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Donovans Guitar

#1 User is offline   Lotus 

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 03:51 PM

Not sure if this is the place to ask this.
But does anyone know what model Donovan was playin in his early years, say '65-'67.
I think it was a J45 but not sure what build year...

Here's a video to show the sound I'm lookin for



Thanx a Lot!!
- I Don't Know... Don't Realy Care... Let There Be Songs... To Fill the Air -
Ripple - Grateful Dead

#2 User is offline   Mojorule 

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 04:15 PM

Oh that's really nice. Thanks for the video. I can't make out how many true points his scratchplate has, because the shadows obscure it a bit as far as I'm concerned, but if their eyesight is better than mine, I think that the resident experts here will be able to date the instrument from that and the cherryish sunburst. Let me see how much I've learned since I joined the Forum though, and take a stab at pre-1962, but probably early 1960s? Looking forward to a lesson from those who really have the knowledge!

#3 User is offline   Red 333 

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 04:50 PM

He bought it 1965, and it's a cherry sunburst, which was available from around '64 to '66, so it's most likely a '64 or '65.

Red 333

#4 User is offline   hallgroper 

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 05:28 PM

View PostRed 333, on 09 February 2011 - 04:50 PM, said:

He bought it 1965, and it's a cherry sunburst, which was available from around '64 to '66, so it's most likely a '64 or '65.

Red 333



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#5 User is offline   onewilyfool 

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:48 PM

DONOVAN owns 18 guitars, plus a Bruce Weber mandola (www.soundtoearth.com) and a 1971 Edward Meppifield mandolin. Photographs of many of his instruments are posted on www.donovan.ie. For the recording of Beat Café, he relied on the guitar he calls “Kelly,” built for him by Danny Ferrington in 1996. It is distinguished by its bold Irish coloring—the top is painted green, the back and sides, red—a horned stag inlaid on the lower bout of the top, and mother-of-pearl runes inlaid on the fingerboard, representing the Vikings who invaded Ireland. “When I first picked her up, all she would play was Irish tunes,” Donovan writes on his website. “So I decided to trick her by writing my first song with her—half Irish, half Scottish, and half Donovan. Kelly being but a babe and not yet counting, it worked, and now she plays anything. Kelly became my favorite guitar, though Rick Rubin insisted on my using ‘Blue Moon’ [made by Tony Zemaitis in 1972] for Sutras, for its more mature sound. Kelly needed to grow up. But now she records beautifully.” Kelly is fitted with a Highlander undersaddle pickup that Donovan runs directly into a Roland JC-120 amplifier. He strings her with light-gauge Martin 80/20 bronze-wound strings and picks with his fingernails or a Dunlop .73 flatpick.
"The sole of my shoes is thin, and I'll soon be on my feet again" Lonnie Johnson

#6 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:53 PM

Looks as if wily came ahead of me, , , great. I'll post anyway :

To ask about Donovans guitars is water right up my stream. Not that I know too much, but he is one of the inventors or main-carriers of modern acoustic playing, isn't he.

He had a blonde dreadnought before the J-45, could have been a Mart. D-28, not sure. Then he got the Cherry Gibson which served him well, f.x. through the cool folk-rock period, further to India. If I'm not too far off, it was reproduced at some point – swear I saw a replica on the Bay 6 months behind.

What really interests me though, is the purple halfmoon-sound-hole thing that came next – circa 1970. Can somebody tell anything about this crisp sounding, yet tender and significant guitar. Think I researched the theme a few years ago and found that Harrison, Clapton and Wood had other models by the same brand, but can't recall details.

Remember seeing D. play the purple mystery back in 74, switching to a sun-sound-hole 12-string, maybe of the same brand, a couple of times during the show. Whau - This was the second indoor concert for me and such a big big night. Btw I guess he kept that moon-6-string for a long time forward.

Nowadays something else has happened – in this day and age he can be seen/heard with some kind of green rarity, which to me looks a bit like a shocker - to use Euros splendid phrase. But, , , if it works for Mr. Leitch, it must be a hit. He knows - and always knew – what he is doin'.

#7 User is offline   Lotus 

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:53 AM

Allright Thanx a bunch!!
It's his early sounds wich takes me away to some celestial
planes somewhere between fantasies and dreams.
So Ill be huntin for a '64 / '65 beauty then.
(/ Too bad I missed te replica on e-bay. I should really check it more often but since I'm in Holland I'm not sure about the shipping possibilities.)

Is there a big difference between a '64 model and a '70 model J45 soundwise ??

- I Don't Know... Don't Realy Care... Let There Be Songs... To Fill the Air -
Ripple - Grateful Dead

#8 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 06:05 AM

Think it was called Mellow Yellow. Have to admit I would like some authorized proof that I'm not fantasizing. . .
Anyway - you'll find your own 45, I'm sure.

#9 User is offline   Mojorule 

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 09:47 AM

View PostE-minor7, on 09 February 2011 - 07:53 PM, said:


What really interests me though, is the purple halfmoon-sound-hole thing that came next – circa 1970. Can somebody tell anything about this crisp sounding, yet tender and significant guitar. Think I researched the theme a few years ago and found that Harrison, Clapton and Wood had other models by the same brand, but can't recall details.



Wouldn't that be the aforementioned Zemaitis 'Blue Moon'? Just a guess...

#10 User is offline   Red 333 

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:20 PM

View PostMojorule, on 10 February 2011 - 09:47 AM, said:

Wouldn't that be the aforementioned Zemaitis 'Blue Moon'? Just a guess...


Yup. I believe it was built right around the time or directly as a result of the J-45 being stolen, sometime around 1972.

