Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guild Guitars - Rich tone and history

I remember many moons ago when I happened into the old Guitar Center in downtown San Jose to look at and play some acoustic guitars. I didn't have much money but I knew what I wanted. My desire was to buy a 12 string guitar so I could play just a handful of songs that featured this full 12 string tone and sound. Before I bought my guitar I tried two guitars that I certainly couldn't afford to buy. One guitar was the ever popular Gibson Hummingbird and the other was a 12 string Guild JF-55. The effect the Guild had on me was magical and to this day I search for the same big tone that seemed to brighten the room and fill every space with rich tone.

Guild guitars have been around for a while but not nearly as long as Martin or Gibson instruments. Guild was founded by Avram Dronge in New York City in 1952. Guild guitars began during a time when manufacturing in the United States was becoming unionized. The unionized laborors are not inexpensive and this costly workforce had an ill effect on Epiphone, forcing Epiphone to move its factory to Philedelphia. The displaced Epiphone workforce in New York City was snapped up by Dronge for his new Guild product. Soon Guild was producing fine quality instruments.

Dronge sold Guild to Avnet electronic parts suppliers while remaining President in 1966. Guild relocated to Westerly, Rhode Island. Guild maintained its reputation as a fine acoustic and electric guitar manufacturer but an uncanny tragedy struck Dronge as he was killed in a plane crash. Guild's vice president took over and managed the company until 1983. Avnet was experiencing financial turmoil and was looking to sell Guild to focus on different emerging markets. In 1989, Avnet sold Guild to U.S. Musical Corporation who managed the company for the next six years.

U.S. Musical Corporation promptly suspended much of Guild's Electric production. Guild now focused exclusively on acoustic products. In 1995, Fender Musical Instrument Coproration, in a bold move, purchased Guild from U.S. Musical Corporationand reintroduced the Electronic guitar line while opening a Guild Custom Shop in Nashville, Tennessee. Fender also hired noted Luthier Robert Benedetto to build high-end Guilds. At this point Guild had experienced at least three relocations to their manufacturing facilities.

Purchasing Guild was the first in what would be a series of major business acquisitions for Fender Musical Instrument Corporation. This acquisition would be the start of a new series of manufacturing relocations for Guild. Fender Musical Instrument Corporation (FMIC) wanted to consolidate production and thus moved Guild manufacturing to Corona, California. Then FMIC decided to purchase Tacoma Guitar and once again moved Guild to Tacoma, Washington. Then FMIC acquired Kaman Music Corporation and moved Guild to Hartford, Connecticut in hopefully that last move in a series of six relocations. FMIC still employs Guild to make high-end acoustic instruments. These instruments once again have that storied tone and wonderful playability. I will always associate Guild acoustics with large ambient tone with unique bass tones and bell-like notes from the high strings.

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