Harmony Guitars: The Historic Brand Revived
Posted by Robinson Earle on Feb 3rd 2021
Established in Chicago in 1892, the Harmony musical brand produced consistent and affordable instruments of all kinds throughout the better part of the 20th century. The artists who learned to pick on Harmony guitars are legion, including Howlin Wolf, Elvis, Keith Richards, Syd Barrett, Big Joe Williams, and many others.
In 1916, Harmony was acquired by Sears, Roebuck, an Co., which greatly increased their range and distribution. For those in rural areas, mail-order guitars were the only option, and Harmony was the six-string of choice.
In the late 1920s, Harmony began issuing some of the first signature models for the multi-instrumentalist Roy Smeck, who was known as the “Wizard of the Strings.'' During the Great Depression, Harmony sales remained stable due to their humble price-point, though the company’s commitment to quality was never compromised. Unlike later budget models that flooded the market in the 70s and 80s, Harmony always strived to produce the best guitars that they could with the most reliable materials.
Harmony Guitars sourced their pickups from DeArmond of Toledo, Ohio. Harmony also bought up rival companies and continued to produce instruments under their brands, such as Stella, Sovereign, and La Scala. They also built for the Sears in-house line, Silvertone. Chances are, if you bought an entry-level guitar in the first half of the 20th century, it was crafted at the Harmony factory in Chicago, Illinois. Up until they closed their doors in 1975 (mainly due to the arrival of cheaper foreign brands), Harmony guitars were ubiquitous.
Harmony Guitars Revival
In 2018, Harmony was revived in ambitious fashion. They are still crafted in the U.S., except now at the Heritage Guitars plant in Kalamazoo, MI, which served as the headquarters of Gibson until 1984. It’s ironic and fitting that Harmonies are now made within the same walls as their former high-end competitors, by former Gibson employees. The tradition lives on!
Harmony Guitars now boasts a healthy catalogue of inspired models such as the off-set Silhouette, the single-cut Jupiter, the double-cut Rebel, the double-cut Comet, and the small-bodied, single-cut Juno. Beautifully contoured and finished in nitrocellulose lacquer, this family of guitars features the coveted gold-foil humbucker and P90 pickups that make the Harmony sound so distinctive. Professionals and beginners alike will revel in the intoxicating tone, feel, and visual aesthetic of these historically-informed instruments. They even build a reissue of the iconic 8418 5-watt amp!
Here at Midwood Guitar Studio, we believe in keeping one foot in the future, and one in the past. We wouldn’t be here without the cultural and material contributions of old school brands like Harmony, and we believe these guitars to be truly timeless. That said, The 21st century Harmonies are even better-made than the originals. They are well-suited to many genres, and will always stand out on stage. Gives us a call to discuss which Harmony model might work best for you!