harmony served their customers with a more affordable option. Still available at a fraction of the cost, they are just something fun to play and affordable to collect.

     There is more to come!......................................

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    Harmony's Other instruments

    I have been trying top keep you up to date with The Harmony Guitar's assortment of Guitars. With the new 5th edition of the Blue Book of Guitars there is finally a coherent documentation of the different models of guitars made by the Harmony Guitar Co. of Chicago. I have been able to get an assortment of catalogues from various jobbers and mail order houses that sold Harmony instruments. Most of these are from the 60's and there still is a lot to be learned from the printed information from the earlier catalogues. Any one have any that they can copy for me, it would be greatly appreciated. Especially ones from the pre war period when they were probably making some of their finer instruments.

    I've said a fair amount about the guitars, but what about all the other instruments that Harmony made. From being one of the largest suppliers of Ukuleles, to the student violins they made, Harmony had an assortment of instruments. Not only did they make a large selection of banjos, mandolins, and other folk instruments, but also I have heard of some of the more unusual instruments they made. One of the more unusual I have heard of was a Model H 1214 Archtone 8 string Archtop guitar. More of cross between a guitar and a Mando cello, this instrument is quite unique.

    UKES

    I have had many other type of instruments made by Harmony. By 1915, the time of the San Franscico exposition when the uke came into the public eye, they were the largest manufacturers of ukuleles in America. Through the 60's they continued to have an extensive line of ukuleles. Their line of 8 models consisted of the No. H685 tenor and No. H695 Baritone Ukuleles. These instruments evolved to being made with selected striped mahogany veneers, by the late 60's. The earlier ones were made of seasoned mahogany, nicely figured. The '62 catalogue lists the Brazilian rosewood fingerboards as a feature. The smaller soprano ukes consisted of No. 125 ½ as an excellent beginner's instrument. The No. 119 ½ and the later No. H 98 had stencil scenes and fingerboards that were "Accurately Molded " out of polystyrene. The Roy Smeck Uke No. 555 continued in the line, as the better soprano uke. This also had this plastic fingerboard by the mid 60's. It was the concert size, and larger, which had a rosewood fingerboard. At $20 list, it was real Harmony quality. Harmony's wide choice of ukuleles, whether it was " for fun or educational purpose…gave tangible evidence of their leadership."
    Their baritone ukes and tenor guitars still show up as unplayed cast offs from the main stream of instruments.

    BANJOS
    .

    Harmony's banjo line consisted of the Roy Smeck Model No.8125 Tenor, "as a Professional Banjo with powerful ringing tone" The Deluxe 30 bracket No. 28005 came with " modern RESO-TONE construction "which they claimed to give a snappy brilliant tone. The Standard 16 Bracket, as the others, was available as a tenor or 5 string. The model No. 8000 Tenor was available for a $ 45 list price in the early 60's. This was almost half the price of the of the No. 28125 Roy Smeck 5 string, which was the top of the line banjo with resonator. The RESO-TONE No. R8005 resonator was available as an option. This resonator produced an advanced series of instruments with superior tone, so they claimed, and a powerful banjo "ring and snap."
    The long neck "Pete Seeger" banjos I've seen are from the late 60's. They have had both the "Holiday" label and Harmony label. This Harmony model H 28132 with a 25 fret, 32 " scale, had a new "Nickled RESO-TONE Rim. These "plastic" instruments also claimed that this "non warping" rim produced a superior tone. The prices didn't change much by the end of the 60's. The No. H28130 Blue Grass Banjo had 22 frets, a traditional 27 in. scale, and listed for $ 75. The "Glamour of the traditional Folk banjo" was made affordable for the avid banjo student by these mass produced instruments.


