Here is a vintage 1956 Harmony H44 Stratotone electric guitar. This particular example is in excellent 100% all original condition and includes the original soft case. The H44 was originally marketed specifically for students, and other beginners, on a budget, and the small-body suggested better comfort and enhanced accessibility for children. But what was once a a $72.50 introductory-grade instrument offered in colorful Sears-style catalogs has since become an iconic ‘50s guitar epitomizing the basic brilliance of a simple American-made consumer-quality craftsmanship and design. With a complete neck-though construction, one single-coil neck pickup, basic tonal controls, and a beautiful Bronze finish, modern players such as; Keith Urban, Charlie Musselwhite, Junior Watson, Marc Ribot, Tom Waits, and who can forget the original champion of the Stratotone, Ritchie Valens, have all established the Harmony H44 as a serious instrument with incredible tone. Both Eastwood and Harmony offer their respective reissues of this classic in an attempt to meet the demands players have for the originals, but as is always the case when comparing a new copy to the original, this authentic H44 sounds, plays, and feels incredibly superior to the new Korean-made replicas.
While there were many cute guitars made in the ‘50s, there is a distinguishing factor that separates this version Stratotone from all the others; that is, the neck-through construction entails that the neck and body are made of the same long single piece of wood, with two small wings attached at the base to form the body shape. A design originally pioneered by Paul Bigsby, and later re-appropriated for his Magnatone guitars, it is directly responsible for resonant, robust, highly sustaining, and great sounding instruments. When combined with the magnificence of the famous Harmony single coil pickup and simple electronic setup, it produces a pure and savage sound.
As is the case with all Straotones, the neck angle isn’t the best, and the neck displays a small bow from both string tension and the innate lack of a trussrod. The action is manageable, and the neck profile is fantastic. I don’t find it overly difficult to play in any position, and even with the bridge height being reduced, some would suggest steaming the neck into a straighter alignment. This guitar does not display much wear, and has been considerably well preserved. The guitar sounds fantastic, and the resistance of 3.8Ω is standard for this pickup. Super loud, and gutterally gritty, this guitar’s tone harkens of the crude Blues musicians from the ’50s and the garage rock of the ’60s.