The Ovation Guitar Collection
For those who've had the chance to catch one of my shows, you'll notice that my guitars are a little weird looking (just like me!). A round back on a guitar - what's that about?
I grew up in the 80's. Back then, it was hair bands all day long. And I'll admit that the second most important piece of equipment next to my guitar was my Aqua-Net hairspray. Well, that and acid-washed ripped jeans.
But while Ovations aren't as popular now, back then they were THE acoustic guitar to have. Every hard rock band seemed to have them on MTV. Remember Ritchie Sambora's doubleneck? Ovation. It was almost as if any Hard Rock ballad you wanted to sing to your girl REQUIRED an Ovation or it just couldn't be played at all.
But even before then, rockers like Paul McCartney, Greg Lake, even Robert Fripp from King Crimson were rocking the bowl-backs.
Alas, being the broke teenager that I was, owning one of those guitars just wasn't in the cards. It just cut too deeply into my rock-n-roll-all-night and party-every-day budgets, respectively.
Years later, on a cold, snowy Buffalo NY evening, a good friend of mine (and an amazingly talented songwriter) by the name of Steve Roth was working on starting up a local open mic, to which I tried to support regularly. He'd just purchased a new Taylor, but was previously using an Ovation Balladeer 1611 as his primary instrument. Luckily for me, his beautiful new Taylor was a bit on the pricey side, so he was more than willing to part with it in oder to pay into the New Guitar Fund (don't laugh - every guitar player has one). So, I picked it up for the low price of about $300 and the dream -and subsequently my obsession - had begun.
Ovations fell out of favor with the public in the early 90's. Brands like Taylor, Breedlove, and the ever-omnipresent Martin and Gibson acoustics dominate the market. Consequently, prices on Ovations came way down. Although they're starting to get more visibility again due to the revitalization of Ovation under parent company D-Drum, you can pick up high quality, USA made used Ovations for amazing prices on sites like Reverb.com.
OK - enough talk. Let's get to the collection!
Balladeer Deluxe 1112 Natural (1978) and Sunburst (1979)
After the Balladeer 1611, which I subsequently sold to my brother-in-law (I believe to finance my own New Guitar Fund), I picked up these two beauties.
The Balladeer Deluxe on the left (called "deluxe" due to the diamond shaped fretboard inlays) was found at a consignment music store in San Jose CA, back in the late 90's. the poor thing was hidden behind a stack of PA subwoofers and hanging on the wall with about 1/4in thick of dust covering the entirety of the instrument. Under that dust however was a beautiful guitar in pristine condition. Inquiring about it with the shopkeeper, he seemed genuinely surprised that it was actually in his inventory. And of course, no price tag or phone number of the owner to be found.
The next hour or so was spent trying to track down the owner via rummaging through a bunch of old index cards. Perseverance won out, and we found the contact info. Turns out, the owner had forgotten all about it too, as he put the thing on consignment way back in the 80's. So, I said I'd give him $150 for it and it's been in my collection ever since.
The sunburst model on the right was my top travel guitar for a number of years, and has seen just about as many states as I have (38 in all). I bought it as a backup guitar but it quickly became my go-to gig guitar. If I recall correctly, this one was my first major eBay purchase.
A special characteristic of this guitar is a small, perfectly round hole that was repaired on the top. This was due to a sound engineer in Denver Colorado who, for some reason, felt the need to throw a 1/4 cable across the stage that would meet my guitar up-close-and-personal. Must've been a major league pitcher for his day job.
But in the end all was well and while neither see much action outside of the studio these days both still sound wonderful when recorded. It's these two that your hear on my albums "No Ordinary Anything" and "Flowers Beneath the Ashes".
Both are professionally modded with Martin GoldPlus pickups and a volume pot added near the headstock sporting a die-cast metal knob with a Celtic design.
Legend Models 1667 (1986) and 1651 (1978)
The Legend on the left has been my number one live guitar for over a decade. It's carried me through some of the most important shows of my career, the largest of which was performing to just under 10,000 people.
Yep, just me and my Legend up there, strummin' away.
Although the guitar is stock, it recently went through a re-fret. Very deep and rich tone. I'm contemplating upgrading the electronics however. the 80's electronics just can't compete with today's preamps.
The Legend on the right, while not a new model, is a new to the collection. This acquisition is the epitome of the phrase, "being at the right place at the right time." I was searching for a 1651 for years, as I've always loved the look of the chestnut top. Unfortunately, the few that I came across in my travels were in really poor shape. Way beyond saving.
I happened to be perusing the local Craigslist ads one summer day when I saw an ad at the top of the feed from a local music store (Jackson Music in Grand Island, NY). I immediately gave the owner Jack a shout, bought the guitar over the phone, and rushed on over there to claim my prize.
Glad I did too. As I arrived there was already another collector there looking to buy it. It was probably in the store for no more that 12 hours.
Sorry! Not sorry ;-)
For Beatles fans, you may recognize this model as one John Lennon played on some of his solo albums and live performances. It sure has a nice mellow vibe to it. This model makes an appearance on the cover of his posthumously released Acoustic album in 2004.