Note: My sources can be accessed by clicking the links.
|From The John Denver Guitar Research Center|
I thought perhaps I could look into some of these instruments, their makers and how John Denver had acquired each of them.
|John Denver's first guitar|
Before he became John Denver, the artist, he grew up as Henry John Deustchendorf and was born in Roswell, New Mexico, the home of Area 51. He received his first acoustic guitar at age 11 as a gift from his grandmother.
|John Denver's first guitar|
|Denver with a Gibson B-45-12|
A few years later he was given a lovely Gibson B-45-12N twelve string guitar. It had a natural finish and came with an unusual pickguard, which leads me to believe Denver was not the original owner.
John's father was a military pilot, so the family moved around the country a lot.
When John was in his third year of high school he had learned enough about guitar and singing to begin playing in local clubs. It was this year that he took his father’s car and headed to California in hopes of starting a career in music. His father flew a jet aircraft from Ft. Worth, Texas to retrieve his son. John finished high school before embarking on a career in music.
|John on the right with his Gibson B-45-12 in the New Christy Minstrels|
|John with the Gibson B-45 18 string guitar|
|John Denver with the Chad Mitchell Trio|
|Denver with Guild F-212XL|
Denver was very fond of 12 string guitars. On his next album, Poems, Prayers and Promises, the front cover shows off his first Guild F-212XL 12 string guitar.
|Denver with Guild F-212XL|
The F-212XL is no exception.
Denver utilized several Guild 12 string models throughout the 1970’s, including this F-2 style and also an F-4, F-5 and later an F-6, which was his next stage guitar.
|With Guild F-612XL|
The Guild F-612XL is a noticeably different than the F-212 as it is much fancier.
The body of the F-612XL is bound as is the neck and headstock. The neck has fancy inlaid pearl fret markers starting at the first fret and ending on the 16th fret.
|F-612/XL custom - youtube|
|Guild from - youtube|
|Denver with Guild F 50 AA|
Denver also utilized a beautiful Guild F-50 “Artist Award Model” 6 string guitar. This instrument can be distinguished by its double pick guards and over-sized head stock, which features a plate that identifies it as an Artist Award Model.
|Guild F-50 Artist Award|
The neck, body and head stock are all bound as is the truss rod cover. The neck is inlaid with block pearl markers starting at the 1st fret and ending at the 16th fret.
|F-50 R Artist Award|
|Denver with Yamaha L-53|
|John Denver's Yamaha L-53|
|Denver with Yamaha L-53|
The rosette is also bound with twin layers of abalone separated by a black circle.
As on a Martin D-45, the edge of the top in which the neck extends is framed in abalone trim. The 19 fret rosewood neck is bound and features exquisite abalone block inlaid fret markers which start at the first fret.
The head stock feature mirrored image abalone inlay on each side with the gold-plated Yamaha tuners peeking through. The center of the head stock veneer is wood topped with the 3 tuning fork Yamaha logo. On the back of the head stock and mahogany neck there are two strips of ebony that run its length.
|Back of the L-53|
The back of one of the guitars necks shows extreme checking on the area where the head stock breaks, leading one to believe that the guitar may have been dropped and a poor repair done.
|John Denver with Yamaha Guitar|
The neck on a different version features more of a golden hue on the abalone and more colourful block inlays.
The back of this neck shows extensive wear as the top of one side of the head stock is seriously chipped. This guitar is shown of the cover of the video John Denver and The Muppets Christmas Together.
|Stuart Mossman Guitar|
|From the S.L Mossman Catalog|
|Mark O'Connor with a similar Mossman|
Mossman was offering this instrument for sale in the 1970’s for only $875. By Comparison, in the mid-1970’s a Martin D-28 sold for around $750. Denver took this guitar on world tours.
|Denver with a Greven Guitar|
Greven began his career by working at Gruhn Guitars in Nashville Tennessee back in the 1960's. He restored and repaired vintage instruments and considers this to be his education into the methods and concepts that differing manufacturers utilized in building guitars. He says he has applied these concepts and modern building concepts into the creation of his instruments. And Greven does build some exceptional guitars. He was introduced to John Denver by a mutual friend while Denver was staying in New York City. Denver commissioned the guitar.