    MANDOLINS

    Harmonys assortment of Mandolins was similar to line of guitars they made. By 1968 it consisted of three basic models. The No. 417 Monteray at $ 59.50 was the top of the line. They also had a No. 410 Monteray at $ 40. The cheaper one of these two "F" hole mandolins was bound only on the top with an ebonized fingerboard, not rosewood. Reflecting the quality of the Monteray archtops, of the time, they were an excellent choice for the student. They offered an "A" style No. 331 Stella Lute Style Mandolin. This had a Flat top and back, with painted binding and reflected the Stella budget line of guitars. They also offered a model No. H35 Harmony Electric Mandolin. "Carefully designed for excellent mandolin tone, and for clean amplification of tone, " boasted the 1968 catalogue. With it's "Gold Tone" DeArmond pickup, it listed for $ 119. With it's pointed cut a way and wavy headstock design, it was the cutting edge for contemporary electric folk instruments. By 1973 they added this design to their acoustic mandolins as a H8025 Harmony Baroque Model Mandolin, "sweeping brilliance of tone and response." The rest of the line remained basically the same with the exception of model number names. They seemed to designate the models as H80** instead of the No. 3**. The name of the models and specs. seems to remain the same. The price went up about a 1/3 in these 5 years.

    There is still more to come. Harmony's ability to mass produce instruments made them the number one supplier of student instruments. Their selection of folk instruments was as diverse as all the different instruments they made.


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    Rocket to the Stars


    As the space age came about in the early 60's, there was a wide-range of influence on the youth of America. It was the dream on many a kid to shoot to the stars and explore the outer reaches of the universe. Back here on earth, there was a music revolution going on and it was the dream of many to shoot for rock and roll stardom. The instrument makers of this time were influenced by this parallel dream of the youth of America, when naming their instruments

    My latest direction with Harmony Guitars, comes from the fascination with the hollow and semi hollow body, thin line guitars from the 60’s. The Harmony Rockets have always been a guitar that caught my interest. These Rockets, whose name was influenced by the space race of the 60’s, were fun instruments to play. The sound that was characterized by the DeArmond pickups they used gave them a unique sound that is still sought after today. I have acquired several of these guitars over the past few months and continue to be fascinated by their details, playability and sound.

    The Harmony Guitar Company was very influenced by mans quest to explore the heavens. They had their Meteors, they had their Stratatone Mars, Mercury and Jupiters, but one of the more popular guitars was the Harmony Rocket. Whether it was a Red Rocket or their top of the line H-75, these guitars really rocked. A cheap alternative to the thin Gibson ES-125s, or the ES-330s, these guitars gained in popularity as the music revolution took off.

    There was a whole assortment of configurations of these guitars. The early 60’s brought about the single cutaway Rocket with “ultra thin cutaway with golden tone indox pickups.” They had their one pickup model. This H53, as the other 2 and 3 pickup models had “Harmony’s ultra thin arched tone chamber construction.” The H54 Rocket II, had two pickups, as the Rocket III, H59 had three. With a selector switch to permit playing either pickup, these guitars were very versatile for lead or rhythm players. The catalogues boasted “outstanding modern design, quality and value.” They all had the hardwood bodies with celluloid binding.

    In the mid 60’s the line remained consistent. Features remained the same, equip with bezel mounted adjustable gold tone pickups. These DeArmond pickups and their appointments, tried to appeal to the young market they were targeting. By 1971 the had Golden tone pickups with individual adjusting pole pieces under each string, " to allow you to balance response." With the addition of the H56/1 with a “type W,” vibroto tailpiece, Harmony added, “The pleasing sounds, and effects of vibrato desired by today’s guitarist are had by simply wavering the arm.” Towards the end of the decade the Harmony Rocket progressed to compete with the appeal of the double cutaway guitars. These guitars designated the same models, had similar features. With their richly polished cherry red lacquer finish, these guitars established themselves in American guitar history.

    One of the more unusual was a Rocket that had 6 on one-side tuners; kind of a cross between the Gibson and Fender guitars they were trying to emulate. These guitars also had DeArmond pickups and appointments that tried to appeal to the young market they were targeting. Many of these guitars were Red, but there were also some sunburst models.

    The Rockets were the less expensive alternative in Harmony’s line. The more expensive H73, for example, sold for $ 175, in 1968. This was almost $50 more than the similar H56 Rocket VII. This was a fair amount of money at the time, making the Rockets quite desirable to the young guitarist. No other Harmony Electric survived in the line like the Rockets did. From their inception in the early 60's, these guitars evolved and changed to utilize the guitar technology of the times, up until Harmony gave up guitar production in the early 70's. One of the more popular hollow body thin line, they are still in demand today. A vintage American guitar that is still affordable and even today, captures the dreams of the baby boomer generation while     also appealing to Generation X.

