Friday, July 19, 2013

Applause AE-15 12-string

Space-age technology, indestructible neck

Found this guy on eBay listed as a "project" guitar. I asked the seller what was wrong with it. He said the action was a little high. Huh? That's a project? I learned to play guitar on a cheap Kay acoustic in the '60s... high action don't bother me! (The action on this guitar wasn't really all that high, anyway, until you get up around the 7th, 8th, 9th frets. And who plays a 12-string up there??) Anyway, I think I got the good deal because nobody else bothered to ask what "project" involved.

This is a cool, and rather unique, guitar from the late '70s or early '80s. It is one of Kaman Music's great experiments. (Kaman is the maker of Ovation guitars.) The Applause line, of course, had the standard Ovation rounded "Lyramold" back. But Kaman was always on the cutting edge, and for these new guitars, the entire neck and headstock assembly was redesigned. Rather than a standard, pieced-together wood neck/headstock/fretboard combination, the Applause neck contained a piece of die-cast aluminum combining headstock, fretboard, frets, and central core in a single assembly. The neck itself was made from molding material called Urelite, made up to look and feel like mahogany. I think the only thing wood on the entire guitar is the (laminate) top. Here is an Applause brochure from the period, detailing how the guitar is constructed, with pictures.

Unlike later Applause models, which were manufactured overseas, this one was made at the Kaman/Ovation factory in Connecticut. Also, Applause was a separate company from Ovation at that point. Notice the soundhole sticker does not say "Applause by Ovation," as they do now, but instead simply "Applause - A Kaman Music Product." Kaman did not combine the two companies until later.

Sounds nice. Plays nice (if you stay away from those upper frets...). Has an under-saddle pickup, so you can plug it in, and it sounds pretty good that way, too. About the only negative is that the neck feels very heavy and unbalanced. But if you play it sitting down, you really don't notice. At this writing (July, 2013), I still have this guitar. It's kinda cool.

Here is a little more info on the history of Applause guitars (and these aluminum-neck models in particular), for those who are interested.

Applause AE-15 12-string
Applause AE-15 12-string

Applause AE-15 12-string soundhole label
Applause AE-15 12-string soundhole label

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4, 1976: The Bicentennial of the U.S. My story...

I was living in Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty.

I spent the night of the 4th in a Philadelphia jail, after squinting too closely at the badge number of one of Philly's Finest, who was in the process of dropping a series of f-bombs on a poor foreign tourist couple who barely spoke English and who had the audacity to appear to have been asking the cop for directions. Welcome to Amerika...

The cops, of course, had been ordered by Hizzoner Frank Rizzo to round up all the radicals and hippies, who he said were planning on blowing up City Hall, Independence Hall, or both. Police in riot gear ringed City Hall, which is where the unfortunate foreign couple and myself had our little run-ins with them.

My cellmate for the night was the Chief of Staff for New Jersey Congressman James Florio. I forget the guy's name right now, but I actually still have the business card he gave me around here somewhere. He said they brought him in for walking the wrong way down a one-way street. Yes, you read that correctly... WALKING the wrong way down a one-way street. Again, welcome to Amerika... welcome to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty....

Of course, in the morning they just turned us both loose. No hearing, no trial, no lawyer, not even any charges. Just pull us in because they didn't like our looks (and to fill up the jails so Hizzoner wouldn't look like a paranoid fool when the riots he'd been predicting for months never happened), whack us with billy clubs a few times, hold us overnight, then turn us loose.

We did file complaints and, so they tell us, got reprimands placed in the cops' records. But I never saw any reprimands. I suspect they were just talking out their you-know-wheres to shut us up. (And, yes, I made a point to MEMORIZE the damned badge number during my ride in the paddy wagon....)

I was not yet 22 at the time, and I remember thinking I'd have something interesting to tell my grandchildren sometime when I got older. They would be studying about the Bicentennial, and I'd say, "Kids, do you know what I did on the Bicentennial?"

Now I have those grandchildren... so now you guys know how Grandpa spent the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. And in Philadelphia, no less.  :-)

So that's my 4th of July story. Just remember that your liberty is far more fragile than you realize. And that the biggest threats to it are generally internal rather than external.