|John Greven White Lady guitar similar to Denver's model|
|Greven neck and headstock|
|This is a 2013 White Lady|
The inclimate weather in the Colorado mountains or perhaps storage in the cargo hold of an airplane has taken its toll on this guitar as the head stock shows extensive cracking in the varnish.
|John's 12 string Greven|
|Denver with an Adamas 12 string|
Adamas guitars were designed by Charles Kaman and his team and were made of synthetic composite materials. The carbon fiber top was thinner than a wooden top and was suspended to give it more vibration and longer sustain. The rounded parabolic bowl was designed to better project the sound.
|Adamas 12 String|
|Ovation Elite 12|
From time to time Denver employed some other Ovation guitars including a 12 string Elite model. This was Ovation's wooden version of the Adamas. Instead of a carbon fiber top, the Elite came with a solid spruce top.
|Adamas six string from youtube|
|National Steel guitar|
|Denver with Gibson CEC guitar|
|1988 Gibson CEC|
|John Denver playing a Martin guitar|
He can also be seen playing a few Martin guitars. We know for certain one was a Martin D-20-12. He is playing a Martin D-28 in this picture.
One was a six string and the other was 12 string guitar. These instruments featured Sitka spruce tops, Brazilian rosewood was used for the backs, sides and bridge saddle. The necks were made of Honduras mahogany.
The guitars were both featured a single Florentine cutaway and decorative inlays starting at the 3rd fret. The headstocks had an unusual design, ending in a point. The bridge saddle also featured an extremely stylistic design.
|Denver with a Somogyi guitar|
Towards the end of his career John Denver used some more utilitarian guitars. Not to diminish their value, but his choice of Taylor and Godin guitars were more roadworthy than his custom built instruments.
John used two different Godin models. One had steel strings and the other was a nylon string model. They were somewhat similar instruments, but for the wood used in construction and the construction techniques.
The switches in the upper bout controlled volume, slider switches for equalization, a blend between the transducer and the microphone. And phase controls.
This guitar is equipped with electronics by EPM, which include an under-saddle transducer and a microphone that is within the twin chambered silverleaf maple body. The top is made of cedar and the neck is made of mahogany and also has a 25 1/2” scale.
The guitar is equipped with a built-in pre-amplifier and slider switch to control volume, equalization and mic/transducer blend.
|John Denver with his Taylor 915-M|
The fret board is made of ebony with abalone special design fret markers. The rosette is also made of gorgeous inlaid abalone. The head stock is adorned an abalone floral design and topped with gold-plated Grover tuners.
|Denver with Taylor K15|
The Taylor K15 six string model is almost identical in every aspect to the K22, except for the fact that it has a jumbo body.
|Taylor JD Memorial|
|Denver with Taylor 915|
|Taylor LKSM 12 string|
|Taylor LKSM 12 String|
The fret board is made of ebony with no fret markers. The head stock veneer is made of Indian rosewood with the logo inlaid in mother-of-pearl. The tuners are gold-plated button style. The body features a modified Venetian cutaway. According to Kottke it plays like a six string. John owned at least one of these instruments.
On a final note John did not seem fond of guitar cases. Subsequently his instrument suffered the damage.
Pictures show damage to the head stock of two of his Yamaha L-53 guitars. One picture show a repair to a head stock that was damaged at the portion where the head stock joins the neck. Another picture shows a neck without the guitars body.
|Denver's gig bag|
This may possibly be due to the fact that early in his career Denver carried his guitars in a leather gig bag that appears to be made for him by a leather craftsman instead of using a hard shell guitar case. Other pictures show him with more conventional gig bags strapped to his back.
It would be fascinated to find out where these instrument are today.
|John Denver Memorial|
There is a link to an auction site that showed one of the Taylor K15 guitars offered.
I would encourage readers to check out the John Denver Guitar Research web page.
These folks have done a lot of research and offer quite a lot of pictures of John playing his different guitars.
John with Guild F-612 12 string$$$$
John with Taylor J-15 - James Burton Telecaster
John with Guild F-50 Artist Award
John with Mossman 12 string