Ovation Ultra GP: the ultimate "junk guitar".

After finding surprisingly little cohesive info about these guitars online, despite their current popularity, I decided to create this page as the ultimate Ovation Ultra GP resource. This page is a tribute to my all-time favorite guitar. As far as I know, this is the most complete and definitive story of this instrument. So here you go, everything you always wanted to know about the Ovation Ultra GP but were afraid to ask!

- Big Beat, the original GP fan since 1986.

 

Introduction

Public taste is notoriously fickle. Yesterday's unwanted junk often becomes today's desirable treasure, and yesterday's cool becomes today's marginalized kitsch. What people end up wanting retroactively can be vastly different from what they thought they wanted at the time, for many different reasons. Perceptions change. Witness the ascendance of the late 1950's Les Paul Standard over the (then) higher priced Custom, as well as the downfall of the once popular 1980's pointy hair metal guitars. These are just two of the most obvious examples. Sometimes sheer star power can be enough to catapult a once unpopular "junk" guitar into the spotlight, making it the envy of other guitarists all over the world. Such is the story of the Ovation Ultra GP.

If utter obscurity and lack of desirability, appreciatiation and respect are the defining criteria, then the GP is the ultimate "junk guitar". Ovation solidbodies never seem to get any respect, and this one got even less than most other Ovation electrics until very, very recently. The current demand for this model only underscores the irony and makes it the exception that proves the rule. This is the power of star endorsement in action. For over 20 years, I have seen nothing but ignorance and apathy towards the GP, and now all of a sudden everybody wants one. I have seen more GP's on eBay in the past two years than I did in the previous twenty, as eager sellers climb out of the woodwork and try to cash in on the fad.

If you are reading this, you are probably already aware that the Ovation Ultra GP is currently associated with Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age. Homme owns several of these guitars in addition to his original black one, and relies on them for his signature sound. Consequently, all his fans are going crazy trying to find a guitar like Homme's. Tough luck, because it's been out of production since 1984 and even then there were only a few hundred made. Prices are obviously high due to this demand, the average being about $2500 - $3000. I have even seen one GP offered for $10,000 on eBay in late 2003. Not that it sold at that insane price, but apparently the craze was bad enough to make someone hope to get that much.

I am not a fan of Josh Homme or his music. I've been into these guitars long before Homme entered the picture, and I'll still be into them long after he decides to play some other model and the copycats move on. If you're into QOTSA, that's cool too, but this page is about the Ovation Ultra GP. If you want to read about Josh Homme, go visit a fan page. I sincerely hope that people looking to buy a GP today do so out of appreciation for this great guitar itself, not just because Homme plays one.

 

Pre-history

While Ovation's revolutionary electric-acoustic guitars have been highly successful since the beginning, their solidbody electrics never achieved the recognition they deserved. Part of the reason was horrible timing, each and every time. The introduction of the Electric Storm series in 1968 couldn't have come at a worst time in modern guitar history. These guitars were introduced right when the guitar boom went bust, when even the major companies were going bankrupt, when absolutely nobody was buying. The Deacons, Vipers and Preachers of the 1970's never quite took off either. These innovative guitars always had their fans and proponents, but left the general public cold. In the middle of the copy era, these guitars had bizarre shapes, and while everyone was customizing their axes with aftermarket humbuckers and brass hardware, the Ovations had non-interchangeable parts and could not easily be upgraded. Again, the timing was bad, especially considering that these models were phased out just when the craze for funny shapes was beginning to take off. And when Ovation introduced the Hardbody series in 1984, it happened again. Just when everybody wanted some wild, pointy guitar or a beefy super-strat shredder in these early days of hair metal, here was a bunch of very traditional looking models, saddled with a dumb name to boot. Hardbody? Puh-lease! After this last debacle, Ovation finally gave up. It made more sense for Kaman to stop producing their own electrics and buy Hamer instead. Had they introduced the GP a few years later, when vintage styling was "in" and pointy guitars suffered a severe backlash, the model would almost certainly have been far more successful.

