Standing Ovation!

A collection of Ovation guitars made in the USA

Foreword. Milano, November 17, 1975, late afternoon. I am sitting in the first row of the today destroyed Palalido hall, at the time one of the main concert halls in town. On the stage, the young Italian folksinger Fabrizio De André is playing a guitar never seen before, sporting a bowl-shaped back and a weird headstock. Weird, but charming. It is the first Ovation guitar that I see in my life and thanks to the unforgettable Fabrizio I fall in love with that guitar and decide that eventually I'll have one.
My first Ovation is an acoustic sunburst Matrix, one of the first made in the US, sporting the one piece aluminum neck. I bought it in 1979 in Hong Kong: thanks to Tom Lee Piano the summer sales I paid it a hundred bucks including the original brown case. After a couple of years the Matrix was traded in for an Artist.
My love for the roundbacks grew also thanks to Paul Simon, who brought his 1619-5 onstage in 1981, for one of the most extraordinary music events of the 20th Century: the Concert in Central Park. Ovation guitars became a passion bound to accompany me throughout my life. I love playing any good guitar, but I have more fun if the guitar is an Ovation. Even dressing up for my wedding, July 4th, 1984, I had an Ovation on my side.
The Artist was eventually traded for a 1657-7 Anniversary with a gorgeous tight-vein spruce orange soundboard. Shame on me, I sold it to my friend Paolo during my "electric delirium" years to raise some money for bringing home a 1955 Telecaster. I still miss that Anniversary, one of the best looking, sounding and playing acoustic guitars I ever had. I sold two other Ovations after the Anniversary: one of the first Elites made (the revered 1537-4, that in spite of its reputation did not sound very well) and a T-Elite 1778T-OFT with orange flames that was sooooo fun to look at, but sounded like a cardboard shoebox stringed with a rubber band and had a twisted neck├č.
Adamas was love at first sight, too. The "broccoli" carved headstock and bridge, the texture of the table, the colors, the leaves of precious woods are the voodoo mojo stole my soul the first time I saw one. What a great instrument! I bough my first Adamas in the mid Nineties from the store of my friend George Gruhn . It's the 1587-5 shown below: I still own, play and cuddle it. And I never give up the opportunity to put my hands on an Adamas, whenever I can.

My roundbacks

My Roundbacks family grows occasionaly, sometimes at the expenses of the electric family. Some guitars have been bough in the past 30 years, but my collection grew faster after the sale of Kaman Music to FMI and skyrocketed after the shutdown of the New hartford, CT plants. I have no specific theme, I just put together the all the Ovations that I admired and dreamed of when I was young. Most of them belong to the "real Kaman era" (Bill Kaman left in 1998) occasionaly adding more recent but significative or fascinating guitars, such as the 2008-5, the 2009-Koa, the ALE. I do not just pile them, I play all of them on a daily turnover basis and keep them in perfect working conditions (it surprises me everytime I get a new guitar how people do not care of setting it up properly: a loose trussrod has a dramatical impact on playability and sound).

1981 Ovation The Anniversary 1657-4 #239329

A fantastic looking (and smelling!) guitar in a rare natural finish and unbelievable mint condition. Bought in August 2014 thanks to Kevin Grant who shared the eBay sale on The Ovation Instruments Collectors Board. When I received the guitar it produced a somhow weak, rubbery sound, but then I noticed a fully loose trussrod and a significant bow at the neck-body joint. I started tightening the trussrod, half turn per day, until the neck went back to a perfect position. Then I shimmed the bridge, obtaining a correct action and stringed it with Martin Phosphor Bronze medium gauge. The sound changed dramatically: now this 1657 can produce a persistent, sparkling tone, with solid basses and a pleasant twang. Aside from this, I love the Anniversary for the herringbone trim, the different rosette, the fine neck inlays. In my opinon is one of the best early Ovation designs. See the original brochure.

1981 Ovation Custom Legend 1619-1 #261121

The original Ovation Custom Legend has been a dream since reading the gorgeous 1980 catalog (pages 1 and 2 from Ovationtribute). Queen of the Ovation roundholes, the CL is the guitar designed for Linda McCartney who wanted to make a "custom" present to her husband. Also, the 1619 is the guitar brought on the New York stage by Paul Simon for the ultimate concert of the last Century. This is a 1981, one of the last non-Kaman-bar made. Finished in a nice dark sunburst, has the original electronics, the carved bridge and the sweet carved trussrod cover. It's in near mint condition, in spite of its age. An exquisite guitar that produces the pure original Custom Legend boomy-yet-clear sound. Bought from Guitar Broker in December 2014. Thanks Craig.