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    Harmony Professional Guitars

    Harmony Guitars, although they catered to the beginners, also tried to market guitars towards the professional players. These guitars were a higher quality instrument and incorporated “jewel like beauty…superb styling…in these fine precision-made Professional cutaway electrics.” The only guitar that survived in the Harmony Line from the 1950’s was the Espanada. This model H62 Blonde and H63 Black were both thick body Jazz guitars with double pickups. With their figured curly maple and spruce, these guitars were a nice quality instrument, for a $ 199.50 list price. They had “High fidelity pickups,” with adjustable pole pieces. With their 7 large inlays on a Rosewood fingerboard they boasted to be “outstanding in design, appearance and value.”
    In the early 1960’s they introduced an H74 neo-cutaway with Bigsby Vibrato. This modified double cutaway was a variation of the Meteors that were introduced in the early 1960’s. The 1961 H70 sunburst and H71 Natural Meteor listed for $ 174.50 These guitar had the traditional Harmony “Ultra slim Neck with Torque-lok rod, ” along with the new “Golden Tone” Indox Pickups. The Ultra thin Meteor were boasted to be, “ the most comfortable playing ‘big guitar’ yet.”
    By 1968 The Harmony professional models consisted of several variations of this Meteor model. There was the H60 that was a true double cutaway listing for $ 179.50, and the H73 that became a Roy Smeck model guitar. This guitar had the modified double cutaway, as seen earlier in the decade, but came with Harmony type W vibrato. The H64 model was a double cutaway, thin line guitar with a bigsby tailpiece, at this time. The also offered a H72 which was a thin line, double cutaway with different F hole patterns, and 6 tuner on a side headstock. This was reminiscent of the Gibson Trini Lopez guitar. Available with or without a bigsby tailpiece this guitar, like the others in this line, had two gold tone pickups with adjustable pole pieces. All these guitars came equipped with flat wound strings, for “quiet…smooth fingering comfort.”
    One of my favorites the be introduced in 1961 was the H75 Double cutaway, triple pickup guitar. They had three tone, volume and on/off toggle controls to give a variety of sounds. The DeArmond designed pickups with adjustable Magnetic pole pieces, along with the 9 controls gave an “ infinite choice of tonal effects.” The ovalled rosewood fingerboard was adorned with block inlays. The headstock was overlaid with a tortoise, engraved veneer, that matched the tortoise pickgaurd and trim. As were some of the earlier better grade guitars, this headstock veneer set them apart from the lesser quality guitars.
    By the later 1960’s this line of double cutaway, three pickup guitars expanded. Harmony offered both an H76 with bigsby and the H75 sunburst guitars similar to the earlier ones. They also offered an H78, with bigsby and an H77 model in red cherry, and an H75 in Rich Brown Mahogany. All of these guitar sported a tortoise headsock overlay, and similar features to the earlier guitars. The use of these DeArmond Golden-tone pickups succeeded in defining the harmony Electric sound that is still desirable today
    These professional grade instruments survived the decade. There were variations on the guitars, the model numbers changed, but the guitars remained very similar to their earlier predecessors. Only the H72 remained listed the same. The H60 Meteor became an H61 and the H64 was upgraded to H71 by the beginning of the 1970’s. They still offered an thick body H68 guitar in 1970 through 1971. These guitars did not change all that much.
    The H75, 77, 78 survived till 1970. In the 1971 catalog, this triple pickup guitar was replaced with the H71 double pickup, and double cutaway electric. Having a bigsby tailpiece, this guitar was the only electric left in the line with the tortoise headstock. By 1973 the only finer quality electrics were the H671 thin line double cutaway, with bigsby or the H661 (no bigsby.) No longer listed as “Professional “ guitars, these were the last of these deluxe guitars. There were no Meteors left, only Rockets and Rebels
    . As they took the Professional label out of the catalog so went the level of anticipation of Harmony Electrics. Their guitars were fading from the professional scene. They were becoming known more for their student instruments and never recovered from that labeling. Although the earlier guitars from the 1960’s had a level of respect, they never regained this respect as the 1970’s and their fall from grace took place.
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    Harmony Hollywood Guitars