The story of the GP begins in 1980. By then, the Vipers and Breadwinners were yesterday's news, and Ovation was looking for something new to compete in the solidbody guitar market. During the previous year, Peavey came out with the Chip Todd designed T-60 model, the first solidbody electric produced with modern computerized carving machines. "I worked 22 years for this guitar!" read the ads, which showed Hartley Peavey sitting on an amp, holding the T-60. According to Bill Kaman, "Randy Hess, [Ovation's] ad mgr, said we should do an ad with me sitting on the can, holding the guitar, and the headline would be "It took me 22 minutes to create this guitar". Since we were going to kick Peavey's ass with this model, we called it the "Peavey F*cker". Hence the PF-22. Years later, I told Hartley about it and we both had a good laugh over it."

The PF-22 was the first Ovation solidbody with a set neck. The joint was similar to the regular bolt-on joint, but the neck was glued in and the holes in the body pocket area were used for wooden dowels to align it. The company also learned from its past mistakes, now using standard-size pickups that were interchangeable with aftermarket replacements. This model never made it to full production and only about 25 PF-22's were built in 1980. Nevertheless, the PF-22 served as a kind of test-bed and prototype for the design that eventually became the GP, or at least it seems that way retroactively. The two guitars are actually quite similar, and one only has to put the pair of them next to each other to realize where the GP shape evolved from. Then it becomes quite obvious. Cross a Les Paul with the PF-22, and you've got the GP.

Family resemblance: the PF-22 (left) and the GP. (PF-22 pic taken from Baron Audio)

History

So what did actually happen? Well, Ovation did cease solidbody guitar production in late 1983, but before they did, there were plans to market a lower priced import line, as Fender was then beginning to do with the Squier series. The plug was pulled before this idea came to fruition, but not before the first batch of bodies arrived from Korea. Despite the fact that Ovation was officially out of the solidbody market, there was no sense in wasting these bodies, especially since some half-hearted attempts were already made to market this new line of guitars. A couple of half-page ads were placed in Guitar Player magazine (and possibly a few others) and some catalogs were printed up. And so, those parts that had already arrived did get assembled into guitars and sold, just to get rid of the stock. Ovation got rid of these guitars as fast as they could and moved on to other endeavors. A shame, really, because these were truly great guitars. With dedicated backing and proper promotion, they might have been far more successful.

Originally, Ovation had designed three models that were going to be produced in Korea: the GP, the GS and the UB. The series was collectively called the Ultra Hard Bodies, and the model abbreviations stood for Guitar Paul, Guitar Strat and Ultra Bass, respectively. Why "Hard Bodies" instead of simply solidbodies? This was a misguided attempt by Ovation's marketing department to try something different, but the silly name never took off. Bill Kaman: "Jerry Freed, who was with IMC at that time, convinced the marketing people that this idea would work and yes, I bought into it too. Korean wood, American or Schaller parts, assembled in the States. Sounds good in theory. To top it off, the marketing pukes felt it needed a different name, so they were the Hard Bodies. Anyhow, that didn't work."

This ad appeared in the March 1985 issue of Guitar Player magazine.

According to Bill Kaman, these Korean necks and bodies were made for Ovation on special order by Samick. The largest Korean guitar producer, Samick manufactures many different lines for other companies, the most famous being Epiphone. Although far better known for inexpensive student models, Samick is occasionally capable of greatness. The Ovation Hardbody series is the perfect example of what can happen when the Koreans build guitars to specifications, rather than a price point. But the cool thing about the Hardbodies was that these guitars were actually assembled in the USA. While these instruments were not totally American made like the earlier Ovation solidbodies, the assembly quality was still far superior to most regular imports. The American assembly is part of what gives the GP its special magic. Since assembling these guitars was pretty much a sideline to the company's main production, they were shuffled around the Kaman facilities, with some guitars built in Marion, North Carolina and others at the New Hartford, Connecticut factory. This probably accounts for minor discrepancies on some examples, such as Grovers on some guitars and Schallers on others. There have also been reports of GP's with non-standard features, such as ash bodies and Korean look-alike pickups instead of the specified DiMarzio Super-2's. Nevertheless, all GP's are extremely well made with true American quality and workmanship. A lot of effort went into the fit and finish. It almost feels like the builders went that extra step, because it was such a limited run. And that extra effort made all the difference. Like many others, this guitar was a deliberate attempt to do a Gibson Les Paul one better. Unlike many others, it actually did. I have seen Gibsons with far worse workmanship and assembly quality than the GP.

