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rare late 1930's Harmony 'Monterey' archtop guitar
This is an auction for a rare early example of a late 1930's Harmony 'Monterey' model archtop guitar. This is one of the earliest Harmony Monterey archtop guitars I ever had the pleasure to own (I have three others in my Harmony collection!) and it is from a time when these seem to vary quite a bit in terms of construction, cosmetics, and features (look ...here is the closest one I could find on the web...). It is of an odd era the possibly pre-dates the Harmony name on it entirely. Just Monterey! Supertone and Harmony guitars sort of overlap in this period, and as you can see this one has no Harmony name on the logo. Pretty unusual to say the least. It does not have a factory date stamp (as many do not in this period) but has an usual autograph dated 1947 on the back that looks like it might been done through an F hole or when the back was off long ago. Crazy! I have another Supertone that has almost the same features as this one, though (down to the tuners and tailpiece) and it is dated with a stamp to 1937. So I think I am about right on that late 30's estimate.
I really cannot say enough good things about its performance and tone. Wow! It is a real head turner. It came to me from the personal collection of a professional luthier, and he had taken a great deal of time and attention restoring it as his own guitar. And after all the work that has been put into it, it practically plays itself. I am sad to see it go, but it is a great instrument sure to provide several decades of solid use.
This one came to me from the collection of a luthier who specializes in high end string instrument repair. He does work for musicians who play world class classical instruments (guitars, cellos, and violins) that might cost as much as house, so it was a shock to to see this in his shop hanging around. He claimed he had for an early blues sound he was looking for ...which it does great!. But, you can tell by the 'grade A' work that he put into it that this level of attention was because he was making it into a perfectly playing guitar for himself. He did about the equivalent of $600 worth of work from your ordinary luthier shop, but I would hate to hear what he'd charge if I asked to actually do it again. He did everything it needed including a complete neck reset, full fingerboard planing (to make the fingerboard perfectly straight), straightening out the fingerboard extension, some side seam regluing (including regluing the back on) and then finally he put an amazing low action setup that might be as good as any guitar can get. Honestly, the intonation, fretting, and setup on the instrument are about as good as you can ever hope for on any archtop, no matter who made it! The guitar is now totally issue free, and ready to hit the ground running.
As I mentioned, the setup on it is killer. It does not have a dead spot to speak of, but is easy to fret all the way up the neck. The action is lower than most, and feels great to play. It is effortless to say the least. I took a photo of the string height on the low E at the 12th fret to demonstrate this for your own eyes to see. Check the photos. Also in there is a shot of the nut width, which is large like most 30's guitars are. The neck on this is totally phenomenally huge with a firm rounded V shape that is quite a handful. Is the Fender Duo Sonic your favorite electric? Well, this guitar might not be for you. Seriously, it is close to my favorite style out there. It is a great neck that I wish was on every guitar I own! It gets real beefy up where it joins the neck, too. The body is all solid birch with a maple or birch neck. The original Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard is lovely. The tuners are Waverly or Kluson unbranded ones that date to before WWII and I have had on many 30's guitars. They work great and still have their original buttons. The compensated bridge (dark rosewood or ebony?) appears to be original or at least of the period as well, although may have had its thumbwheels replaced at some point. I am not sure. It has its original pickguard that is a black celluloid and includes its original mounting bracket.
The original dark black sunburst nitro cellulose finish still has a great luster and shine to it (and the 'faux flame' common in from Harmony). There are some nicks, checks, finish loss around the edges (some from putting it all back together) that you'd expect from a guitar that would collect a social security check if it was a person. Nothing out of the ordinary. It has some very subtle buckle rash on the back of the body, some 'capo wear' on the back of the neck, and a small crack at the end of the fingerboard. But all of this stuff is cosmetic and does not effect its function or play in any way. Check the photos for its condition and you will see what I mean. All in all, it is a very clean original guitar for being 70+ years old!