    The beginning of the 1950’s saw the electric Spanish guitar come into popularity with guitar players. The archtop had been in favor, now as electronics, pickups and amplifiers were perfected, the need for an electric, Spanish style guitar was necessitated.
    Harmony developed the H50 Archtop to be their version of the Gibson ES-125. This non-cutaway, single pickup guitar sported their “Tone Emphisizer” Pickup. This Grand Auditorium, similar to the Auditorium size H51 had separate tone and volume controls, “designed for easy response and full rich tone.” Both had a floating pickgaurd, compared to the earlier version had a wrap around tortise pickgaurd. Each was marketed with their matching guitar amp. The H205 5 tube or H191 3 tube amps were available as an option with the guitar. Of course these two amplifiers were to be used with the variety of Hawaiian Lap Guitars that Harmony offered in the early 1950’s
    By the mid 1950’s there was a modification to include a Harmometal bound electric archtop to the Harmony Line. The H41 Riviera was in keeping with the other metal bound guitars from this period. This two-tone blue guitar had a single wound magnetic pickup with an attached tone and volume control, and 8 foot cord.
    Whether it was the influence of the motion picture industry or Harmony’s attempt to offer a guitar to appeal to more people, they came out with a cheaper Colorama electric Spanish guitar. This New Harmony Hollywood was offered with two choices of finish. The Black with metallic gold panel or metallic gold with black panel, both was adorned with an Oscar on the headstock. These super auditorium size guitar both had adjustable bridges and surface mounted single coil, chrome clad pickup with attached volume control and 8 ft. cord. This “outstanding combination of value and eye appeal,” we directed at the more advanced player with was looking for a moderately priced instrument. Listing at $ 49.50 this guitar with painted binding was not the same caliber of the earlier Electric Spanish Archtops.
    By the early 1960’s they continued to offer this Hollywood guitar. Now available with single or double pickups, the “new” DeArmond pickup with mounted tone and volume controls. “Precision and dependability of higher priced model,” these guitars were still offered in the H37 gold with black version of the 1950’s and a H39 Brown mahogany shaded guitar. The new H41 double pickup model, in the shaded mahogany guitar, also was one of the first to offer the pointer control to blend between pickups. Next to the Roy Smeck endorsed guitars, at $ 79.50, this was the most expensive Electric Archtop Harmony Offered.
    The two Roy Smeck archtops were made “ with professional features to make your combo or solo playing a pleasure.” Single H57 and double H58 tone emphasizer pickup guitars had adjustable magnetic pole piece under each string. Both had a Torque-lok adjustable neck rod, ovalled bound fingerboard, and adjustable bridge. The Natural H58 double pickup or H57 single pickup both had a shaded mahogany finish.
    The Mid 1960’s brought about a simplification of the Hollywood guitar line. Harmony officered two models, the H39 single pickup and the H41 double pickup guitars similar to the earlier ones. They did away with the gold model, in favor the more popular sunburst guitars.
    The Harmony Hollywood was one of the only non-cutaway Electric Spanish archtop guitar to survive. Maybe it had to do with the changing time, or the appeal of the guitar buyer to touch on the blinding glamour of Hollywood. These Hollywood guitars continued to be available through the 1960’s. Either the single pickup or double pickup with blender switch was listed in their catalog. These guitars gave way to the popularity of the flat top and demand for thinner electric archtops, with cutaways
    The Rockets, Meteors, and higher end guitars slowly replaced these full depth guitars that were so much the guitar that blazed the trail for future electric guitars.

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    Harmony Stratotone: the other Strat.