Because it was such a half-hearted attempt, the 1984 Hardbody series was always considered something of a footnote. It was the last gasp for Ovation electrics, and ultimately, the last straw for the company. Not surprisingly, when the guitars failed to ignite the marketplace, the fiasco was quickly swept under the rug. For many years, the Hardbodies were never even acknowledged or mentioned in the official Ovation chronology. Walter Carter's Ovation book glosses over the whole episode and dismisses it within a couple of short paragraphs. And before the book came out in 1996, I couldn't even confirm the GP's existence. Throughout the 1980's, I was convinced that my GP was some kind of one-off or prototype. Not a single guitar dealer or historian could tell me otherwise, because nobody had ever seen another. Not until the Josh Homme fans started buying up the remaining GP's and filling every guitar forum on the Internet with anxious questions, was any definitive light shed on the subject.

There is still some controversy about the total number made. At the time, nobody cared much for keeping accurate production records for these guitars, and whatever records might have existed are long since lost. Being built at different facilities didn't help. Various sources give figures between 250 and 800, with 400 being the most likely estimate. Sources at Ovation will give nothing more specific than "a few hundred". They really don't remember, and they still don't care much.

The GP was the very last solidbody to bear the Ovation name.


Key Features

While the marketing department may have goofed with the "Hard Bodies" campaign, the GP's designers did a fantastic job. Ovation retained many classic Gibson Les Paul features, such as mahogany and maple, set neck, arched top construction, 24.75" scale and the wiring schematic (2 humbuckers with classic Les Paul-type controls: two volumes, two tones and a 3-way switch). The most obvious difference is the upper horn. Bill Kaman: "It's a LP knockoff with a bass horn that has the same conceptual shape as the treble horn. We came up with the design. By extending the horn it made the guitar more balanced hanging on a strap. It looked good too."

But the GP was more than just a dual-cutaway Les Paul. The GP also has a sleek blended heel, a totally seamless transition between the neck and the body, which makes the guitar incredibly comfortable and a real pleasure to play on the upper frets. This type of neck joint was a radical departure from any Gibson - or from any Ovation, for that matter. The original idea actually came from B.C. Rich. Bill Kaman: "I was into those, great guitars. Back when Bernie was there."

The guitar also had the classic Ovation headstock shape with a block logo that lacked the famous Ovation bowl. The GP featured the same bound rosewood fretboard with notched block inlays as the UK2, Ovation's top-of-the-line electric in the early 1980's. The hardware was also top notch: Schaller wraparound bridges and either Schaller or Grover tuners. The classic GP tone is courtesy of DiMarzio, powered by a pair of DP-104 Super-2 humbuckers.

Overall, the GP is a very distinctive package and a rare example of a design where everything just came together perfectly, made right the first time.


Specifications:

Make: Ovation
Model: GP1-S (model no. 1431e)
Year: 1984 only
Type: solidbody electric
Construction: set neck, blended heel
Body: mahogany with flame maple veneer top (catalog specifies "hardwood")
Neck: mahogany
Fretboard: rosewood w/pearloid notched block inlays
Binding: neck, body (top only)
Frets: 22
Scale: 24.75"
Width at nut: 1.69"
Pickups: 2 DiMarzio DP-104 Super-2 humbuckers
Controls: 2 volume, 2 tone, 3-way switch
Hardware: chrome
Tuners: Schaller or Grover
Bridge: Schaller wraparound stop-tail
Manufactured: Korea (Samick)
Assembled: USA
Colors: black, honey sunburst, cherry sunburst, wine red
Number produced: 250 to 800 (400 estimated; sources vary)
Original list price: $399

 

The Applause GP

Towards the very end of the run, a few GP's were labeled as Applause, rather than Ovation. Why this was done is anybody's guess. Either it was an attempt to blow out the last few guitars even cheaper, just to be rid of them, or maybe Ovation simply wanted to disassociate themselves from what they saw as a failure. In any case, the Applause GP is exactly the same as the Ovation GP. Other than the name on the headstock, nothing was changed. I suppose the Applause GP's are even more rare than the regular GP's, but somehow I doubt that this additional rarity makes them any more valuable or desirable.

