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Old 07-15-2009, 08:14 AM
Weird Snake Joe Weird Snake Joe is offline
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Default The history of old Applause guitars

Hey all! This is my first post, and to coincide with my n00bness, it's a question about a real beater of a guitar...

I have an Applause AA15, a freebie from a friend's dad who had an extra 12-string who didn't know what to do with it (he himself had gotten it for free from someone). Far as it may be from a Martin, Guild, or Taylor, it sounds and handles pretty good for something hardly possessing much wood.

There isn't much information about these older guitars out there on the net. Not even Applause's archival page mentions this particular model. By the look of it, I know it has to be from at least the 70's. It's got a pretty hip rosette and pick guard. The Applause logo is not the Ovation variant. In fact, the sticker in the bowl doesn't even mention Ovation, just "A Kaman Music Product."

Some Applause models bear their birthplace. Some American, some Korean, others elsewhere. Not mine.

I'd love to know the history behind this thing, so I'm wondering if anyone here knows a thing or two about this brand. Some of the questions I've had on my mind lately include:

- Were all Applause guitars made by Ovation in some way?
- How many countries made Applause guitars?
- In these older aluminum and plastic models, have anyone tried to adjust nuts and saddles to actually better the sound?

So, thanks for any input!
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Old 07-15-2009, 08:41 AM
Stephen W. Stephen W. is offline
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Interesting, we just had a similar request on the Canadian Guitar Forum. (http://guitarscanada.com/Board/)
I suggested to the poster that he could email his questions to: info@applauseguitars.com
He did but, they seem to be really slow to respond.
I also suggested that he contact any long time Ovation / Celebrity / Applause dealers.
This he did and lucked out getting all the info he was looking for his model from one source.
Furthermore look for a copy of the book "The History of the Ovation Guitar". I can't remember how much info there is on Applause, however, it is a very interesting read.
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Old 07-15-2009, 08:45 AM
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well, I bought an Applause (one of the originals) in about '78 or '79 and it had an all aluminum(?) fingerboard and frets....all one piece. As far as I can recall, that was the first "generation" of Applause. It didn't even have a model # because there was only one style available at the time. I'm remembering the AA series coming out much later, like late 80's or so.
Could be wrong, but I bet you could put a note into Customer Service at Ovation/Kaman and they could tell you better....
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:46 PM
BigRed51 BigRed51 is offline
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The early Applause guitars did not say Ovation on them, because the plan was to sell them through a distributor rather than the Ovation sales force. The concept was to make cheaper copies of their own guitars before someone else did, and the goal was to build them with only one man-hour of labor involved. I don't think they ever reached that goal, but I believe that they were able to build them in less than 2 1/2 hours of man-hours. They used the same back as the Ovations, but had a laminated top (Ovations were solid), and as someone mentioned, the necks were aluminum, and the fretboard, support rod, headstock, and frets were one piece. Then they molded the back of the neck out of a plastic material, and finished it to feel "just like mahogany!"

They were introduced in 1976 or 1977, and were built in Connecticut. There was one big difficulty ... the aluminum frets tended to wear quickly, and could not be replaced. The original plan had been that the necks would be easily interchangeable, and that you could have the entire neck replaced for less than it would cost to replace frets on a wooden fretboard. That never became a popular selling point. The next step was to cover the aluminum frets with nickel plating, which helped a little, but they still seemed to wear quickly.

Around 1982 or 1983, they moved production of the Applause guitars to Korea, and at some point after that, they did away with the aluminum necks. About that same time, they introduced the Celebrity series priced to be between the Applause and Ovation brands. I can't recollect when Applause added "by Ovation" to their logo.

Chances are that if next time you change strings you remove the saddle, there will be at least one shim underneath. This is how Ovations shipped. By removing a shim, you lowered the action at the 12th fret by 1/64 ... if you wanted to raise the action, Ovation and their dealers would give them to you at no charge.

This brochure should be very close to the time frame that your AA15 was built ... Applause Brochure
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Old 07-15-2009, 09:16 PM
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I have an AA24-4 that actually plays pretty good for what it is. Back in 1977 when I bought it I couldn't afford much. It indeed has an aluminum neck. I had it looked at by my builder buddy back in the 90's and he put a compensated saddle on it. Plays good and sounds good. I hope to donate it to a local school in the near future.
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Old 07-15-2009, 09:29 PM
studio1087 studio1087 is offline
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I had one of the Applause guitars with the one piece Aluminum neck and frets in college (1982) and it endured a lot of crowded car rides home and dormitory abuse. I don't think that you could adjust those necks. It was what it was.

I have not held one of those in years.

Post pictures!!! Pleeeeeeeease!

John
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Old 07-15-2009, 09:35 PM
jmat jmat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigRed51 View Post
The early Applause guitars did not say Ovation on them, because the plan was to sell them through a distributor rather than the Ovation sales force. The concept was to make cheaper copies of their own guitars before someone else did, and the goal was to build them with only one man-hour of labor involved. I don't think they ever reached that goal, but I believe that they were able to build them in less than 2 1/2 hours of man-hours. They used the same back as the Ovations, but had a laminated top (Ovations were solid), and as someone mentioned, the necks were aluminum, and the fretboard, support rod, headstock, and frets were one piece. Then they molded the back of the neck out of a plastic material, and finished it to feel "just like mahogany!"

They were introduced in 1976 or 1977, and were built in Connecticut. There was one big difficulty ... the aluminum frets tended to wear quickly, and could not be replaced. The original plan had been that the necks would be easily interchangeable, and that you could have the entire neck replaced for less than it would cost to replace frets on a wooden fretboard. That never became a popular selling point. The next step was to cover the aluminum frets with nickel plating, which helped a little, but they still seemed to wear quickly.