    One of the earlier Harmony solid body electric guitar was the Stratotone guitar. The mid 50’s brought a need for Harmony to develop a guitar to keep up with Leo Fender’s innovation. Fender had their Stratocaster, Harmony came out with the Stratotone. In 1954 Harmony came out with a set neck Model H44 Stratotone listing for $ 64.50. This guitar was their first Spanish style solid body guitar. They were single pickup with a slide switch to change between bass and treble response. Light weight and easy to handle they were designed with a single cutaway for access to the higher frets. This was a copper color set neck Harmony Stratotone that is still sought after today. Especially after John Hammond toured with one, bringing a demand for this vintage guitar.
    The mid 50’s brought about the “Stratotone Doublet.” The catalogue boasted these to be a “Professional double pickup electric guitar…….solid body, cutaway style.” This model H88 listed for $ 119.50 and had block inlays and “stack-mounted” controls. This along with a 3-position switch permitted a quick change between pickups and allowed for a variety of sound. This guitar was the step up from the “Stratotone Newport” from 1955. The single pickup, dot inlayed Newport listed for $ 59.95 and was available in Sunshine yellow or metallic green. In keeping with the Harmony Caribbean guitars from the same period, these guitar had chrome “Harmometal” edge binding. All these guitars were thinner, lighter and easier to handle
    By the early 1960’s they expanded their line to include a selection of Stratotone guitars. The dot neck “Mars” came as a single or double pickup guitar. The most unique feature was the Hollow “tone chamber” construction, in place of solid wood. “The additions of vibrant body tones combined with improved pickups, extends their range and versatility to permit perfect response and tone balance.” The H45 single pickup and the H46 Double pickup both had a slide switch on the pickguard for quick change of tone effects.
    The single pickup H47 sunburst and the H48 natural Stratotones were called the Mercury. These guitars had block inlays on the rosewood fingerboard. With a bound ultra thin hollow body, it was only 2” deep, 3 1/8”wide and 17 ¾ long. These single pickup guitars have a multi purpose switch. It allowed for the player to switch between treble, bass or rhythm giving the player the versatility of a guitar with more pickups. The golden tone indox pickups, made in cooperation with DeArmond, made for a richer more responsive electric guitar. Indox was a “superior magnetic material which assures the player a peak performance and long pickup life.” These pickups still sound great, 40+ years after their inception.
    The deluxe Stratotone was the Jupiter. With double pickups, block inlays, the H-49 had a curly maple back in sunburst with a natural spruce top. It had celluloid edges richly polished with a rosewood fingerboard. This guitar listed for a whopping $ 147.50 in 1962 and is worth every penny of it in today’s vintage market. This guitar utilized a blender control that allowed the player to blend between pickups. It offered “practically unlimited variations of tone with simplified technique.”
    These guitars were offered as Silvertones also. Sold through Sears’s stores and catalogues, they were similar except for the logo on the headstock. These Stratotone guitars tended to disappear from the Harmony line in the mid 1960’s, giving way to what was becoming the more traditional electric guitar, the Harmony Bobkat.
    Maybe because the Bobkats were easier to produce or maybe because they were what people wanted. Guitar players lost out on a great guitar with the elimination of the Stratotone. Only Guild with it’s Aristocrat or Blues Bird were making a thinner electric guitar with a hollow tone chamber. Now with the Harmony Stratotone out of the picture there was not too much on the market that compared to these Guilds. Find them today and you have a great instrument.
    whopping $ 147.50 in 1962 and is worth every penny of it in today’s vintage market. This guitar utilized a blender control that allowed the player to blend between pickups. It offered “practically unlimited variations of tone with simplified technique.”
    These guitars were offered as Silvertones also. Sold through Sears’s stores and catalogues, they were similar except for the logo on the headstock. These Stratotone guitars tended to disappear from the Harmony line in the mid 1960’s, giving way to what was becoming the more traditional electric guitar, the Harmony Bobkat.
    Maybe because the Bobkats were easier to produce or maybe because they were what people wanted. Guitar players lost out on a great guitar with the elimination of the Stratotone. Only Guild with it’s Aristocrat or Blues Bird were making a thinner electric guitar with a hollow tone chamber. Now with the Harmony Stratotone out of the picture there was not too much on the market that compared to these Guilds. Find them today and you have a great instrument.
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    Harmony Solid Body Electrics

     

    Of the different guitars Harmony made, one of the types that made its way into the American home was the basic solid body electric. What did you do if you wanted to play rock and roll and didn't have an abundance of cash to lay out? Save up for a Fender Stratocaster, after all that was the guitar to own. You could get yourself a Swedish made Hagstrom electric, because that was the poor mans Strat. Or if you were like most of the youth of America and wanted to buy American, you went out and bought yourself a Harmony H-14 electric guitar. These electric guitars had all things the aspiring musician needed. Harmony’s ability to manufacture them for the masses, allowed these guitar players to start out with one.