The Applause GP. Photos courtesy of Tobias Albert.



The GS and UB: GP's sisters

While the GS ("Guitar Strat") guitar and the UB ("Ultra Bass") bass are both decent instruments, they are not of the same quality as the GP. These are basically your typical Korean Fender clones, slightly better than average due to their American assembly, but without that spark of greatness that marks the GP. The GS does have cool Mosrite-style German carving around the edges of the body, rather unusual for a Strat-style guitar, and one UB model had a vibrato, again something not too commonly found on a P-bass knockoff. While neither is common, exactly, there also seems to have been far more of them produced compared to the GP, so finding one today should not be a major problem. Prices are still very reasonable, sometimes as low as $200. The GS and UB are both real sleepers and offer quite a lot of guitar for the money, not to mention the versatility, exclusivity and interesting history. But when all is said and done, they are merely copy guitars. There's simply not much there to get excited about. Until somebody like Josh Homme homes in on one and the demand skyrockets, that is.

The GS series consisted of six models: 1412, 1413, 1414, 1415, 1418 and 1419. These had every possible pickup combination with single, double and triple pickups, with and without pickguard. As with the GP, the pickups were by DiMarzio and included a choice of the DP-100 Super Distortion, the DP-103 PAF, the DP-108 single coils, and the DP-101 offset humbuckers, depending on the model. The vibratos were either a Kahler Flyer or a traditional fulcrum type. These guitars had 21 fret, bolt-on maple necks with either maple or rosewood fretboards. There were 6 finish colors available: black, white, red, blue, sunburst and natural. Prices started at $319 for a single-pickup GS.

The two Ultra basses were models 1451 (UB1-S) and 1453 (UB1-K). The 1451 had the standard Schaller bridge, and the 1453 had a Kahler bass vibrato unit. Talk about a wild ride! You don't see too many whammy bars on basses. Both models had the DiMarzio DP-122 split P-bass type pickup. The scale was 34". Most other specifications and colors were the same as the GS.

This 1984 catalog shows the entire line of Ovation Hardbodies, including the GP's, the GS's and the UB's. Unfortunately, this is the best image I have. If you have a copy of this catalog and can scan it for me, I would greatly appreciate it. Please contact me at junkguitars@earthlink.net


Cases

There were special form-fitting cases made for the Ultra series guitar and basses, listed in the catalog as models 9127 (UB), 9128 (GS) and 9129 (GP). These were either black with blue lining or brown with pink lining. Neither had any markings to identify it as Ovation. The brown cases seem to be a little more common than the black ones.

The GP in its original case.


The Eastwood GP reissue

In 2005, Eastwood Guitars reissued the GP. I have mixed feelings about these. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is still no substitute for the real thing. There are too many subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the Eastwood and the original GP, and some key features have been compromised. Though the Eastwood is an excellent GP-style guitar for a fraction of the price, it's just not the same. For starters, it lacks the blended heel, which alone is enough to ruin it for me. The new headstock shape spoils the GP's clean looks and appears totally incongruous, kind of like reissuing the '58 Les Paul with a Teisco head. Minor differences in body shape and hardware are easier to forgive, but they certainly don't help.

According to Eastwood's Michael Robinson, they wanted to get the guitar exactly like the original, but a few things got in the way. Making an accurate reissue with the blended heel would be prohibitively expensive today. The body shape had to be compromised slightly, or it would have entailed additional expenses for custom jigs. The headstock shape had to be changed to avoid legal issues. And so on… Had there been enough of a market for these guitars, it might have made sense to get everything right. Alas, there was no more market for a GP in 2005 than there was in 1985, and so Eastwood had to cut some corners to get the guitar to sell at a certain price point (under $700). To do a REAL one, it would have had to sell for a lot more. Of course, most people who never owned an original GP wouldn't be as critical of the Eastwood reissue as I am. But once you have experienced the original, all you notice is these unfortunate discrepancies. As it stands, the Eastwood GP is marketed as a "tribute", not a reissue, which is fair.

