Sunday, October 26, 2008
1961 Harmony Rocket
Story submitted by Alex Herrlein
Besides the fact that I can't afford a Gibson or a "real" vintage guitar, I actually always liked the old Harmonys. I remember seeing a kid in high school's Harmony Meteor, and maybe I had that image stuck in my head when I bought this one. I was in Yellow Springs, Ohio one day and saw a little shop that had a bunch of older-lady-looking crafts in the front room, but...some guitars were peeking out from the back. I got this one for the tag price plus tax, which made it $106. The neck pickup didn't work, it was missing half of the original white pickguard, and a couple knobs were mismatched.
Otherwise, it was pretty cool. Great sunburst finish, quite playable action, and a good sound out of the remaining DeArmond-Rowe pickup. I had no idea they would be more collectable down the road, so I installed Ping tuners on it, since I really wanted it to stay in tune more than anything. I also found a sort-of-replacement tortoiseshell pickguard to replace the broken white one, which helped the looks a lot. I strung it up with heavier strings to get a little more acoustic volume, but it was definitely a garage-a-billy guitar more than a jazzer, which was fine with me. After being pretty happy with it for a while, I decided to try to fix the silent neck pickup.
That became one of those "can't leave well enough alone" events.
The inside didn't look like other guitars with the wires inside these coiled metal shields. To make a long story short, I never got the pickup working, but did manage to unground it in a howling, buzzing kind of way. Since I couldn't figure out how to undo that, I took it to a vintage-oriented store, and got $150 back on my $106 investment. I've tried owning some other cheaper hollowbody guitars before and since, but none that I actually missed playing. Maybe one day I'll buy another one when I really need to dispose of some disposable income.