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   With the advent of singing cowboys in films of the 1930s, everyone wanted to strum along to "Home, Home on the Range." The result was a market for inexpensive guitars stenciled with folksy western scenes, many depicting stars such as Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. The Harmony Company's "Singing Cowboys" model is typical of the genre, with a simple, monochromatic scheme: a group of cowpokes gathered around the campfire after a long day on the trail, conjuring up a more romantic life than any real cattle drover would attest to. Owned by Sears, Roebuck and Company after 1916, Harmony produced more than half the guitars of all types made in the United States by the early 1940s. But they specialized in mid-priced to low-end instruments, some of which, like cowboy guitars, seem remarkably cheap now (this particular model cost $4.45). Present-day collectors covet these kitschy instruments far more for their nostalgic value than for their tone quality.


I once played a guitar that a friend bought for $20, and I thought, "Wow, I can finally play standards on this thing!" The guitar was practically a toy-which forced a certain economy of approach-but I loved its sound and cheapness. There was a certain paradoxical relationship between constraint and freedom that was brought out by this crappy guitar.
-Marc Ribot

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