Still, the Eastwood nails the overall GP vibe, in spite of all those inaccuracies. By all accounts, these guitars are an excellent value for the money and I applaud Eastwood for their effort. But I still think that Ovation should put out a proper authorized GP reissue, built to original specs and marketed properly. They can call it a Hamer Josh Homme Signature Model if they must, but please just get it right. The GP deserves a second chance. Anyone from Kaman reading this?


Frequently Asked GP Questions

Q: Where can I find one?
A: You and everybody else. Good luck, kid, the line starts way over there. Keep your eyes open and some day fortune will smile upon you. Try eBay for starters. Have about $2500 ready.

Q: What year was my GP made?
A: GP's were made for one year only, 1984. Some sources give various dates from 1983 to 1987, but that seems unlikely. Any 1983 GP had to have been a prototype, and these guitars were not marketed after 1985. When I bought my GP in 1986, it was already a discontinued model. The GS and UB models may have stayed in production for an extra year (unconfirmed), simply because there were more of them to assemble.

Q: How many GP's were made, exactly?
A: Nobody has the exact figure, not even Ovation. The numbers cited range from 250 to 800 to "a few hundred", with 400 being the most likely estimate.

Q: What does "GP" stand for?
A: "Guitar Paul", as in "Les Paul". The GP was Ovation's answer to Gibson, and an excellent answer it was!

Q: Is the GP really better than a Les Paul?
A: I wouldn't hesitate to match my GP up against any Les Paul of similar vintage. I own a '74 Les Paul Custom as well, and the GP eats it for breakfast. Sure, there are better guitars out there, but any guitar that can match the GP in tone, playability, quality and craftsmanship will probably cost you twice as much, and still won't have the GP's blended heel.

Q: All QOTSA hype aside, just what's so special about it?
A: It is simply a beautiful, well-designed and extremely well-made instrument with an interesting history and its own unique voice. A happy instance of something that came together just right and ended up with a little spark of magic beyond the sum of its parts.

Q: What is my GP worth? Will it go up in value?
A: The going rate as of 2005 seems to be about $2500 - $3000, depending on condition and originality. This rather inflated price is of course due to competition from QOTSA fans, though to some extent it does reflect the instrument's quality and extreme rarity. My opinion is that the GP is inherently worth around $1500, same as a Gibson Les Paul of similar vintage. That is its true value, and it is probably the best $1500 used guitar that you can buy. Anything above that is due solely to the Josh Homme factor. I am ambivalent about this phenomenon and would prefer to see this fad subside, so that people could seek out the GP for its own virtues, at more reasonable prices. I also believe that the price will drop as soon as Homme switches to another model and the copycats move on. Those who buy GP's solely for speculation may end up holding the bag. Those who buy them for keeps already know that these guitars are absolutely priceless.

Q: Is the GP American made?
A: The bodies and necks were made in Korea by Samick. However, the guitars were assembled in the USA.

Q: But wasn't it just a $400 import?
A: Keep in mind that $400 in Reagan-era dollars bought far more guitar than it would today. But even so, the GP is arguably the highest quality solidbody model that Ovation ever built, despite its relatively low price. A lack of a clear, dedicated marketing strategy combined with a "let's-blow-these-out" attitude meant that the pricing didn't really reflect the quality and craftsmanship that went into these guitars. The GP was priced only slightly above the GS, despite being a far more deluxe instrument. At $399 list, it was an exceptional value. It probably should have been a totally separate high-end series instead of being a part of the whole Hardbody thing with the GS. I wouldn't be surprised if Ovation actually lost money on these.

Q: My GP doesn't match the listed specs! It has different pickups! (tuners, potentiometers, knobs, etc.)
A: First, make sure that your guitar is fully original. It may have been repaired or modified by previous owners. However, I have heard of GP's with Korean-made pickups that look identical to the DiMarzios, different potentiometers, Grovers instead of Schaller tuners and other such minor differences. Since these guitars were assembled in at least two different locations and Ovation was trying to get rid of them rather quickly, it is reasonable to assume that there were some variations. At the time, nobody cared much about such minor trifles.