Red 333

#11 User is offline   SoonerBuckeye 

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 03:23 PM

It appears in a couple of shots that he had duct tape or something over the "Gibson" on the headstock. [unsure]

#12 User is offline   Craig910 

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 04:00 PM

The last couple years Donovan owned the J-45 before it was stolen, the cherryburst finish was stripped off, the pickguard was removed, and it sported some decals/stickers on the top. I can't seem to find a photo of it looking like this at the moment, but they're around

#13 User is offline   Lotus 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 04:58 AM

So its a '64 bought it in '65. Sweet !!
Nice to know you all have this info. Does one also happen to know what strings he used on it

Found this one on eBay
http://cgi.ebay.com/...e=STRK:MEWAX:IT
Not a '64 but comes close. What do you guys think ??
(eBay doens't say anything about the shipment to Europe but I reckon this could be arranged in an other way also, right...
Or if any one knows where to find a reasonably priced '64 please let me know.
Much Appreciated !!

At the moment I own a '70 one but doesn't sounds as crystal and warm as I hoped it would...

- I Don't Know... Don't Realy Care... Let There Be Songs... To Fill the Air -
Ripple - Grateful Dead

#14 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 06:56 AM

The one you've found seems to be a pretty good call - lucky shot. Still it must be said that there's no guarantees you'll actually end up with the exact D-sound. The creatures differ and the 60ties studio equipment in the hands of qualified engineers, not to forget the unique Leitch-touch, will be vital factors here.

But your project is fascinating – keep telling what happens. . .



By the way, the talked about halfmoon-sound-hole guitar is definitely a Zemaitis – so is the sun-sound-hole 12-string.

#15 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 10:09 AM

Forgot to mention the most obvious : The bridge/saddle. It looks as if Donovan has the original adjustable ceramic saddle, where as your find has a replaced, probably bone or tusk saddle. This is a cardinal-factor and you must be aware ! The ceramic provides a crisp, very bright and direct sound (I have one for my 63 SJ, but it's removed) and the one in bone/tusk will sound more rounded/warm/normal – better in fact, if you ask me.

The adjustable principle isn't too popular nowadays and often you'll see it replaced the way it has happened with the eBay 63. Ordinary saddles typically have tighter contact to the bridge and the top of the guitar, which alters the flavour and in some cases give more volume.

Many great sounding 60'ties recordings were done with ceramic or even rosewood saddles as we know, but the engineers might have been busy keeping the crystal clear trebles down (or up if we talk rosewood). You could balance your way forward yourself, but to come real close you'd need the ceramic. Though a lot have been replaced up through the years, these aren't that difficult to find. So maybe you should wait a minute and think twice before casting your dart, , , anyway, these are important things to consider.

#16 User is offline   Lotus 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 01:27 PM

You know
Its really exciting to see how much some people know about these guitars
and willing to share their knowledge!

The way E-minor7 explains the deal with the bridge/saddle it makes sense to me (,someone who doesn't know too much about the way guitars are build,) and I think the sound Im lookin for, this crispy pungent yet warm friendly tone depends a lot on the ceramic saddle.
So maybe I should first try to find a ceramic saddle and place it on my '70. Maybe that will make enough difference to satisfy me.... for now ahaha
A lot easier on the wallet aswell.


Now I found a nice affordable 1971 Hummingbird in the Trade Section of these Forums. So this doesn't make it easier for me to chose... Although I'm not sure what the difference is between a J45 and a Hummingbird soundwise, the looks of the Bird a really good!
(Also a nice 1963 Hummingbird on ebay but the shippingcosts are $1.115,00 I mean whats up with that?!?!)

Ill keep y'all posted

- I Don't Know... Don't Realy Care... Let There Be Songs... To Fill the Air -
Ripple - Grateful Dead

#17 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 01:46 PM

Good to hear you can use the posts – I've received a lot of assistance on this board as well – we all do.

Now go to the J-45 Bay-pages and check the difference between the bridge types. If you have the old fashioned one, the cheroot sized ceramic saddle can be slipped down just like that. If not, it won't happen – it's 2 different concepts.

By the way, be alert about nut-widths in general. From 65 and 3 years forward they narrow in from 1-11/16 to 1-9/16. Sounds like nothing, but it's a lot!

#18 User is offline   onewilyfool 

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 06:33 PM

You tell me....I don't recognize the label....THE HEAD STOCK AND BODY LOOK LIKE A GIBSON....9or should I say "head" stock, YOU KNOW...THE 60'S...)



This is a Martin'''


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#19 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 10:43 PM

Now this is exciting news. 2 cherry slopes in circulation - one surely a Gibson, but the other. . . ? Never noticed it before and you receive a thumbs up for good eyesight wily.

The coloured Catch The Wind footage is younger than the tune itself – I'd say 4 or 5 years, maybe more. If we are up in the early 70'ties around the time the original J-45 was stolen (from a dressing room, I've read) could this be some kind of 'stand in' that eventually got replaced by the half-moon Zemaitis ?

Think it's time we get Don. on board to explain the actual facts. I'm almost positive he must be one of the so called anonymous users.

#20 User is offline   Mojorule 

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 04:37 AM

View PostE-minor7, on 12 February 2011 - 10:43 PM, said:

Now this is exiting news. 2 cherry slopes in circulation - one surely a Gibson, but the other. . . ? Never noticed it before and you receive a thumbs up for good eyesight wily.

The coloured Catch The Wind footage is younger than the tune itself – I'd say 4 or 5 years, maybe more. If we are up in the early 70'ties around the time the original J-45 was stolen (from a dressing room, I've read) could this be some kind of 'stand in' that eventually got replaced by the half-moon Zemaitis ?

Think it's time we get Don. on board to explain the actual facts. I'm almost positive he must be one of the so called anonymous users.


Cue one of those Kubrick/Spartacus moments. Shall I begin? I'm Donovan! [biggrin]

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