1982 Ovation Collectors Edition 1982-8 #472/1000

In 1982 the Ovation retailers received a brochure (this, front and back) with a young Bill Kaman (scion of the great Charlie) showing off his awesom cowboy boots and holding a magnificent, shocking blue acoustic Ovation. The 1982-8 is the first star in the Ovation Collectors Series, a line of limited edition instruments that - year after year - tickled the finest palates until 2010. Somebody sicker than me had the courage to follow Bill in his happy madness for a quarter of Century, buying all the Collectors year after year. I just bought my favourites, including this 1982, first of the series, that stunned me from the first moment I saw it on the ad. Basicaly a Legend with an ebony fretboard, abalone inlays, Adamas electronics and a striking blue soundboard with matching headstock. The guitar is in fine original condition with a clean original brown case. It is on the heavy side and after playing it a while it came to life, becoming one of my favourite guitars, thanks to a clear voice and an even frequency response. The neck is perfect, so I can set a very confortable action. I love the look with the two Adamas-style wood pots. Found in march 2014 in Allen Park Guitar Center. Thanks Dan!

1983 Adamas 1681-9 #3343

One of the first Adamas 2 built, very well used, but in wonderful condition despite its age. I bought it in 2001 from an Italian guitar collector after a long discussion on the price (but hey, that is part of the fun). This guitar is well played, the board is elastic and responding, it vibrates well and resonates wonderfully. Well balanced in the voice and easy to play, thanks to a perfect keyboard, it's on the light side of my Ovation's and sports a perfect neck. It's one of my fovourite guitars, when I pick it up I feel at home. I am tempted to say that this might be my best sounding guitar, but don't trust me, I change my mind often... The original brown case is in nice condition, too. Thank you Igor!

1986 Ovation Custom Legend 1869-4 #352412

I bought this beautiful guitar in May 2014, as a first reaction to the closure of the historical plants of New Hartford, CT by Fender Musical Instruments. Seen on Craigslist, it was so clean and the price so low that I decided to buy it although I was looking for a 1619 or 1719. Not a scratch, not a sign of wear, in spite of almost 30 years of life. And what's best, despite the shallow bowl this 1869 produces a well balanced and quite powerful acoustic voice. The soundboard is beautiful, in spite of some waving that eventually might produce some finish issues, but that's the Ovation trademark :-) The inlays are stunning as on every CL. An instrument easy to carry around and comfortable to play. Thanks John!

1987 Ovation Collectors Edition 1987-7 #367/1000

After the first Collectors guitar in 1982, from 1983 to 1986 Ovation produced four guitars with the new super-shallow bowl. But in 1987 the deep bowl came back, in a guitar designed to be the best sounding and looking ever made in New Hartford. The AAA spruce top, covered with a clear coat with a vintage amber tone is stunning. The abalone trim of body and neck, the flamed peghead veneer, the carved top are pure American guitar art. With the 1987 Collectors Ovation applied for the first time the fancy Custom Legend appointments to an Elite style guitar. I never considered buying one because the 1987 is the most sought of all the Ovation Collectors Series, but in March 2018 I found this near mint one, originally sold in Italy in 1988, at a very reasonable price. It has a perfect neck, sounds and play great, with a clear and full 100% Elite tone. Another jem in my collection. Thanks Federico!

1988 Adamas 1587-X #4602-88 Blue Boy

I've always loved custom color guitars and this 1587 Adamas was one of the guitars I liked most on Ovationtribute. It has a story, because it was a present from Bill Kaman to Jol Dantzig (as stated on the label), founder of Hamer Guitars (another guitar icon that I keep in great respect) in 1988. Jol himself was so kind to tell me the real story of this guitar: "The true story was that it was a gift to me from Bill Kaman. But I gave it away to a friend. I did not sell the guitar, I gave it to the office manager (Annette) at Hamer the day we shut the Arlington Heights factory down. She had worked for us at Hamer nearly 15 years in all. I wanted her to have a keepsake from our office because she was not moving to New Hartford with the rest of us". The Blueboy had not been played much, so when I got it the voice was a bit tied, but now it sounds and plays awesome: this guitar has class to spare and a perfect neck and craftmanship. The treble side epaulet is weird. Instead of being the smaller one used on most cutaway O's, it's just been cropped to fit the cutaway. As every Adamas, it has its personal flavor, in this case ... blue. In Ovationtribute it still appears on behalf of the previous owner, but in fact it's safe in my guitars lockroom.