I was really blown away by the tone on this guitar the first time I picked it up. I have had a lot of Harmony guitars (well over 300 at this point!), but this one had a real bark and authority that I have not heard on one in a long time. The volume got everyone in the shop to stop what they were doing when I sat down to play it. And it got more than a few smiles. The fact that the top is birch adds a nice round and boxy edge to the sound that is absolutely spot on for getting into an old time Americana/early Blues sort of vibe. It is very snappy and bright when you pick down by the bridge, too. Perfect for a Swing or Gypsy Jazz tone. Its fingerstyle tone is surprisingly robust and vocal, too. It is a versatile instrument which is a great match to the sort of action and performance it has. That means that you are not fighting the guitar when you are playing it, your playing just flows out like it should and it is sounding great as you do! It is strung with a set of medium gauge phosphor bronze strings that really goose a lot of low end and volume out of the guitar. It is a loud one! Louder than the Gibson L-12 archtop it is sitting next to right now (which is also a 17" guitar...). I know this will make the next owner very happy to have it in their collection. It is a voice perfect for recording, performing, or just sitting around picking out a few tunes with friends.
Harmony guitars! Yes, they are hot nowdays, but I have been on the bandwagon for a long time. Even with all their hype they are one of the least understood American guitar companies. I really love this stuff, which is why I focus on these guitars instead of something else. I have made it my mission to help people get informed about the underdog American makers out there. There are a lot of great resources out there to check out. Get informed. Click here for one of my all time favorite Harmony sites because it is worth at least a few minutes of your time to look over if you haven't and look at all of the wonderfully well document guitars, catalogs, and information there.
Well, here is some audio of me playing it with a medium pick from about three feet away...Sure is loud!
Here are some more sound files to click on and hear streaming audio, it was fun recording these...
...a tight and authoritative bark perfect for rhythm...
...some sweet and expressive fingerstyle...
...a minor key one with a clear chording sound...
...some open tuning chording with great results...
...solo notes with fantastic detail...
...a bit of raw early R n' R chording...
...open tuning again with fingerstyle this time...
...faster chords with soloing in different styles...
...big chimey Americana chords...
...minor tinged (gypsy?) jazz...
...a bit of mellow fingerstyle blues...
...some sloppy 'blue' jazz...
...different kinds of picking on solo notes...
...more solo note playing on the higher strings then chords...
...full body fingerstyle!...
...clear big chords...
...more modern minor open chording...
This vintage Monterey is quite a find and is sure to light up the eyes of any Harmony collector. It did for me! If I had any more room in my Harmony collection I would hold onto it, but I simply need to move it along to raise some cash for a few still in repair. By few, I mean about 20. So, off this one goes with a tear! And more to come. It does not include a case, but I have many generic vintage chipboard 50's/60's cases I can include for an additional $20, and new gig bags for $35. Either way, I will make sure it travels safely to you door whether that is in Indiana, Iceland, or Australia. I like to ship abroad and I do it alot. Europe? Japan? 'Down Under'? No problem! Check my feedback and see that I speak the truth. Thanks for reading and good luck bidding!
This guitar is not warrantied in any way due to its condition and age. Bidders be warned. Auction is as is, no returns whatsoever. UPS Ground or Expedited US Postal Service in the USA. I prefer a certified cashiers check from bidders in the US, but take I Paypal as well. Paypal only on international bidders, please email me for your shipping rates oustide the 48 contiental states. Payments must be made or confirmed within 48 hours (unless otherwise stated by me personally) or I move to the next bidder on the list. I hope this goes to a happy home! Please do not bid unless you have the money to buy it and plan on following through with your bid. Don't blame me if you grow warts on your face when you don't pay. Its the spirirts' will, not mine. I know this is not of the majority, so thanks for bearing with me. All sounds, songs, and images are copyrighted material, so pirate them at your own peril. Seriously, I have a team of trained rabid attack dogs that do nothing but cruise the internet looking for interlopers to feed upon. You probably aren't even reading this, but if you are...beware their wrath. Anyways...feel free to ask questions! I am going to be doing some remodeling this week in my home, so there may be a day or two in there that my internet connection is down, but never fear...I will answer your questions as fast as I can. Email me if you want to see any more pictures, I have tons of them that probably did not make it into the massive picture show below because I am nuts about this guitar! Thanks!
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