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Ovation Vintage Guitars

by Carolyn Nierman

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The story of the history of Ovation is not your typical guitar story. Charles Kaman, the maker of Ovation vintage guitars, didn't set out to be a guitar builder. In fact, when he started the Kaman Corporation in 1945, he built military helicopters. However, as demand for the helicopters began to decrease, Kaman quickly saw the need to expand his business offerings.

Looking at several different expansion possibilities, Kaman considered his options for expansion until fate decided to help him make the leap. Throughout his youth Kaman had played guitar as a hobby. Before entering college, Kaman played in a jazz combo; his band was given the opportunity to open for Tommy Dorsey at one engagement. Dorsey was impressed with what he saw and offered Kaman a position in his orchestra. However, practicality overrode his hope for a musical career, and Kaman decided to continue on to college as planned.

Even as he built helicopters years later, Kaman kept guitars hanging in his office to play when the fancy struck him. After one of his guitars developed a cracked back, Kaman took a trip to have the guitar repaired. That trip and subsequent tour of the Martin guitar factory showed Kaman that his helicopter-building skills would find a use in the guitar business.

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Kaman went to work developing his own type of guitar. Not wanting the problems like cracked guitar backs that his competitors experienced due to shrinking wood in the instruments, Kaman decided to use fiberglass in the body of his guitars. The use of this composite material stopped his instruments susceptibility to heat and humidity changes as well as improved the sound transmission of the guitars.

Production of the Ovation vintage guitar began in 1966. Kaman first approached Jazz legend Charlie Byrd with his new creation. Although Byrd loved the way the Ovation guitar sounded, the Ovation was a steel-stringed guitar and Byrd favored classic guitars. Ovation later created a classic guitar and Byrd used it at his performances.

In the meantime, Byrd suggested that Kaman show the Ovation to folk singer Josh White. White loved the sound of the Ovation and ordered one to his exact specifications. He became the first performer to endorse the Ovation guitar.

Ovation vintage guitars found its big breakthrough endorsement in Glen Campbell. Campbell, who toured with Ricky Nelson and accompanied the Beach Boys, eventually became famous in his own right. Everything about the Ovation guitar appealed to Campbell. He liked the sound and durability of the Ovation.

Ovation vintage guitars rich history, coupled with their popularity among modern-day stars like Melissa Etheridge make owning one of these special instruments a collectors dream. Available in a multitude of locations, vintage guitars can be found by searching local music shops, as well as classified listings.
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