1989 Adamas 1681-8 #4785

I always wanted a blue Adamas, but after the end of the Kaman era their prices became crazy. When one appeared on the classified website at the end of 2018 I could not resist and got in touch with the seller, in spite of a very high request. To my great amazement, the nickname hid a guy whomn I knew very well. We found an agreement on the price, that included a meal offered by me in the best traditional restaurant in Bologna. He underlined that the neck is a mothership replacement dated 2001 for the original neck accidentally broken onstage. This guitar is quite different in playabilty from my 1983 1681-9 (the neck is bigger and wider). The guitar sounds awesome unplugged: the well known, unmistakable, rich and full Adamas 2 tone is even bigger than on my loudest guitar, the Adamas 3. The plugged OP-24 sound does not need to be described, it's just it. And the blue top is a joy for the exes. Thank you Paolo!

1991 Adamas 1587-5 #5767-79

The first Adamas I touched is the first Adamas that I owned, purchased from Gruhn Guitars in the early 90s. When I opened the box delivered by UPS I was so thrilled that I just stood there, staring at it for several minutes before touching it. Among my graphite top Ovations this has the most balanced sound (to my ears, but probably this perception has something to do with love...). It's a single epaulet cutaway, the variant that I like the most (the simpler the better!) in the Adamas family, both for 1 and 2 models. I played it quite a lot, but it still is in exceptionally fine condition. The neck is huge, a good excuse to tune it in open G from time to time and play it with the slide. But I feel so good when I play and hear it that I always bring it back to a standard tuning, to enjoy its friendly feel and fantastic tone.

1994 Adamas 1687-x #050494 made for Bill Kaman

I saw it accidentally on Dave Guitar Shop's website in 2002 and I bought it on the spot. The inside label says "Custom built for Bill Kaman" and Dave told me that it had been made in the color of Bill's Porsche 911 (but recently my friend Tim Kummer told me that Bill never had a Porsche, so the story of the Porsche might be a hoax). Anyway, Porsche or not Porsche, a guitar made by Ovation for Mr. Ovation Himself (that I had the pleasure to meet online recently and is also a great guy) cannot be but a masterpiece of perfection and a piece of American guitar history. There is no date, but according to Jérôme Galopin the serial number says that the guitar was completed April 5, 1994. Obviously the quality is perfect, the details are taken care of even more than on the standard Adamas guitars of the same era. Incredible neck and awesome sound. The Adamas of the Adamases.

1994 Ovation Viper EA68-5 #478762

In spite of being a non-roundback, all-wood guitar, this EA68 Viper is 100% an Ovation. I am not sure why I decided to get in touch with the guy who was putting it for sale, because I do not play live or record anymore. Maybe because I saw Glen Campbell playing one. Or because I still miss my Gibson Chet Atkins SST. Or just for fun, because it's a small and good looking guitar, so silent when not unplugged that I can strum it late at night. Well, anyway after a long bargaining I bought it in August 2018 at a very reasonable price (but one must consider that the guitar market in general and specially the Ovation one is as depressed as it can be). Anyway. This guitar came with a set of Grover Imperial-style Schaller tuners instead of the Ovation-Schallers (according to the seller they have always been there, but I replaced them with a set of Schaller pearloid buttons bought from StewMac and also have a set of original gold buttons present from my Ovation buddy Paul Templeman). The neck is awesome, with a low action and a lot of frets out of the body (which I will not use) and the amplification system is essential but so efficient, so I can get a credible acoustic sound when plugged in my small Yamaha THR-10 home amp. Playing it is a lot of fun. And it's made in New Hartford, CT, in the Kaman era, as any Ovation should. Thank you Donatello.

