Thursday, January 31, 2008
The $100 Guitar, first in a series
This is a Harmony acoustic guitar I bought in Evansville, Indiana a few years ago. I have tried with very little luck to find the correct model number for those of you who care about such stuff, but it doesn't seem to match up with anything in the online world of Harmony guitar reference.
We were on a stop on the Hootie "Looking for Lucky" tour with a Sunday off. My father had asked me to look around Evansville, as it was where his LST was built and launched from. There weren't a lot of places open, but there was a small music store a couple streets up from the hotel. A couple of us went inside, and once we got past the modern imported Strat and Les Paul knock-offs, we were dazzled: there were dusty old Stellas and Epiphones and weird Univox amps. Mandolins and ukes on pegboard hooks on the wall; ancient drums and accordions on the floor. It was like walking into the back of David Lindley's mind, I imagine.
And none of it was for sale! The man who ran the store told us we should go visit a store around the corner if we wanted to buy something. I'm not exactly sure why he had the place open, and it pained me to have to leave all that high quality junk behind but we followed his advice and went elsewhere.
"Elsewhere" turned out to be Goldman's Pawn Shop. We walked in, and it was Danelectroville Incarnate! I struck up a conversation with Bob Goldman of the namesake family, and he told me that when they'd originally begun reissuing Danelectros, he bought lots of all the different models. And he still had quite a stockroom full of U-2's and Convertibles some years later.
I wasn't sure I wanted to part with as much as a Danelectro would set me back, even the lowliest of the bunch. As I began walking toward the door, I saw the Harmony on a rack of used acoustic guitars. I stopped and looked it over. The pickguard had a terrible warp in it. Very dusty, and very big. Not a pretty guitar. It was priced at a hundred dollars. Food for thought.
I walked back to the hotel (my friends had left me, drooling on the counter at Goldman's), and I kept thinking about the Harmony. I'd played it, and it had a big boom of a sound, even with old and rusty strings. Up to the room where everyone was hanging out, and they asked if I'd bought anything. I said not yet.
Jason, our stage manager, laughed and said, "Oh you just want to buy a guitar because all of ours are on the truck and you can't get to them!" He had a point, and so I hightailed it out to the street again and back to Goldman's.
I found Bob and gave him his hundred dollars and tax for the Harmony. We went into the back of the store, and he found me a chipboard case that would hold it (this guitar has very broad shoulders, less curvy than a Gibson). He threw in an old Ace Hootenanny guitar strap I found in a box while I waited for him to close up the storeroom. Strode back to the hotel, took the guitar out in my room, strummed a giant roaring A chord, and it's been a love story between me and this Harmony ever since.
There's no question when you play it that it's not a top-dollar guitar: nothing fancy about it. I took the pickguard off, which exposed a crack in the top I have yet to get fixed. No amount of polishing has given the neck or the body any kind of appreciable sheen. The action is a little on the high side which makes it ideal for my new-found ring finger-based slide guitar playing. The Harmony's greatest appeal is its enormous volume. The sound can fill a large room without amplification, and it can dwarf this vocalist easily. I've never played a louder acoustic instrument. Great for parties on the porch, and I can mesmerize the baby for over forty-five minutes at a clip with some slide practice in the mornings.
Next to my 1969 Guild D40 which I use for shows, the Harmony is my favorite guitar. I think of slapping a pickup in its soundhole and trying to use it onstage, but I believe that I'd prefer to keep it safe at home where it hangs in the commanding center spot in the Holsapples' Wall of Hundred Dollar Guitars.