’87 Ovation Legend

Back in the day, King Crimson legend Robert Fripp led a series of courses called Guitar Craft, from which the League of Crafty Guitarists sprang. Held at (one of?) his delightful houses in Wimborne, Dorset, as the level of the courses increased, so did their intensity and duration. Over a couple of years, I managed levels one and two, each about a week long, during which we were mixed in with some level 5’s, 6’s and 7’s (the top level, course durations indeterminate but very long). The higher they got, the weirder, though undoubtedly talented and dedicated.

If you remained slightly detached, the courses were pretty entertaining. They involved a mixture of Fripp’s cod philosophy musings, group and occasional one-to-one sessions, Alexander technique, yoga and meditation and some of the worst food on the planet (lowest common denominator reluctant vegetarian). And lengthy sessions on how to hold the guitar craft ‘standard’ triangular pick, made by Herdim of Germany. ‘How you hold your pick is how you run your life’ was one of our esteemed leader’s favourite aphorisms. ‘Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence’ was another. Heady stuff it might be, but up close one-on-one he sure can crosspick.

To level out the many different levels of ability and styles, a ‘new standard’ tuning – C, G, D, A, E, G – was applied, giving the instruments considerable added range. Students were encouraged to adopt the ‘standard; guitar, this Ovation model. Fripp had done a deal with a retailer in the US Midwest which sourced them at a very keen price – less than half the going UK rate.

I liked the guitar so much it became my main acoustic for several years prior to the arrival of the Taylor. I kept up with the tuning for a couple of years, and still use the pick technique sometimes, though it’s best for crosspicking and not at all suited to sweeping or pinching.

As students progressed, Guitar Craft morphed into a way of running one’s life, the mischievous and gnomic Fripp gleefully throwing ballbearings all over the floor to wrongfoot every step of his house’s sometimes near-permanent student inhabitants.

His charming wife, Toyah Willcox, certainly helped stabilise the weirdness and make it all rather more worthwhile.  The couple has had a recent renaissance with the Sunday Lunch and Burning Questions YouTube shows.

A nice versatile, stable guitar, courtesy of an undeniably interesting and supremely talented – if also extraordinarily contrary – man. With original case and blurb, and also shown with a selection of Guitar Craft hard black triangular picks, including one of the original Herdims, top right of the array next to the original trussrod wrench.

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