This is another guitar I’ve been wanting to do a post on for quite sometime.
If you are an up and coming luthier and looking for a small guitar to test your restoration skills, you’d be hard pressed to find a better guitar to start with.
This guitar is the holder of a couple of ‘firsts’. From the beginning of 1930 to the early 1940’s, Western themed decorated guitars, along with Hawaiian themed guitars, were hugely popular, dominating much of the budget guitar market. This is recognized as the first ‘Cowboy Guitar’. This guitar is also recognized as one of, if not the first, ‘endorsement’ guitars.
In the 1920’s-40’s Bradley Kincaid (1895-1989) was a big folk recording and radio star and an avid song collector. Many of his recordings became hits. The story goes that Bradley’s father traded a dog for a guitar for Bradley, thus the guitars nickname. Kincaid recorded over 200 songs and published 13 songbooks and was elected to The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.
Sears, the mail-order company, owned Harmony and WLS, the radio station where Kincaid became popular. They also sold records, radios and record players. They saw an opportunity to combine all this to their commercial advantage by releasing this endorsed Bradley Kincaid Houn’ Dog guitar through their catalogue. Apparently other versions of this Houn’ Dog were sold through distributors but without the Supertone label.
Having said all that, this guitar is nothing like the other ‘Cowboy’ guitars of the era. In general they were quite cheaply made all birch guitars. The Bradley Kincaid Houn’ Dog was a well crafted ladder braced solid mahogany back and sides guitar with a spruce top and a mahogany neck with a slight ‘V’ profile.
The top and soundhole are bound with interesting marquetry purfling and white celluloid. The decal is a well designed graphic (proper name decalcomania, see post about this decoration and how it was applied). Later models of this guitar were bound slightly differently with black & white celluloid and colored inlay.
This is one of the last of Harmony’s smaller 12″ standard guitars that I love so well. In around 1930, Harmony switched to emphasizing archtops and larger flat-tops that became popular and that we usually associate with the brand.
Total Length: 37″
Bottom Bout: 12 3/4″
Top Bout: 9 1/8″
Scale: 24 1/4″
Width at End Pin: 3 3/4″
You used to be able to pick these up quite cheaply, maybe a few hundred dollars, as I did with this one many years ago. Today people are seeing the value of these guitars and values have increased.
I had this example restored and, as I wanted to gift this to my grandson, I had it X-braced to give it more strength. It’s probably in the top 2 or 3 best sounding small guitars that I have owned.
My friends from Vintage Blues Guitars has one of these guitars in their sold archive and describe how it plays and sounds; “It plays easily. Because of its light weight, the guitar is very resonant, responding well to even a light touch. The tone is warm and woody. A nice finger picking guitar”.
Here is a youtube video of my Houn’ Dog guitar being played:
Thanks again folks!
Charles aka Caitanya das