     This was one of the more affordable American made solid body electric guitars. At it's most expensive point in the early 70's listed for $ 64.50, or add $ 10 for a vibrato tailpiece. This Bob Kat single pickup model had it's famous "Slim Line" neck with "Ultra slim” fingerboard, and short scale for easy chording. This guitar, like the single pickup model, had a solid hardwood body in a shaded walnut finish. The Harmony H-15 had two goldtone pickups angle mounted. Separate tone and volume controls and a selector switch allowed you to adjust the sound to give you what you want for the music and playing style of the time. The H-16 Double pickup, known as the “Color Cat,” came in an assortment of richly polished colors. The "Uniform feel" of the slim line neck and narrow bound fingerboard, -12 frets clear of the body, made these guitars appeal to the players. They had GoldenTone dual unit pickups with each unit mounted at a slight angel for enyhanced tonal effect, with adjustable pole piecers under each string. Each guitar came with a Type W chrome plated Vibrato-Tailpiece, in three rich colors, H-16R Candy Apple red, H16B Metallic Blue and H16W Gleaming white. You could get a HC-14 case for any of these solid body guitars for and additional $ 12. These guitars were equipped with Modern Designed DeArmond Electronics for, “ Speed and response,” catered to what the music, of the time, called for.

                  They were built for rock and roll and you can bet many a garage band rocked with a Harmony Bob Kat. They came upon the music scene and caused an impact that effected many a young player that was starting out. As they out grew these guitars and went on to bigger and better things, these guitars have almost been almost forgotten. Today you can find them, inexpensively, and have piece of American Rock and Roll History.

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    Rebel with a Cause

     

    The 1960’s came into full swing by the end of the decade. There was a war going on, and revolution in the air.. Rock and Roll was alive, kids were getting electric guitars so they could be heard and make their statement. What better name for the new innovative ideas that Harmony was coming up with, than the Harmony “Rebel” guitar

    This was one of the most unusual hollow body Harmony electric to come out of Harmony’s research and development The H81, H82G (Avocado Green Model) and H82 (Sunburst) all had a type "W" Vibrato Tailpiece, and thin body, 1 3/4 " deep, and most distinctive, a double Florentine (pointed) cutaways. These guitars were boasted to be " Great for playing in a group, or for your own entertainment.” The thin Body allowed for a tone chamber construction that assured a pleasing acoustic resonance to balance the "electronic" Tone. With "Spectacular" tone and volume and the catalog boasted an "Easy, Visual, Stick-shift" controls. These allowed you to adjust the volume and tone with a series of slide switches. The catalogue boasted how you can produce your favorite effects by knowing your setting with a visual reference. These slide controls were 2 each for each of the one or two pickup models, with an on/off switch for each Pickup

    These guitars were reminiscent of the Gibson Trini Lopez guitar. They even had a six on a side headstock, adding to the look. These $ 119 list guitars were a guitar were built of laminated maple, with celluloid binding on the top and back edge. The hardwood neck in reinforced with Harmony’s "Tork-lok rod."

    This was a period of other double cut a way guitars, for Harmony. By 1971 even the Rockets, that earlier were single cutaway, added a 2nd cutaway. The top of the line H71, H72 and H61 were their Professional grade double cutaway electric guitar, all had a double venation (round) cutaway. By the 70's they all were utilizing two Adjustable Golden Tone Double pickups. The adjustable pole pieces under each string were to balance the response. Adjustable bridge, "Ultra slim" finger boards, and short scales for easy chording made these guitar easy to play. Having gotten away from the triple pickup H75 model of the earlier 60's these double pickup were available with or without a bigsby true vibrato tailpiece, in Sunburst finish. The Red H72 had a 6/side headstock and could optionally be ordered with the vibrato.

