My first guitar was an Ovation Balladeer. When these guitars were first introduced, the trademark composite backed guitar was unusual. And for a teenager with only weekend odd jobs, they were affordable. Eventually I noticed people like Glen Campbell and even Al DiMeola were playing them. That may have raised Ovation’s standing, but truthfully, they never were what you’d call a ‘hot item’.
Today these guitars are as popular as ever; there’s even an active Ovation fan website. I still have mine too. With its wide ebony fretboard, my nylon string Balladeer plays easy, has a deep bass response and has an impact crack in the spruce soundboard. Otherwise it’s in very good shape, so for the nostalgia of my youth, I’ve considered having it repaired.
The other day I stumbled onto the website of one of my long time guitar-God heroes, John Renbourn. He lists his guitars, including a Gibson J50 that he played until “an airline smashed it’s back”. Eventually Renbourn commissioned a Franklin OM from luthier Nick Kukich. Renbourn had trouble keeping that guitar in one piece too. On his website he writes, “the old Franklin has really suffered at the hands, or more likely the fork lift truck prongs, of airline freight handlers over the years. Quite a while back, the lower bout and table were totally smashed, which meant a new top and bridge. The neck has had to be rebuilt, the fingerboard refretted and recently, on a trip to Alaska, the headstock was sheared off. So gradually, section by section, practically the whole instrument has been replaced. All that is left of the original is the back and the fingerboard – but it still sounds and plays wonderfully.”
All things considered, the crack in my Ovation is nothing. In fact it gives me a feeling of kinship to these professionals. So I think I’ll just live with the crack.
In the meantime, I think I’ll go practice on my Eastman 805CE …