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NGD-sorta Heritage Johnny Smith


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Heritage made two 18" HJS's for a dealer named Don Dean in 1996.  Both are naturals, one a "straight" natural and the other a rose natural.  The latter belongs to a forum member (who may speak up).  Don sold one to someone in Ohio, who almost never played it and had it as an investment.  That's the rose natural, which is beautiful.  The other one was Don's personal instrument until his death.  Don was a Super 400 collector and had dozens of big archtops.

About four years ago I was looking for a HJS for a friend of mine.  I found the Don Dean HJS in rural Kentucky on a local Craigslist.  I called and told the guy my friend was highly interested, but the guy didn't want to ship.  He's a pedal steel guitarist who was a studio musician in Nashville a long time but not Spanish guitar player.  He did his best to describe it.  I told him I would get it after we agreed on a price.  I then called my friend and said I found your guitar.  He informed me he just bought one two hours earlier and it will be shipped the next day.

I took a day off of work and drove from Kalamazoo past Lexington, KY out into the boondocks.  That was about 7 hours each way.  I spent the afternoon with this guy and his wife.  We had some country cooking and I listened to stories.  The steel guitar player was in bands with Don Dean and was a good friend.  He died, and his widow had a bunch of guitars that needed selling.  She found this one under his bed.  Don and my host were good friends with Scotty Moore and played with Elvis and some other notables years ago.  Don also personally knew some of the original Heritage owners from his trips to Kalamazoo in the early days up to the late 1990s.  http://www.scottymoore.net/dondean.html

He brought the guitar out.  The case looked like it was covered with vomit or mushroom soup that was long ago dried out.  But the guitar was mint.  I was surprised about a few features.  The first was I measured the lower bout at 18".  Second, the body is 3 3/8" deep in places, but at least 3 1/4".  Third, it has multibound f holes.  Lastly, It has a translucent black pickguard with the optional rose inlay.  The abalone is just wow.

I brought it home and cleaned off the outside of the case.  It set up well.  My friend got his "normal" HJS.  Eventually he really wanted the 18" one and sold his 17".  Once he got it he truly improved it.  He had an east coast legend of sorts level the frets, cut a new nut, and set it up as good as it gets.  I thought it was fine before but he said it's even better.  Next, he had Kent Armstrong rebuild the Floating #3 pickup, as Kent is known for, and put a better pot and braided wiring for the circuit.  Lastly, he had Matt Cushman make two better bridges for it so little post is showing and there's a broader base.  Here is a video of him doing a Johnny Smith tune.  

A few years pass.  I got it back today.

The woods are really nice.  The top has a little mineral streak as a beauty mark.  It doesn't feel uncomfortably large to me and the others who play it, but then some find the 535 too large.  The pickup is hotter and more PAF than the Floating #3.  It's good.









Edited by MartyGrass
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