a guitarist's occasional blog
I'm a bit of a Craigslist watcher. (OK. That's an understatement. I'm a Craigslist addict. I suffer from a bad case of G.A.S., otherwise known as Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.)
This guitar you see to the right is a 1960's Fender Regal Classic. It's nothing special—or at least it wasn't until it survived to old age—and it isn't necessarily a desirable instrument by most standards. But it was for sale on the Craigslist classifieds, and I'm kind of a sucker for old guitars. I traded some other guitar gear for it. And I am happy.
I'm not an expert on the history of it all, but at some point during the 1960's Fender Sales began selling rebranded guitars that had been made by Harmony in Chicago. When I was a kid in the 1980's, one of my very first guitars was a terrible imported, plywood Harmony guitar that we probably purchased at Service Merchandise or Montgomery Ward. It was a wreck of a box, and it's far too generous to even refer to it as a musical instrument. However, back in the Sixties, Harmony made their instruments here in the USA. And while they weren't really competing with Martin, Gibson, or Guild for customers, their modestly priced student guitars were of a quality that at least deserved the title musical instrument.
From what I can gather searching through the mess of the internet, this Fender Classic is really a rebranded Harmony H173. It's a student guitar. But unlike during the Eightees, the child of the Sixties was able to get an affordable Harmony acoustic guitar made of all solid woods—spruce top, birch body, and poplar neck—with great tuning machines and enough attention to quality that the damn thing could make music. Real music!
My new, old guitar—also a child of the Sixties—shows some signs of age. (Hey, so do I and I wasn't even born until 1970. Cut us some slack!) There is a long crack on the top with an effective but somewhat crude repair. A guitar like this probably began with a perfectly flat neck, but this one has a slight amount of relief. And there are the unavoidable bumps and bruises that come with age.
However, someone did some work to keep this one going. The tuners look like original tuners with bell buttons. They are very clean and function perfectly. The action over the first eight frets or so is lower than most traditional classical guitars, and up to the body it is still within range of what can be expected for a nylon string guitar—though a bit high if all you know is steel string. There is a slight dip of the fretboard once you get to the body. There is also some saddle left at the bridge, which is good. The guitar plays well and in tune (no kidding!) all up and down the neck, and the neck joint seems to be rock solid. In other words, this is not a project. It's a playable guitar in need of no work or repair.
The old spruce top is impressive with straight, even grain and nice silking. It isn't so different from the tops of my other more expensive guitars, and I'm guessing it is Sitka. Old wood is often good wood. I suppose good wood used to be easier to get.
This isn't a true classical guitar. This is a folk guitar probably best used to accompany singing. It responds to a light touch, and I am enjoying fingerpicking folk songs and tunes like Steve Goodman's "The City of New Orleans" on it. Admittedly, the guitar needs to be played lightly. It doesn't do well with a heavy right hand attack, especially with the light tension strings it has on it. You want to bash out Neil Young tunes? Wrong guitar. Lightly pick a John Denver tune or two? Good choice. Need a character guitar for your hip recording studio? Excellent choice!
This begs the question, "What are you going to do with this guitar, Chuck?"
Well, I will eventually sell it or gift it. But first I'm going to enjoy it.
I figure this old guitar has some stories in it. It has its history. And I'm going to go looking for the song in this box. I will hold on to it until I find the song in it. Then I'll pass it along to a new owner and wish it well.
And then I'll go looking for another modest Craigslist treasure to play. Because I have incurable G.A.S., apparently.
This fellow plays very nicely in a Jerry Reed style, and that seems to be what a lot of folks want these old guitars to do for them. It doesn't sound all that different from the one I've got here. Enjoy!
Chuck Cheesman writes hopeful, loving, and sometimes funny songs for people of all ages.
All materials ©℗ Chuck Cheesman
Banner photo by Gina Dazzo