Uh, yes, that DOES say nine string. Kind of like half a 12-string. Sort of.
When I first moved to California in 1987 I didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t have much for guitars. I did have a 1984 Ovation Collector’s Series guitar which, at the time, I was pretty proud of. I didn’t know too much about the guitar stores in my area, so one day on my day off I decided to drive around and see what was within driving distance. I ended up in Escondido, which is about 20 minutes from where I lived. There was an okay looking music store on the corner downtown and I parked and walked in. I quickly spied something I had never seen before and then didn’t see again for about 17 years. A nine-string guitar. WHAT YOU SAY? It looked like a normal dreadnought at first glance, then I saw the extra tuners. I thought, “Oh, a 12-string. I’ll check it out.”
When I picked it up I realized that the top 3 bass side strings were single, like a six-string, but the bottom three treble side strings were doubled, like a 12-string. What a great idea! Why wasn’t this more popular? For a rhythm player like myself it makes perfect sense...you can get that nice ringing strum on the highs, but can still dig in a bit on the low end without the doubled effect.
That guitar was always in the back of my mind, but I never saw one again. Then one day I decided to Google for “9-string” and came across a posting in a forum from 3 or 4 years previous. I decided to email the address on the post and see if anyone answered. Believe it or not, the guy wrote back and said he had JUST decided to consider selling it so he could buy a nice Martin. He said he’d take $500 for it, which was what he had paid years ago. Deal. When I got it, the pickguard was about to fall off, and the top was banged up a lot more than his description indicated, but all in all it was in fine condition. And it sounded really nice. I have only played a few Yairis in my time, but they all have sounded very nice and probably deserve more attention than they get. I added a pickup to the guitar so I could use it live and I always got asked after a gig what the deal is with the 9-string. Plus I had added a vintage water decal from the Oklahoma Flying Farmers association...not sure what it was, but I THINK it was a group of farmers who enjoyed parachuting. Really.