Bozo Podunavac is a native of Serbia who emigrated to the USA in 1959 and plied his trade there as a luthier. Hand made Bozos. especially vintage ones, can set you back many thousands of pounds and are not exactly in abundance for purchase on the open market. However, in the 1970s. Bozo licensed his Bell Western designs to Yairi in Japan to be made for general distribution. Yairi did make some great guitars during the ’70s which was arguably the most prolific era for Japanese guitar manufacturers. It also became known as the ‘Lawsuit Era’ due to American guitar companies taking out lawsuits against various Japanese Companies for copying their designs.
The Bozo Bell Western 6 and 12 strings made by Yairi were well above average instruments. Indian rosewood back and sides; spruce for the top, with herringbone binding on the back and doubled abalone and herringbone on the top. The decorated rosette shows Bozo’s European influences – flowers, more herringbone, and more abalone. The ebony bridge is heavily shaped and inlaid, again with abalone. The headstock has Bozo’s name inlaid in abalone and the position markers are also abalone, but using three rectangles. The neck block is signed by Bozo.
The playability on both the Bozos featured in the accompanying video is excellent and the tones are very lucid on both the 6 and 12 string. Volume too is powerful in both fingerstyle and plectrum modes. The second hand value in vgc settles down at around the 2K plus mark – much less than the hand made ones – but you do get an awful lot of bang for your bucks with these guitars and the Yairi made ones are still quite rare to source as not that many were made.
Over the years and especially in the early third of the 20th century, Gibson produced some brilliant guitars which are now very desirable to both players and collectors alike. They didn’t, in my opinion, quite keep up the standard past this time although the J-200 was an exception. In the ’70s, they experimented in the acoustic field and came up with the MK 35 guitar design. This model was far removed in design from earlier Gibson models and they hired Michael Kasha (MK) to design them, alongside Gibson Master Luthier at the time, Richard Schneider. I must admit when they first appeared they didn’t exactly set the world on fire and were only made between 1975 – 78. They did have a more technically researched design element to them than earlier Gibsons including such features as modified bracing, a fan shaped ‘Kasha’ bridge, removable pick guard and interchangeable saddles. The headstock had points at the upper corners and the soundhole has a two stripe cap. It’s not a bad player overall and it produces a clear tone and volume output and yes, it does present a different design concept to previous Gibsons. But it landed after two very distinctive Gibson design eras and fans of those eras were not that impressed. It buddies up in my opinion with another earlier Gibson oddity that also never hit the heights and that was the mid-’60s ‘Summer of Love’ Folksinger F-12 acoustic 6 string, which looked more like a heavy Flamenco guitar and sounded nothing like one. As of late, both these models have stirred interest from collectors and have started to pick up in value and they are still affordable compared to more iconic Gibsons. The one I demo in the video is the MK 35.
One of my much admired performers was Glen Campbell. He started his career as did I, as a session guitarist playing with lots of different artistes. This gave him, as it did me, a very wide experience of playing different styles and genres of music, depending on the project in question. From his base in this area, he then went onto be one of the World’s leading performers having many hits in his own right mainly as a vocalist. His collaboration with composer Jim Webb produced a whole string of massive hit records. I first came across Webb via actor Richard Harris, who lived just round the corner from me in London and he made an album called ‘McArthur Park’, singing Webb’s songs. The Orchestrations were superb although the lyrics about a cake at the time had people to wonder what was in it! Glen also recorded a version of it . Through all Glen’s fame, he never lost his passion for playing guitar and he was also an avid 12 string fan. The controversial Ovation brand at the time (you either love or hate them), with their glass fibre bowl shaped guitar back (not good for beer bellies as their kept rolling off!) made a signature range of Glen Campbell acoustics. 6 and 12 strings to be exact and they were in the main, well received. In fact, many artistes in the late ’60s and ’70s were seduced by this brand. They were not the greatest producer of a full tonal range when played in acoustic mode but they amplified extremely well and didn’t have the ‘howl round’ that many acoustics at the time produced when amplified. They were very popular with band players too as you could get more volume and clarity from them in a band line-up. I have always had a soft spot for the 12 string Campbell guitar and have used it in both recording and live situations. I still have mine and you will hear from the video clip they are well worth their place in guitar history timeline, as is Glen.