A: What colors were available? Is any one color rarer than the others?
Q: There were four colors: black, honey sunburst, cherry sunburst and wine red. Cherry sunburst is dark-red-to-lighter-red, and honey sunburst is red-to-yellow. Wine red is of course my personal favorite. Black and red GP's are the rarest; the sunburst ones are a little more common. There have been rumors of a white GP sighting. White was never offered officially, so if it exists, it must be either a prototype or a non-factory refinish.

The GP is a stunning beauty in any color. (Pics taken from eBay auctions)

Q: Did Ovation make any other set-neck electrics?
A: No. The GP was Ovation's only production model to feature set-neck construction. With the exception of the PF-22 prototypes, all others had bolt-on necks.

Q: I heard this guitar referred to as the GP, the GP1-S and the 1431e. I'm confused. What's the difference? Are these all the same guitar?
A: 1431e is standard Ovation model numbering, and GP1-S is the actual full model designation. Just like all the other Ovation solidbodies, the GP has both a name and a model number. All of the above numbers refer to the same guitar.

Q: Does the serial number indicate date of manufacture or number of instruments produced?
A: The GP serial numbers, found on a small gold foil sticker on the back of the headstock, are pretty meaningless. They indicate neither date of manufacture nor order of production. It is also easy enough for the sticker to rub off. If your GP has no serial number, all it means is that the sticker came off. It doesn't automatically make your guitar a "rare pre-serial number prototype".

Q: Are Josh Homme's GP's stock or modified?
A: I have heard that Homme drills his GP's for through-the-body stringing, supposedly to increase sustain. If he can butcher a rare and beautiful instrument like that, I have no respect for him. Not only is this a really dumb thing to do, it is also totally unnecessary. A stock GP already has more sustain than most people know what to do with. Not to mention that it looks stupid on this type of guitar and totally devalues it. I honestly hope that you DO NOT commit any such atrocities with your GP, just because somebody famous did.

Q: How can I modify my GP to make it even better?
A: You cannot improve perfection. Seriously. If you absolutely must mess up a guitar, please experiment with something modern and mass-produced, not a rare vintage classic. Some GP's do show up with replaced pickups, but there are far more people trying to track down the original stock Super-2's than there are people who still think that replacing them is a good idea. Which should tell you something. If you insist, make sure you save the originals. You will probably want to put them back in, too.

Q: Where can I find replacement pickups?
A: DiMarzio still makes the Super-2's, but they no longer have the same covers. They are, however, otherwise identical. If you want to restore your GP to the original look as well as sound, you will have to look for vintage Super-2's on eBay and elsewhere. They are fairly rare, but not impossible to find, as they were used on a variety of other guitars back in the day, and were also available as aftermarket replacements.

Q: What's the deal with the Eastwood GP tribute/reissue?
A: I haven't played the Eastwood GP, but I'm sure it's a great axe for the money, like most Eastwoods. Just don't buy it thinking it's the same as the original GP. It lacks the seamless blended heel, which was one of the original GP's best features. There are other differences as well.

Q: Why do you call the GP a "junk guitar"? It's a great guitar, not junk at all!
A: That's precisely my point. Ironic, isn't it? The GP is a fantastic guitar, an instrument of excellent quality and not cheesy in the least. However, when I bought my GP in 1986, it was considered a dog. Nobody wanted these guitars, the kids laughed at them and the dealers called them junk because they didn't sell. The GP was pretty much Ovation's Edsel. But we know better today, right? Perceptions change. What some people consider (or once considered) junk, really isn't junk at all. This is one of the reasons why this site is called JUNK GUITARS.

 

Me and my GP

I bought my GP used in 1986 for $100. At that point I already had my old Silvertone archtop, but this was my first electric guitar. I simply walked into a music store and said, "What have you got for $100?" I thought that was a lot of money, and it was all I had. They laughed and said they can sell me "one of them discontinued Partridge Family guitars" (the Partridge Family featured Ovation electrics prominently on their TV show in the 70's, which didn't help the company's image and street credibility one bit). They pulled my GP out of the back somewhere, making fun of it all the way. But for me, it was love at first sight. I remember thinking how beautiful she was, all cherry red just like Chuck Berry's Gibson.