    The quality of these guitars stood out, compared to previous Harmony guitars. These New Models with new designs and features, and incorporated the latest technology in guitar design, as they approached their final years. The features that Harmony became known for utilizing in their guitars were kept in place, as they added these contemporary features they were striving to compete with the big boys. Their guitars got better but it was getting harder to produce an instrument that could compete with the imports that were begging to flood the market. They were making an instrument to appeal towards the profession player. Although they weren’t able to compete, they kept trying, right up until their final days

     

     


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    Harmony Colorama and Caribbean Guitars

    The year was 1955 and Harmony came out with a new, bright , shiny, original look. Ahead of their time or 30 years too late,  these Harmony guitars took on a new concept of color.  These bright, flower power colors of the 60’s or the Deco look of the 20’s  merged together to give these Harmonys a unique look.  The Harmony  “Caribbean” guitars, named after their delicate pastel and metallic finishes, were given their name because of the colors found in the fabulous vacation spots of the tropical seas to the south. These bright colors were set off with metal trim. This made for an  unusual looking guitar with lines that resemble the deco look of the 1920’s.  The Flat tops guitars had six different “Holiday Colorama” color combinations and were as distinct looking as any guitar I’ve seen.  Colors like Spring Green, Sahara Yellow, Copper, and Tangerine made for a festive line of guitars.

                     The “Colorama” style of the Stella “Sundale” guitars also carried this surge of vibrant color to Harmony’s lowest priced flat tops.   The graphic design and color seemed to be on the cutting edge of what they coined “a modern trend---the swing into the new concept of mass color.”  These Stella  Sundale Guitars came in the same standard sizes and were made with hardwoods.  Their chrome tailpiece and floating bridge set off the bold graphic patterns and bright colors.

                     Even the line of archtops from 1955  took on the Holiday Colorama theme.  The Monterays came in several different patterns and color schemes.   The Model  952 had matching red fret markers to  set off the bold red graphics on the top of the guitar.  The Catalina Arched Guitar was the predecessor to James D’Aquisto’s Blue guitar that Scott Chinery modeled his Blue Guitars from.  With their Pacific Blue and Dawn Blue color combination,  they were as blue as guitars get.  These auditorium size guitars were  dependable,  hardwood construction with celluloid pickgaurds. The Harmony Montclair was at the forefront of modern guitar style. Available in both auditorium and grand auditorium sizes, they were finely crafted with ovalled fingerboard, and celluloid bound edges.

                     Nothing compared in uniqueness than some of the electric archtops from this period. The most unique looking guitar I’ve seen is the Harmony Espanada, with its metal binding.   This model H-62 guitar, although similar to the H-64 of the 60’s, was interesting because of its metal binding. This top of the line,  quality guitar,  was black polished finish, had two pickups, and wide bands of fluted “Harmometal,” binding.  This binding was designed to protect the edges on the guitar, but was more reminiscent of the edge found on  the Formica countertops and  kitchen tables of the 1950’s.  “An extraordinary instrument for the advanced player.“   Also produced was the non-cutaway Riviera.  Boasting the metal  as:   “Harmometal,” meant  the newest in styling, the most perfect protection, the most all around beauty.”

                     The 50’s saw a basis for later Harmony guitars. They still had their H-62 and H 60 Electric Spanish cutaway guitars, along with other non-cutaway electrics.  Harmony’s new “Uno-tone Guitar,”  an acoustic electric Spanish flat top was an new concept in guitar playing.  It also was a forerunner to the Acoustic Electric guitars that have become quite popular today.   Most interesting were some of the earliest Stratotone guitars. These solid body electrics were the predecessor to what was to come in guitar playing.  At this time,  Leo Fender was developing a solid body electric guitar that would revolutionize guitar playing.

                     Harmony still had their line of Ukes and other instruments but these Colorama guitars seemed to be the main core of the line.  Ahead of their time,  these Harmony guitars are some of the most interesting American made instruments  to date. The bold color and unique binding, along with their other innovative manufacturing ideas, made for some real gems from the 1950’s.

