A Fascinating Coincidence... The Harmony Patrician

A fascinating coincidence 
I have been performing on some level since I was 13 years old and over the years I have had an adventure or two. On occasion, I have been known to forget something either going to or leaving a gig. I have forgotten a microphone, mic cables, mic stands, speaker cables, extension cords, picks, and capo’s. In other words just about every accessory that you can think of and use at a gig. Once, after a gig, I forgot to shut the rear hatch on my Volkswagen bus and drove nearly forty miles home with a stack of guitars on the rear deck. I was very lucky one or all didn’t bounce out on the highway.

One night I left three guitars at the Greenville in Chagrin Falls. Jimmy, the manager, was sitting at the bar with a grin on his face when I came in the next day. He said I figured you would show up as soon as we opened. I did.

This week was a new one. I drove 47 miles to play at the Jenks Building in Cuyahoga Falls. This is a new venue for me and I was excited to be performing there. The place is a hub for a community of artists, with gallery and retail space, and several performance areas too. It has a cool vibe and a well-deserved reputation.

As I pulled up to the building, I had a total energy collapse when I realized I had failed to put my guitars in the car. My stomach dropped, the top of my head lifted and I was just spinning. I texted MJ and simply said, I forgot my guitars.

I normally slow down my performance schedule in the winter months, but for some reason, I had booked five gigs in 8 days. It was akin to going from zero to 100 on the quarter-mile track. Maybe that full immersion into the deep end of the pool could explain this boneheaded move or maybe it was the shift in weather.

The temperature had dropped from 58 to 22 over a twenty-four-hour period, and I have to say, that kind of screws with me a little bit. Whatever it was, I was guitar-less and scheduled to start playing in 45 minutes. It was a 55-minute drive to get to the Jenks from my house.

MJ texted me back asking what could she do, and at the same time, I got a message from Katy Robinson telling me she was afraid she would have to miss my show.

Katy lives nearby and her text made me wonder if I could borrow a guitar from her, or anyone else in the area. As I was walking into the building, I tried to call her to no avail. I introduced myself at the retail counter explained my situation, and asked the lady if she knew anyone who could lend me a guitar. She asked me for any specific guitar, and I replied that I could make any acoustic guitar work. She said give me a minute. My mind was racing, and I wasn’t thinking about who I might know in the area, but I called Paul Kovac who might be able to refer me to some nearby players. I did not relish the idea of telling him I was at a gig without my instruments and therefore set myself as the subject for a lifetime of mild ribbing, but I was in a tight spot, and Paul is always good for a suggestion or two.

While I was telling him about my dilemma, and hearing the first “Oh wow, your first gig at this place and you forgot your guitar?”, and I heard someone say, “Hey Steve, I got a guitar for you. It is a Patrician.”

The Patrician.

Harmony made guitars for a long time. They are probably best known for their “Stella”. The Stella is a parlor-sized, simply made instrument that was often sold through mail-order catalogs. Harmony also made some higher-end flattop and arch-top guitars and recently I have been checking out arch-tops when they appear on Market Place. They are selling anywhere from $100 to 500. I missed a couple of good deals. The morning before my show at the Jenks Building, I saw a listing for a Harmony Patrician. Harmony had a whole line of Arch-tops ranging from entry-level to moderately nice instruments. I seemed to recall hearing that the Patrician was one of their higher-end models. The product description indicated that it was 1962, lightly played, and being sold by the original owner. It was listed for a little more than I wanted to pay, but I was interested.

Later that evening I found myself playing on a borrowed Patrician. What a coincidence!

This particular guitar played reasonably well and had that distinctive mid-range cut that arch-tops are known for. This one was pretty decked out too. It had to be a limited production model as it had ornate binding and in-lay on the headstock, indicative that this was indeed a high-end model.

When I got home, I sent an inquiry out about the Market Place listing and made arrangements to go see the guitar. Not that I am superstitious, but this was just too big of a coincidence.

Long story short, after a gig in Youngstown, I drove another 30 minutes into Pennsylvania and met Evan, the man who had listed the guitar on Market Place. He was brokering it for his 82-year-old neighbor, who had bought the guitar new in 1962 for his mother. She never learned to play, died a few years later and the guitar had been in storage since.

Evan had taken the guitar to a friend who had changed the strings and modified the bridge to improve its playability. I wasn’t too thrilled about the bridge modification, but other than that, it was in mint condition for a 1962 guitar. It is in incredibly clean condition, with hardly a noticeable blemish. It even had the original “How to take care of your Harmony guitar” brochure in the case, along with two Mel Bay instruction books.

So yes, I have another guitar. 

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