1959 Harmony H70 Meteor
Nearly everybody who has played guitar for any period knows the name Harmony guitars. In the 50's and 60's they were possibly the biggest guitar manufacturer in the world primarily focusing on budget and entry level guitars for department store walls. Their cheap solid bodies have become quite collectible and the pickups they used, the now famous "gold foil" single coils are very sought after, especially for hotroding.
The history of the company goes all the way back to the late 1800's and Harmony made many types of stringed instruments over the years including Ukes, Violins and acoustics. While there have been some big name Harmony players over the years the brand was looked on until recently as being a "cheap beginners guitar" although the quality of some models can be very impressive for such a claim.
The Harmony Meteor was introduced in 1958 in two different models (H70-71) as part of the hollow body line and was joined a year later by the Rocket and the H74 with a slightly modified top "half cutaway" in 1960. The H75-78 were the double cutaway version that ran from 1960. By '67 the Meteor was a double cutaway in the form of the H60-61.
The Meteor is typical of design and construction for these guitars of the period. Laminated (spruce) bodies with pressed arched top and back with big neck blocks and a bridge block to control feedback. The construction is very good for what was considered a "cheap" guitar at the time with multiply binding top and back.
The finish is well done and examples like this have checked a lot over the years. This one has finish flaking off around the output jack but the rest of the finish is still in great condition considering it's almost sixty years old.
The bolt on neck is thin and straight. These are a maple construction with a rosewood fretboard. Again multi bound and inlaid fretboard shows an attention to detail higher than "entry level" guitars of the time. The timber quality is good throughout and construction and fit is very nice.
This one was missing it's coveted "gold foil" pickups when i got it. This model had what is referred to as the "golden tone" (later models had "double-mustache") gold foils but the term just related to the foil used in the construction of the pickup. There are several different manufacturers of "gold foil" pickups and brands like DeArmond (Rowe Industries) and Teisco both made "gold foils" that differ considerably in construction and tone, but that's a whole other blog ....
As this was missing the original pickups I went with these Alnico surface mount units which are similar in construction to early DeArmond, Gretsch and Rickenbacker pickups. I've used them before and I love the sound of them, and you don't have to cut/rout any holes to fit them to guitars like this. They have a strong presence and great frequency response. The neck pickup is reverse so in the middle position you get a humbucking signal and you can fit original pickups back over these without any sign of modification which is great.
The pots were seized and scratchy and the switch no longer worked properly so I decided to put all new electronics in it which, as any one who's worked on this type of guitar will know, is a test of patience with everything being fed through the bridge pickup hole. It was worth it to make it all function properly.
The bridge is a typical floating wooden archtop unit and intonates well all the way up to the dusty end.
The H70 wasn't offered with a Bigsby style tailpiece but this one has been retro fitted and looks great.
The tuners have been replaced with Kluson plastic button style tuners which go straight in without drilling or modifications. Apart from the four small holes to anchor the pickups, which would be covered by originals, the guitar has NO mods or extra holes.
The original trussrod cover is still intact but the raised plastic headstock badge is long gone with just the imprint visible.
It plays and sounds GREAT with that nice, thin comfortable neck and personally I think the pickups are an improvement. I like gold foils in some things but it depends on the manufacturer and type of guitar for me. I don't think they work in everything.
I sold my Harmony Rocket a couple of years ago and kind of regretted it as it was such a fun guitar to play but I just never played it. After getting this one back up and running I felt the same, but, I am in the process of cleaning up around here and getting guitars back into the hands of players, so .... This will be in the shop from this weekend. Drop in and have a play.