The rise and fall of Ovation

I blogged about the crazy auction prices that guitars owned by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour attained, particular those he’d never even used. The example I gave was a Ovation 12-string acoustic bought from the factory along with several other models, that he never composed on, never recorded, never played on tour, estimated to sell for $1,500 tops, sold for $93,750, 60 times its estimate!

That’s not to say that Ovations aren’t interesting guitars.

Reinventing the back and sides of the guitar

tough as nails on the back and sides

Back when I fantasized about having musical talent beyond rote skill, I bought an Ovation Folklore. I had damaged my classical guitar, so a guitar with nigh indestructible fiberglass back and sides appealed, and the sound projection of the resulting bowl shape was extraordinary. In the 1960s and 1970s this space-age reinvention (literally, founder Charles Kaman worked in aerospace and developed helicopters) was very popular. Glen Campbell made Ovation guitars famous, then Ovation over-expanded into oddball electric guitars, supplying them to the TV show “The Partridge Family.” The show made teen heartthrob David Cassidy famous, and destroyed any street cred that Ovation had.

Rethinking the front of the guitar

cover art of Adrian Legg's "high strung tall tales" album showing his custom Adamas
“High Strung Suite” is great, like the guitar. Photo by Jeff Sacks, © 1994 (probably) Relativity Records

Ovation later rethought the front of the guitar, coming up with the gorgeous Adamas with sound holes in the upper bout, instead of a gaping hole under the strings that requires lots of bracing to avoid the guitar self-destructing. The wonderfully talented Adrian Legg played one. But tastes have shifted back to authenticity and “naturalness,” plus as I understand it guitar makers have figured out how to get as much projection from conventional all-wood guitars, and Ovation is a shadow of its former self. A nice history.

Here’s Adrian playing “Cajun Interlude” off Guitars and Other Cathedrals on his Ovation Adamas.

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