Freedom! (Richie Havens Pays A Visit)
It’s always nice when one of our endorsing artists visits the shop.
As many of you are aware, in April 1997 we moved Hamer Guitars from our Arlington Heights, Illinois facility to New Hartford, Connecticut. New Hartford had previously only housed Ovation guitars. A couple of years ago we moved Guild guitars from Tacoma, Washington to New Hartford. As a result, New Hartford now houses three distinct boutique guitar manufacturers, all in their separate and unique space.
This means that while we’ve had visits from Hamer artists such as Keb Mo, Rick Nielsen and Jon Herington, we have also had Ovation artists like Al DiMeola and Kaki King come by. Last week we were happy to play host to long time Guild endorsing artist Richie Havens.
Richie spent the afternoon touring the facility, stopping and talking with many of our people along the way. Richie is a spiritual and approachable human being with a warm smile. He brought joy to everyone that he met. To this day he continues to preach peace and sing out against injustice.
At the end of the tour we asked Richie if he would be willing to play a few songs for the crew. He gladly agreed to and we pulled together the entire shop (Hamer, Ovation and Guild) for a straight acoustic set: no microphones, amps or anything, just Richie and his guitar. Richie started with Here Comes the Sun, continued with Maggie’s Farm and concluded with Freedom. It was a truly special moment.
If you’re not aware, Richie has a unique playing style. In addition to an extremely aggressive attack (he has a pickguard on both the bass and treble sides of the strings), he tunes his guitar to open D. He then uses his thumb to bar up and down the neck, working his thumb almost like a capo. It’s wild and it works.
Richie developed this playing style when he first took up guitar. He was singing along one night while watching blues artist Fred Neil play in Brooklyn. Fred told him that he should learn the song on the guitar. Richie went home and asked his Doo-Wop band members to sing the notes of a D chord. He tuned the guitar to their voices and found that he could play up and down the fingerboard with the tuning. He’s stuck with it ever since.
Though he’s not a Hamer endorser (yet), we thought that you’d like to hear the story and see a couple of photos.