On the heels of Gene Autry’s 1940 western-musical classic Melody Ranch, Chicago-based Harmony Guitars manufactured a run of “Melody Ranch Gene Autry” model guitars, sold exclusively through the Sears catalog for $6.85. At the time, Gene Autry was the ultimate Cowboy songster, and he was a hero to children all across the country.
Although these parlor-sized guitars—with their classic Western stenciling on the top—may have felt like a guitar Gene would play, they were never built to be functional instruments that would ever tune and play properly. Over the years, these highly collectible guitars became wall-hangers at best, even though they were actually constructed of quality Spruce and Maple.
Recognizing the sincere potential of these old boxes, Denver luthier Matt McGibney used a '40s Harmony Melody Ranch to create something entirely new. We call it the GENE-160E. First, Matt totally rebuilt the guitar and converted it to hand-voiced scalloped X-bracing, which maximizes the sonic potential of this old cowboy box. Its tone is nicely balanced for a small-body parlor guitar with more resonance and projection that you'd expect. Next, Matt re-planed the fingerboard and re-fretted it, then added a new 1-3/4" bone nut, a new solid rosewood bridge with bone saddle, and genuine Grover tuning machines. Its lightweight, parlor-guitar feel is comfortable and inviting, and it plays like a brand new guitar. Its short 24-1/4" scale and 12-fret parlor guitar design provide authentic small-body tone and comfort.
In the spirit of the first acoustic-electric guitars of the '50s, McGibney outfitted a hand-wound P90 at the edge of the fingerboard. With top-mounted volume/tone pots and vintage radio knobs, it produces tones somewhere in between an acoustic and electric guitar plugged in. The result is an inspiring cowboy guitar with the tone, intonation, and playability of a fine acoustic guitar. Hardshell case included.