Around 1982 or 1983, they moved production of the Applause guitars to Korea, and at some point after that, they did away with the aluminum necks. About that same time, they introduced the Celebrity series priced to be between the Applause and Ovation brands. I can't recollect when Applause added "by Ovation" to their logo.

Chances are that if next time you change strings you remove the saddle, there will be at least one shim underneath. This is how Ovations shipped. By removing a shim, you lowered the action at the 12th fret by 1/64 ... if you wanted to raise the action, Ovation and their dealers would give them to you at no charge.

This brochure should be very close to the time frame that your AA15 was built ... Applause Brochure
Now this was a helpful response!
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Old 07-15-2009, 11:06 PM
hepkat63 hepkat63 is offline
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A buddy of mine had one of the early ones... He gave it to me when he left to go overseas in '81. Aluminum frets got eaten up by steel unwound strings.

Tone was really god, and when I went into the studio the first time in 83-84 the engineer liked the way it recorded. I ended up leaving it in the studio for awhile and it ended up being played on a lot of demo's.

Best story about the guitar: my mother saw it the first time and said "What is an "Apple Sauce" guitar"
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Old 06-18-2010, 08:38 AM
ksdaddy ksdaddy is offline
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I've currently got five AA-14s plus seven other Ovation products ("Real" Ovations, a Korean Applause, a couple Academys). I love the AA-14s. They reside right alongside eight Gibsons and a Martin and others (whatever happens to be here that day).

I even have the 1000th one made, signed inside by all the production line workers at Moosup and Bill Kaman in Aug 1976. That one stays in the case mostly.

It may be a bit of reverse snobbery but I am just amazed and always pleasantly surprised to play one. Yes they have plywood tops and when the bridges explode off the top, most people would walk away, but I've repaired a couple with no structural issues later. Yes, the frets do wear out but you'd be surprised how forgiving they are. The frets LOOK bad but are still playable. I've even taken the time to level and crown them and was very happy with the results. It may only extend the life of the neck by a few years but I'm okay with that. They made about 105,000 of them so I don't expect to run out anytime soon.

If anyone has broken ones, please contact me. They'll have a good home here. Necks, bowls, rosettes, whatever.
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Old 06-18-2010, 09:11 AM
jayelcee jayelcee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksdaddy View Post
I even have the 1000th one made, signed inside by all the production line workers at Moosup and Bill Kaman in Aug 1976.
So this is yours?

Cool.
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Old 06-18-2010, 09:22 AM
ksdaddy ksdaddy is offline
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Yep. I emailed the pics to Jerome and he put it on his site too.

http://www.angelfire.com/me4/ksdaddy/1kapplause.html
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Old 06-18-2010, 10:06 AM
Weird Snake Joe Weird Snake Joe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksdaddy View Post
It may be a bit of reverse snobbery but I am just amazed and always pleasantly surprised to play one. Yes they have plywood tops and when the bridges explode off the top, most people would walk away, but I've repaired a couple with no structural issues later. Yes, the frets do wear out but you'd be surprised how forgiving they are. The frets LOOK bad but are still playable. I've even taken the time to level and crown them and was very happy with the results. It may only extend the life of the neck by a few years but I'm okay with that. They made about 105,000 of them so I don't expect to run out anytime soon.
You are not alone with that sentiment, and I agree 100% about their durability. I got my AA15 (looks like this one without any info on where it's made) in pretty rough shape. The rosette's adhesive is starting to give, and there is wear on the fretboard, but not the frets themselves much. Some typical surface finish cracks, but the thing is an absolute cannon. It looks cheap, is cheap, but doesn't sound it.

I'd gladly add a AA-14 to my collection if just to experiment and tweak. I imagine changing the uncompensated plastic saddle to something nicer and adjusting the nut and tuners could do so much more good.

Like you, I see a lot of these show up on Craigslist, so the only rush I'm in to get on is for the obscenely low price some want for them.
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Old 06-18-2010, 10:39 AM
jayelcee jayelcee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weird Snake Joe View Post
... so the only rush I'm in to get on is for the obscenely low price some want for them.
http://www.angelfire.com/me4/ksdaddy/applause.html

Love the yard sale sticker part.
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Old 06-18-2010, 12:10 PM
Weird Snake Joe Weird Snake Joe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayelcee View Post
http://www.angelfire.com/me4/ksdaddy/applause.html

Love the yard sale sticker part.
That site is amazing.

ksdaddy, are there any audio files for some of these projects? The way you describe the long neck banjo and Academy guitar has me so curious now.
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Old 06-18-2010, 01:50 PM
ksdaddy ksdaddy is offline
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If I could play worth a _____ I would be happy to put audio files on the site. If I think anyone's listening, my fingers get really stupid all of a sudden.

Joe, the AA15 was made in Moosup CT. Next time you change strings, take the two bolts out holding the neck in. You may (or may not) find small smudgy rubber stamped dates, both on the hidden part of the neck heel and on the unfinished part of the top. It's a 50/50 shot, I've found. I've begun amassing Applause serial numbers but I can't find any pattern whatsoever. Seems like they just took them stickers off a roll in the factory.

I asked John Budny at Ovation "whatever hapened to all the Applause surplus and tooling?" and he said he hadn't seen any of that stuff in decades.

Last edited by ksdaddy; 06-18-2010 at 01:59 PM. Reason: added info
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