     

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    Ameritrash



    I've written about the trend towards the budget instruments. There continues to be more and more interest in these beginner/cheap guitars. As with the Harmony guitars of the 1960's there are several other manufacturers that still are an excellent value today. You have many of the big makers like Harmony and Kay who were quite prolific in their manufacturing still coming up on the vintage market. Along with Valco , Supro, Regal, and Premiere you can still find a lot of interesting guitars.
    Many of the guitars that were made as beginner instruments have long been forgotten. They sat in people's attics, were sold at Yard sales and ended up in the landfill. As more of today's contemporary collectors are finding out, these can be fun guitars to own and collect. As the big name makers price themselves away from the main stream collector, there are loads of fun instruments out there. Whether you are using them to decorate the music room, or making a real attempt at playing or learning to play them, there is a huge selection of these so called Ameritrash instruments.
    Some of the more interesting guitars I've encountered in the last few years are some of these guitars. I have found some of the Regal guitars from as far back as the 30's to be reasonable and fun. I've found a few with Mother of Toilet seat fingerboards and interesting stencil designs. As the Harmony Stencil guitars of the 50-60's become quite collectable so do some of these other guitars.
    There have been a few Electric Archtops made by Premiere, a New York based manufacturer of the 50's and 60's, that have been quite nice guitars. They lack the craftsmanship and detail of a more expensive Gibson of Guild, but they can be quite fun. They have stock electronics, plywood tops, no real binding and painted inlays, but they still can have a nice amplified sound. Find one in good condition and you can have an excellent 2nd guitar for alternate tunings or slide.
    Solid body electrics seem to pop up quite frequently. I have had a few Supro electrics, which were very similar in detail to Fenders. They had nice electronics and details which included Kluson tuners. Not bad for a guitar that is affordable and interesting. Along with the inexpensive mail order instruments that were available through Sears and Montgomery Ward, these guitars are still affordable and fun.
    As I document and research these cheap guitars I am going to find out more and more about them.
    There are lots of them out there, they are still affordable, and you can have fun collecting them. The interest in these guitars is growing and you might as well find some while you still can. The next venue might just be the Eurotrash and Asiatrash that pushed the Ameritrash makers out of the guitar Business.

     

     

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    More of the Unusual

    We keep finding some weird and unusual guitars. They are out there. Many a collector has overlooked Alot of the oddball stuff. I've written about Harmonys, " ash", and the imports, "Asiatrash" but have said little about my assortment of older interesting guitars. One thing I noticed from the guitar show I exhibited at was people took note to older odd guitars.

    Some of my unusual stuff consists of older historic guitars. Many an instrument from the early part of this century has been overlooked. People have been involved with buying up the guitars with names like Martin, Gibson, and Fender that they have over looked many of the lesser-Known American guitars. Acoutics by Larson bros, and Archtops by Vega have long been passed over by the collector. Of late these seem to be the guitars many people are looking for. Just as these people have passed the early Guilds and Epiphones, the next wave of older American Guitars appear to be a great value.

    As I continue to find interesting guitars I take notice to the different instruments I've found. The little parlor guitars from the turn of the century can be fun guitars. I've found an interesting Rosewood parlor guitar, The Vernon by Bruno. This guitar, solid wood, with a pyramid bridge was distributed by C.Bruno and sons, (Still in business today) . It was possibly made by Regal and was a bit better than you average student guitars. Some of the other Regal made guitars are of a cheaper quality, but some I have, have perloid finger boards and headstocks, real wall hangers, but still playable. In the same vain of the older Harmony guitars, these student guitars were quite abundant for many years and still can be found by looking

    .

    Perhaps one of the most unusual guitars I've found is the Paramount Style "L" . Ordered by, William Lange, this guitar was made by the CF Martin Company in 1933. There were 36 of them made, some tenors some six strings. This guitar is unusual in that it has no sound hole, just a row of small holes around a banjo type resonator. Some of these guitars did have a round sound hole, i.e. the one in the Chinery collection and the one in the Roy Acuff Museum, but is questioned whether it was original. Langes creation never hit it off, they never made more than the original 36 of them.

    I can go on about many of the other weird stuff that's out there, but I've got to keep this to a minimum, and save it for another issue.

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