1995 Ovation Folklore 6774-4 #486627

I've always been a mediocre fingerpicker, but as time goes by the less I play my electrics (and in fact most of them are for sale), the more I practice my fingerstyle. I have a few wide neck Ovations, but I always admired the Folklore, evolution of the original Ovation Josh White after Josh's death in 1969. The 1995 edition of the Folklore is a stunning guitar, with the wide flat ebony fingerboard, the fancy wood rosette, the black slothead and the confortable mid depht roundback. I found it on eBay in October 2017. In spite of my offer way lower than the asking price, that the seller unespectedly accepted. The guitar - in mint condition with a superclean case - plays and sounds as I was expecting. The Kaman era Ovations are always a good choice. Thank you Rupert.

1997 Adamas 1591-BCB #88/90

Apparently a project dedicated to the European market, the Adamas 3 was built in the late Nineties to celebrate one of the first Adamas prototypes, the #17, which dates from the first half of the '70s. Not a reproduction, the A3 is just inspired to its venerable ancestor and was produced in 90 pieces: mine is the 88th, so it's one of the last made. I always loved the unconventional oval holes and the dark oxblod sunburst, so when I found this mint A3 for sale in 2000, I grabbed it. Good move, I never saw another one for sale. Guitar by the powerful voice, clear but with a significant emphasis on the low end (perhaps due to the different holes configuration), needs to be driven with some energy to give its best. If picked or strummed hard it delivers a huge, penetrating sound. The satin finished neck is a dream, so perfect that I can set a low action without producing any buzzes. I love the look and feel of this guitar.

1997 Ovation 1997-4 Collectors Edition #0659

In 1997, for the first time after 30 years on the market, Ovation introduced a different body dimension, offering a parlor sized roundback guitar as a limited Collector's series 1997 model. New bowl, new neck available in two widths, and new top design for a guitar that is even smaller than a 000. The top is solid spruce with aged clear finish, bound in maple. The round hole is framed by a rosette made of individual pieces of maple set in ebony and the slothead satin finisched neck attaches to the body at the 12th fret. But that's not all, because Ovation introduced a completely new electronics system, with a slimline pickup and the TS® preamp controlled by a touch sensitive slider built in the top waist of the bowl. The output jack is located in the endpin. A small and comfortable guitar, with a surprisingly loud acoustic sound considering the size. When I saw this near mint beauty on an Italian musical instruments classifieds website I could not resist. After a pleasant negotiation with the owner we agreed on a reasonable price and now I have an oustanding parlor guitar with my beloved roundback. Thanks Raf!

1997 Ovation 5741-9 #527407

Apparently, with the leftover bodies of the 1997 Collectors, the Ovation people made another parlor guitar. It has the wide neck with a solid headstock and 14 frets clear of the body (12 on the 1997 Collectors), a standard OP-24 preamp instead of the TS (with the battery slot accessible from the side) and is finished in a nice dark sunburst. I saw one of these nice guitars at the 2014 edition of our SGH Guitar Show. It was very clean, it sounded and played fine, the price was OK, but the case was missing, so I let it go. But when I saw a "NOS" 5741 on an Italian musical instruments classifieds website, I asked for some clear pictures. The guitar was in Sicily and was a leftover from the previous distributor, with its original case and all the case candies, but offered at a non realistic price. Fortunately after a few emails and telephone calls I convinced the dealer to accept my offer and I got it. After some setup (I removed the bridge inserts to lower the action, filed slightly the saddle and the nut, tightened the trussrod) and with a new set of strings (it still had the original 1997 strings!) the small guitar came to a new life. A slim, well sounding, small lovely guitar that fits perfectly in the family. Thanks Gianni!

2004 1719-30CM Custom Legend #581477

From 1974 the Ovation Custom Legend (born upon request of Linda McCartney who wanted to give a Legend to Paul, but asked for fancier decoration) is the ultimate Ovation, the guitar that never disappoints, the Queen Bee of the woodtop family and for me the guitar of THE concert (Simon & Garfunkel in Central Park). In 2004, to commemorate the 30 years of this noble guitar, Ovation produced a limited series of 300 1719-30CM, built with the old skills, but updated wit an OP-Pro, an outstanding "bear claw spruce" soundboard and an LX neck with a double action trussrod. A fantastic guitar, that I bought in August 2014 from an English guitar player who found this page by chance, saw the "want list" and wrote me. When I got it, this 30-CM had not been played much, so the voice was still somehow closed, but after being played at least once a week for a few months it woke and warmed up, showing its great class. I am sure it will get even better with time. I string it with 013 for more volume and tone. Thanks Daniel!

