Ovation Ultra GP: the ultimate "junk
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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")
Fretboard: rosewood w/pearloid notched block inlays
Binding: neck, body (top only)
Width at nut: 1.69"
Pickups: 2 DiMarzio DP-104 Super-2 humbuckers
Controls: 2 volume, 2 tone, 3-way switch
Tuners: Schaller or Grover
Bridge: Schaller wraparound stop-tail
Manufactured: Korea (Samick)
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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
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
Q: Does the serial number indicate date of manufacture or number of instruments
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
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
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
© 2005-2006 JunkGuitars.com. All rights reserved.