Monday, August 6, 2012

Ryan Adams: Wasted Years

For my Monday Mélange feature, I found an acoustic live version of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” by American Ryan Adams. It was recorded nearly a year ago on Dutch radio station 3FM during Giel Beelen’s morning show. This is a nice interpretation of this tune.

The guitar Ryan is playing is a Buck Owens American, which was based on the prototype that Owens played on the very popular, but corny, TV show “Hee-Haw.” This guitar saw its rounds through a number of guitar companies. The original that Owens played was custom built by Semie Mosely of Mosrite Guitars, which was based in the same town as Owens – Bakersfield California.

Owens took the design to Chicago Musical Instruments and their Gibson division patented the instrument. While Gibson did not manufacture the guitar, CMI licensed the design to Harmony Guitars and they mass produced the instrument for sale at Sears & Roebuck under their Silvertone brand. The price was $82.95. A chipboard case was sold at $9.50. Owens received $2.50 for each guitar sold. It is estimated that over 5,000 of these guitars were sold.

The 1971 Sears catalog, advertised the guitar thusly:

Buck Owens Red, White and Blue American Guitar. Add color, great sound to the country and western scene with this Buck Owens grand-concert size guitar. $82.95. Bold stripes, bright stars, great response in this guitar that sounds as free-spirited as it looks. Select spruce top, finest wood for vibrant resonances. Bound rosewood fingerboard with 7 position markers that guide you to sure chording; 5 side markers, steel strings. Rosewood bridge; adjustable steel-rod reinforced neck prevents warping. Hardwood back and sides. Celluloid bound top and bottom edges. Celluloid headpiece with white edging. Individually covered machine heads. Red, White and blue flat-top guitar. Instruction book, pick. Guitar measures 40 1/2 x 15 1/8 x 4 1/8.

So it was a guitar designed by Mosrite, patented by Gibson, licensed by Chicago Musical Instruments, built by Harmony, marketed as a Silvertone, and branded as the “Buck Owens American.” Got that? How many of these do you see today – not very many.

While I thought this was a hokey instrument in its day, it appears from this Ryan Adams’ video that it really sounds great and must play great as well. By the way, Harmony’s Sovereign brand later reissued these guitars in a slightly different configuration. I believe these were made in Asia during the early 2000s and can be purchased via the Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace Country Store for under $500.

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