2005 1651-7 Legend LTD #597051

An addicted Custom Legend fan, I never considered to get me a Legend until early 2016, when I bought this beauty from a guy who lived close to my home. Some history: this model is a reissue of the original Legend LTD of the late 70's and was built in December 2005 upon request of Ovation Japan in a limited run of 100 pieces. John Lennon used the LTD extensively in the late 70's, and this reissue was made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death. Basically is a standard Legend, with a beautiful nutmeg finish spruce top, gold Schaller hardware and the stacked knob V/T FET-3 stereo pre-amp. The neck has an outstanding ebony fretboard and a modern two way truss rod. A low action and a boomy - yet well defined - voice make this guitar one of the best performing instruments in my collection. Thanks Giacomo!

2007 Adamas 2008-5 Collectors' Edition #57/100

In 2008 for the first time an Adamas appeared in the Collectors series. It's also the last Collectors guitar of the Kaman era, after 25 years of good Collectors vibes. Built at the end of 2007 and sold in 2008, the 2008-5 is the last queen of the original Ovation dynasty. If the original Slothead was the crowning jewel that started the whole thing, this 2008-5 brings the Adamas history full circle into a glorious conclusion. The features are quotes of the best Adamas made from 1976 to the present. Black cross composite top, composite binding decorated in gold, lightweight Lyracord GS deep contour roundback, 13 exotic woods single epaulet, 14 frets wide laquered rosewood fingerboard, satin finish neck, gold inlays with "Collectors" at the 12th fret, slothead, Adamas logo in gold, gold Schaller tuners, gold binding as on the original Slotheads, two-way LX lightweight truss rod with carbon satabilizers and rosewood cover at the headstock, rosewood Adamas 1-style carved bridge, Vip 5 preamp (but I added an OP-Pro in the case, I like it better because the tuner works without the jack plugged in) and an elegant 9158 case. The genius of Charlie Kaman lives in this extraordinary instrument of which I have the honor of being care keeper from June 4, 2014. It's so precious that I feel intimidated when I take it from the case, but after the first notes she becomes friendly. This awesome guitar is one of the stars of my collection, a pleasure to own, look at and play. It is expensve (still a fraction of the new DW Adamases), but it's worth every cent I paid. Merci Jean-Pierre!

2009 Ovation 2009-FKOA Collectors' Edition #148/150

I've been loving the 2009 Collectors since the day when my editorial staff tested it for our webmagazine Accordo. The awesome wood and the perfect craftmanship put this limited edition guitar (150 pieces worldwide) among the best Ovation Collectors. It has a lightweight deep contour cutaway body, hand selected figured koa top, specially designed abalone Celtic knot round soundhole rosette, tortoise/abalone top binding with over 200 pieces of abalone, ebony fingerboard, OP-Pro studio preamp, 25.5" scale length, 1-3/4" nut width, gold tuners with pearl buttons and a deluxe hardshell case. When I saw this beauty on Craigslist, so clean it looks virtually unplayed, I tried to find an agreement with the seller, but the guy was tough: no shipping, no PayPal. Fortunatelly I have some good friends in the USA guitar business and they bought the guitar for me (thank you Suzy!). Soundwise, this Fender-era Ovation sounded good just out of the case, although it came stringed with the infamous Elixirs. After a setup and with a fresh set of Martin Phosphor Bronze medium, the koa top started producing the cleanest and most sparkling sound of all my wood-topped Ovations. It's not a powerful guitar, but it's high edged sound is perfect for strumming rythms. I was expecting a beautiful guitar, I received a beautiful guitar that sounds great.

