wizard of odd

It’s hard to argue with an acrylic-top guitar when it looks this cool!

The Hagstrom F-11 was built with improbable tone materials, but it still sings with zing.

Growing up in the shadow of the Martin Guitar Factory, I learned a thing or two about tonewoods. Quite a few of my friends got jobs at the factory right out of high school, and over the years, I’ve seen how woods are cured, selected, and cared for. The Japanese factories I’ve visited really took this idea to the next level. I’ve seen curing rooms with classical music being played to stacks of wood. I’ve seen huge storerooms with different woods sorted by age (some well over 100 years old), country of origin, and quality of figuring. Hell, I've even seen logs that were dragged out of Mississippi swamps, shipped to Japan, and cured.

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The 1954 Harmony Stratotone was built as a compact, affordable alternative to the major companies' solidbodies, with a simple control set of volume and tone dials and a bypass slider for a single-coil pickup.

In '54, Harmony introduced the gold-finished H44 Stratotone as a guitar for the masses. Today, it's a favorite among vintage slide fiends.

This morning I was reading about the great American architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. His achievements in housing design were truly remarkable and breathtaking, but in the early 1900s he became interested in applying his mastery to building economical housing for working people. There's even a block of his tiny homes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, along Burnham Street, and they feature some of Wright's most famous design cues, such as flat roofs and central hearths. It got me thinking about guitars and how the idea of economical brands has existed almost since the dawn of the dime store. In the U.S., I always think of Harmony, Kay, and Danelectro as the builders who made good quality guitars in the low-to-middle price range, and this resonated with Wright's ideas of homes for the working class. By the 1950s, we would need guitars for the working class, too!

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Frank Meyers' Recco, pictured, is essentially the same model as Robert Smith's beloved Top Twenty, but with three single-coil pickups versus two.

Circa "Boys Don't Cry," Robert Smith's favorite tones came from a Japan-made model that reached these shores under several brand names, but with the same distinctive voice.

So, the other day my wife and I were having this wonderful conversation about music from the '80s and great songs from our youth. She is a huge '80s music fan who sings along anytime she hears "99 Luftballons" or "Take on Me" (her favorite). Heck, if I play Devo, it's game over! While immersing ourselves in the old classics, I came across the first album by the Cure, 1979's Three Imaginary Boys. I was never a big Cure fan, and only knew a few songs, but the first LP was really something. The band had an incredibly interesting sound with some creative guitar stuff going on, and I was really digging on "10:15 Saturday Night," "It's Not You," "Faded Smiles," and, of course, the total classic "Boys Don't Cry."

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