Saturday, March 21, 2020

Bozo Guitars

Bozo The Clown
When we hear the name Bozo, the thoughts of people that grew up in the 1950's and '60's turn to the kiddie show that was called Bozo, The World's Most Famous Clown.  If you are younger, the term Bozo might bring to mind a rude, insignificant man. In Spain, people who speak the language poorly are called 'bozos'.

However, the name Bozo is a  South Slavic masculine name meaning 'Divine Gift'.

Bozo Podunavac

This can certainly be applied to Bozo Podunavac, who was a Serbian born master luthier. He was raised in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He served his apprenticeship with Serbian master luthier Milutin Mladenovic which concluded in 1950.

Bozo Podunavac emigrated to US in 1959 and settle in Chicago. There he began working in the repair shop of a musical dealer and manufacturer.

In 1964 he opened he opened his own shop and began building guitars with his name "BOZO" on the peghead.

Bozo Podunavac
 Podunavac apprenticed in the old world tradition of his homeland, and he relishes building highly ornate instruments.

He left the Chicago area in the mid 70's and moved to Southern California and opened his own shop in San Diego along with a school of lutherie.

Padunavac with his guitars

Because of health problems, he moved to Florida where he continued to offer build guitars, and offer services.

During his lifetime built over 700 guitars.

He passed away on June 2, 2015. At the time he was living in Port Charlotte Florida.

Bozo built guitars for Leo Kottke, Reverend Gary Davis, Peter Lang, Bob Gibson and many other artists. In his later career he licensed his name and style to be used by Yairi Guitars of Japan. Bozo made some gorgeous instruments during his lifetime.

They sell for between $5,000 and $12,000 USD.

This is a nice Dreadnought guitar in the typical Bozo style (Spruce top and rosewood back and sides) with beautiful inlays and decorations. It was made by Yairi, because at some time Bozo decided to let his guitars be produced under licence by Yairi.

The Bozo Podunavac B-100 12C, like all Bozo guitars, is spectacular. It is heavily ornamented, but that’s not to mask or make up for some deficiency in the quality of construction or tone. The body is Indian Rosewood for the back and sides and spruce for the top, with herringbone binding on the back and doubled Abalone and herringbone on the top. The decorated rosette shows Bozo’s European influences – flowers, more herringbone, and more Abalone. The ebony bridge is heavily shaped and inlaid, again with Abalone.

The headstock has a Bozo rendering of his name and a traditional ‘Flowerpot’ – of course in Abalone. The position markers are of Bozo Podunavac's own design, using three rectangles. The neck block is signed by Bozo Podunavac. 

Leo Kottke's Bozo Guitars

One popular guitarists that played and owned several Bozo guitars is Leo Kottke. Although Leo plays six string guitars, he is best known for using a 12 string instrument. He is also know for his unconventional tunings and unusual style of finger picking. Kottke owned and played these three custom-made Bozo 12 strings. 

1967 Bozo Bell Model

Though most Bozo guitars were heavily decorated, this 1967 Bozo 'Bell' model is relatively plain when compared to most of his instruments. 

1996 Bozo Minature

Here is a one-of-a-kind miniature Bozo guitar that was build in 1996 for guitar collector Scott Chinery. It is a work of art, and is totally playable. 

2007 Bozo Archtop
Mr. Podunavac built this beautiful archtop guitar in 2007 it as a back and sides are hand carved from solid maple, and it comes with a carved and solid spruce top, with a Venetian cutaway. The finger rest is made from a piece of carved ebony, with an inlaid border and design. The five piece laminated neck goes right through the headstock, which has gold Grover Imperial tuners. The bridge is solid ebony, which is also inlaid with abalone. It is a gorgeous instrument. 

1973 Bozo Parlor Guitar

I have always had a fondness for parlor guitars. I even own two of them. But they are not nearly as ornate as this beautiful instrument made by Bozo Podunavac, and previously owned by singer/songwriter Janis Ian. She has played this guitar all over the world in many concerts. 

1969 Bozo Bell Western Model

Some of Bozo's early instruments were not as ornate as the guitars he made later in life. This one is owned by a gentleman that was fortunate enough to visit Bozo's home and have him inspect the instrument he had purchased on eBay. 

This guitar is a 1969 Bell Western model and  features Indian rosewood back and sides, which Mr. Podunavac prefers more than the currently unavailable Brazilian rosewood. The guitar had maple binding and a German spruce top with "rope" purfling, not "herringbone", as many people call it.  The nut and saddle are both made of  scalloped ivory which was added to the instrument by the previous owner. The owner says the guitars craftsmanship you don't see much these days except for high-end, boutique guitars. 

2004 Bozo Double Neck

On the same website Bozo shows off a unique double-neck instrument he had created. 

As I have mentioned, Mr. Podunavac moved from Chicago to San Diego, California, opening his own workshop and teaching guitar construcion in his school of lutherie.

It was during this time he "licensed" several of his designs to a Japanese firm, M.G. Company Inc. who was representing K.Yairi / Alvarez Yairi guitars.  

Pages from the 1975
 Bozo Japanese catalog

The manufacture proceeded to build "Bozo guitars" including the B60, B80, and B100 models, some with laminated back and sides, some all solid wood construction. The production of these guitars started in late 1974 and was terminated somewhere in 1984. Dependending on the instruments quality, in today's market a Japanese made Bozo can be purchased form $1,000 to $2,500 USD. 

1976 Japanese made Bozo B80-12

Here is a Japanese made Bozo B80-12, with a repaired top that is currently on eBay. The seller is asking $2,500. 

1970's Bozo Classical Guitar

Here is another Bozo guitar. This one is a classical instrument. Although the label lists it as a B3 without the country of origin, I am certain it was also a product of Japan. The head stock carving is exquisite.

1989 Bozo Bell Western 12 string
Most of the instruments that Bozo produced in his later years feature much  ornamentation on the body, and head, and herringbone binding on the neck. They are known for their beautiful appearance, and their clear, loud voice. 

1989 Bell Western's Head Stock
This wonderful Western Bell 12 string guitar is a fine example of a great craftsman's work. The rosette is beautiful, as is the inlay on the guitars bridge. The veneer on the head stock is topped with an incredible inlaid flower pot design, all done in abalone.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications 2020 (text only)


Anonymous said...

Awesome as usual! Thanks! said...

Thanks Glenn. I appreciate it.

~Marc O'Hara

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Gerardo Francisco Xavier Ignatio Maria Gonzales Alolysious Martini said...

An excellent coverage of the Bozo story. I have just one request. That is, K.Yairi reference needs to be changed to his brilliant luthier uncle, Sadao Yairi. It was Sadao who was contacted to make Bozo's guitars in Japan. Evidence of this can be found via an inspection of guitar internals.😁

UFA239 said...

That's nice. It was a fine article.
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