2011 Ovation 1617ALE-1 #22/50

I love Ovation guitars because they look, play and sound good, but I also love them because you can buy a superfancy Ovation at a fraction of the price of a Martin or Collings: they bring an awesome value for money. Always enchanted by the 1617 ALE-1 (ALE = Adirondack Legend), I never found one at a reasonable price (well, after all is a fancy guitar limited to 50 pieces, representing the swansong of the FMI-Ovation, so the owners tend to keep it). In November 2016 I saw one for sale in Rome at a realistic price, made an even lower offer and found an agreement. The selected exquisite top is finished in a wonderful sunburst. The ALE has a structure and ornamentation similar to the 2009 FKOA: tortoise binding, scalloped X bracing, the beautiful abalone inlaid rosette with the Celtic infinity pattern, premium grade ebony fretboard with abalone infinity inlays. The neck is solid maple with gold Schaller tuners. The new logo enriches the classic design headstock, that looks beautiful thanks to the contrast of the natural maple with the black veneer. The bowl has the original deep profile and is made with the old-style layered Lyracord (no microspheres and no compression here) for that vintage Ovation tone, with lots of ring and clear mids. In fact, stringed with the 12-54 Martin Clapton strings, the ALE-1 is the clearest and best ringing guitar in my collection. The low profile pickup and and OP-PRO pre-amp complete the pack of a dead mint, great looking guitar. A beautiful and fancy Legend, that can be considered one of the last iconic guitar made in New Harford by the original team of luthiers. Grazie Luciano!

Ovations wanted

I am looking forward to adding the following guitars to my collection. If you have one of them (clean, no cracks, issues, mods) at a fair price and look forward to letting her go, please get in touch.
I might also be interested in any rare, exciting, prototype, one-off Adamas and Ovation USA models.

For sale

I am always upgrading my colllection, so from time to time I need to let a guitar, so if you see a guitar that you like in this page, please feel free to write asking if it's for sale. Always consider that all of them are in superb condition, come with the original case and have been used and serviced with the utmost care, the prices would be at the high end of the evaluations or even higher. There's also a page for the Ovations that I sold over the years.

Final thoughts

Charlie Kaman is the ingenious crazy splinter in the history of the American guitar. Extraordinary character, scientist, businessman, inventor, Charlie leaves a treasure of contamination, creativity and art of sound to the people capable of appreciating it. In the glory days of "his" Ovation (from 1966 for more than 15 years of his governance), when the acoustic guitar world was pedantically copying itself, Charlie, his son Bill (a great guy who shares his father's creative genius, given to the company until 1998) and the dedicated people working with them used their visionary talent to reinvent the acoustic guitar. Their roundbacks scandalized the bigots of the guitar community, but aroused the enthusiasm of the free spirits open to innovation.
Since the beginning of Ovation, Charlie's "plastic guitar" (as some ignorants define them) made the traditionalists turn up their nose saying that their sound was poor and the look ugly, but for decades the Ovation guitars have been the most seen US made instruments on stages around the world, from country to folk to rock and roll.
Thanks to an outstanding workmanship, a great playability, a perfect amplification and a gorgeous look, they gave to musicians all around the world the possibility to play music they could have not played with any other guitar. In brief: Ovation guitars deeply influenced three decades of music.

DW and the grace stroke

In January 2008, Fender Musical Instruments bought Kaman Music. In January 2018 Bill himself described the story of Ovation after his departure on the "Facebook Ovation Collectors group": "KMC was run by a Financial man by then who was on a short leash from the corporate [snip] bean counters. They eventually squeezed the company so tight that it looked really good on paper and then sold it to Fender who needed it for their IPO. The IPO fell on it's face and Fender then blew the whole thing up as they tried to salvage themselves as Fender. They sold it [snip] in 2007 and by then Charlie had been in the home (ndr nursing home) for 5-6 years so the bean counters had their way with Music. They killed his baby".
After the failure of the IPO, Fender started the demolition of this half a century old intellectual work of art, which culminated in the shutdown of the historic facility in New Hartford, CT on May 31, 2014 news, 48 years after the inauguration. After producing the last guitar, the historic plants of New Hartford would have finally decommissioned and 46 employees (mostly valiant Ovation master luthiers who had also produced some magnificent acoustics for Fender, Guild and Hamer) fired.
June 2015 brought some apparently good news: after acquiring the Ovation brand from FMI, the drum company DW Inc. signed a new loan contract for some space in the old New Hartford, CT building. It could have the beginning of a new and prosperous era for Ovation, but the after 2018 Summer NAMM - where DW unveiled a questionable line of depersonalised guitars - a press release dated August 3, 2018 announced the shutdown of the American production: "Ovation New Hartford, CT facility will cease operations to clear the way for the brand new direction". Is the final grace stroke for the glorious American brand?


Page top - Site home