My band mates disagreed, and thought me a fool for buying some old-fashioned used guitar instead of a flashy new Ibanez or Kramer. Why, the guitar didn't even have a whammy bar, what good was it? They persuaded me to take it to another store and trade it in for something more suited to the band's image, something pointy with a Floyd Rose. Discouraged, I took the guitar to three other music stores. To this day, I break out in a cold sweat when I remember how easily I would have given it up then, had anyone offered me my hundred bucks back! But nobody did. The best offer I got was my guitar plus $50… in trade for a new Squier. Now I didn't know much in those days, but I knew that my guitar was better than a Squier, whammy bar or no whammy bar. I got mad and told the guys that if they wanted me in the band, they're getting my guitar, too, and if they don't like it, they can stick one of those pointy Kramers up their ass.

As I spent more time with my new guitar, I realized that I had instinctively chosen the best possible instrument for myself. Within a week or two, I knew that I would never sell it. It's hard to distinguish hype from substance when you're a teenage kid, but even then I understood that my GP was the real deal. In a way, its underdog status appealed to me more than owning some fancy, popular model would have. Sticking up for the underdog has always been a matter of defiance, and defiance is exactly what Rock 'n' Roll is all about. I ignored all further jeers, and just persevered with my music. I paid my dues and eventually became a good enough player to do my guitar justice. As I started to win respect for my music, I also won grudging respect for the guitar I played. The derision stopped and the compliments began. So she wasn't a popular Kramer or Ibanez, so what? In the end, what really matters is the music, anyway.

One day, I realized that my guitar was the only one of its kind that I had ever seen. I became interested in finding out more about it. I wrote to Ovation and got no answer. This was before the Internet, so info was pretty hard to come by. I took it to knowledgeable dealers, collectors, guitar shows. But nobody could tell me anything I didn't already know. Not even Steven Cherne, who photographed my GP for the second edition of the Blue Book guitar price guide in 1995. Until the Ovation book came out in 1996, all I got was "nope, never saw one". Nevertheless, everyone who did see my guitar agreed that it really was something special. Eventually, with some help, I pieced the entire story together. Over the years, as I researched this model's history, I have corresponded through letters, e-mails and online forums with many knowledgeable Ovation collectors and historians, including Walter Carter (author of the Ovation book), George Gruhn (leading guitar historian), Bill Kaman (president of Ovation Guitars) and various members of the Ovation Fan Club. And then in October 2002, Josh Homme, who also knew a good thing when he saw it, appeared with his Ultra GP on the cover of Guitar Player magazine. And suddenly the trend changed. Overnight, everybody seemed to want a GP.

My Ovation Ultra GP has been my workhorse since 1986 and is still going strong. She was used on countless gigs and recordings, has seen me at my best and at my worst. I have had hundreds of guitars go through my hands over the years, some that were far more valuable. I had no problem letting any of them go, but not this one. These days, she gets a lot of admiration from people who come up at gigs to ask about her. The world has finally caught up with my guitar. Not that it matters much to me. I loved her back when I was the only one to see anything special in her, and I don't love her any less today, just because she suddenly became hip and trendy. Maybe it's just a guitar, but a musician's choice of weapon is pretty serious business. Our choices reflect our deeper personality. Perhaps that's how it should be. Some of us tend to make choices that garner instant majority approval, and some of us prefer to go our own way and hold out until popular opinion catches up with us. If there's any moral to the story, I guess it's this: if you truly believe in something and stick to your guns long enough, eventually the recognition will come. So forgive me if I gloat just a little, now that my used, obscure, unwanted $100 "junk guitar" is an ultra-desirable $3000 collector's item. I earned that right.

The author with his Ovation Ultra GP in 1986.


Sources, links, acknowledgements and special thanks:

Ovation Guitars, Bill Kaman, Walter Carter, George Gruhn, Steven Cherne, Ovation Fan Club, Baron Audio, Samova, Brian Shupe, John DeSilva, Tobias Albert, Eastwood Guitars, Harmony Central.


© 2005-2006 JunkGuitars.com. All rights reserved.

 

Home | Stories | Pictures | Forum | F.A.Q | For Sale | Links | My Music

1