The first time I saw and heard an acoustic guitar I fell in love instantly. The beauty of the woods, the shapes and contours were pieces of art. The sound of the strings being struck while each chord rang out was magic to my ears.
In 1963, when I was 13, I traded in my clarinet and bought my first guitar. As I couldn’t afford a Martin, I bought what is known as a “poor Man’s (Martin) D-18” – a Harmony Sovereign H1260. I became fascinated with the rich history of the Golden Era of guitars. Pre-war Martin and Gibson acoustic guitars were particularly coveted but affordable to few. I later discovered that there was another rich part of American guitar history – the unique and wonderful world of catalogue guitars that were sold through Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Wards- brands like Supertone, Stromberg-Voisinet, Harmony and Kay- made in Chicago- the guitars for the working man and played by many of the early blues greats.
Most of these gallant old guitars are now in need of restoration and deserve to be restored. There is nothing like the sound of vintage guitar. Their old woods become more responsive and resonant over the years and can rarely be replaced by a new model. It’s important to keep a guitar in good repair and particularly to have a vintage guitar repaired or restored properly by a skilled repair man or luthier. A properly repaired guitar will keep it playing and sounding like it should and will preserve it’s value. Improper repairs can destroy the guitar’s integrity and value. Undoing incorrect repairs can be costly and sometimes impossible.
I restored my first Supertone in 2000 and brought it back to life. The process was fascinating and the end result rewarding- hearing the Supertone sing again. Since then I’ve been restoring old Chicago-made parlor guitars as well as vintage Martins, Gibsons and Guilds.
I’m passionate about my work – and these great old guitars – and feel lucky to be able to preserve a part of American guitar history. There are great new makers and builders now – names like Collings, Breedlove and Santa Cruz. They’re built to Golden Era specifications – with great care and attention to detail – and with tones that come close to the Pre-War Martins and Gibsons. Many say they may be the second Golden Era of guitars, but to most there is no replacement for a fine vintage guitar.