Saturday, April 2, 2011

Harvey Thomas Guitars

My friend Rick has a guitar calendar in his recording studio. For each month, three guitars are pictured with a paragraph about them. This month featured an abstract green somewhat odd-looking guitar bearing the name Harvey Thomas on the headstock. My first thought was, “what a unique instrument.” I had to find out more about this guitar. I knew I’d seen that picture before, but could not recall where. Then I remembered. This same instrument was pictured in Tony Bacon’s Ultimate Guitar Book.

I could not recall where I put my copy, so I went to the internet and found an excellent site with information about Harvey Thomas and his unique guitars. Much like his guitars, Harvey Thomas was a unique man.

Harvey Thomas & Guitar Organ
Harvey Thomas was a real character. I wish I could have met him. He lived and worked in Midway Washington. His shop was an out-building on the acreage where his home, yard, and pond stood, off of a small side road.

According to Tim Olson, a luthier that learned his trade from Thomas, the yard contained a bunch of used and junk vehicles. I will leave the details to him at his link. Harvey Thomas was a collector.

With Infernal Music Machine
He collected guitars and cars, especially Cadillacs, which he sold and traded. He performed locally as a one-man band.

But Thomas' legacy was the totally unique guitars that he built. They were like nothing anyone had ever seen at the time. These included guitars in the shape of a Maltese cross, double neck guitars and triple neck guitars.

He even built a double guitar in the shape of a topless Polynesian woman. The necks were her legs and feet. One of his guitars was in the shape of a shotgun. Thomas built and sold these instruments.

He never made it big, since his customer base was mainly in that Washington state area and advertising was mainly word of mouth.

He produced some advertising and even created a catalog. His guitars sold from his shop and from some music shops around his area. Collectors and guitar aficionados now seek out these unusual instruments. Guitars that Thomas sold out of his home for $100 to $450 are bringing prices of 3000 to 4000 dollars.

As I mentioned, Harvey Thomas was performer in clubs around the Midway area. His ingenuity was such that he was a one-man band in which he played a triple necked guitar of his own creation and featured a series of devices that he referred to as The Infernal Music Machine.

This was a box that he created, which looked somewhat like a “big band” music stand. It contained amplifiers, a reverb unit, a tape delay unit and a rhythm box to provide a drum beat. At its bottom was a set of organ pedals. His personal guitar he gigged with included a six-string guitar neck, with a vibrato bar, a twelve-string guitar neck and a six string bass neck, also with a vibrato.

Perhaps the most famous user of a Harvey Thomas guitar is Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople. Guitar collector and player Deke Dickerson owns a Harvey Thomas.

Ian Hunter is best remembered for his Harvey Thomas Maltese Cross guitar.

Please check out this link to learn more about Harvey Thomas. My description of his eccentricity does not do justice.

By the way, here is Tim Olsen's link.

From a photograph his guitars resemble some of the low cost European instrument that flooded the mid 1960’s market from Italy and Germany, however each Thomas guitars was completely handmade and well constructed of solid wood.

Harvey's daughter, Denise Thomas-Presnell has put together a page dedicated to her wonderful and truly unique father. Harvey was The Man!

Below is Harvey Thomas playing his own brand of unique music along with his Infernal Music Machine.

This video is a tribute to Harvey Thomas, his family and guitars.

This video is Deke Dickerson and a bunch of good ol' boys that are all playing Harvey Guitars and singing about Mr. Thomas. The film contains video of Harvey's home, complete with the pond and his own unique decor.

Mott the Hoople with Ian Hunter playing his Harvey Thomas Maltese Cross guitar.


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randyb said...

My older brother had a Thomas guitar back in the late sixties. We lived across the road from his shop. It really didn't look like much back then. His guitars were unique and quite awesome.

Mekie24 said...

My Stepmom was his niece I believe and we have some of these! pretty cool!

Unknown said...

I knew Harvey well. I still have 2 of his guitars.

Unknown said...

How do I add pictures?

Unknown said...

How do I add pictures?