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Guild vs Martin and Gibson in the 60’s, 70’s?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by bonzo898, Feb 1, 2021.

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  1. bonzo898

    bonzo898 Tele-Meister

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    Hello Friends,

    As an older millennial I’m looking for a historical perspective on Guild acoustics: From what I’ve seen and heard they were one of the 3 main acoustic guitar options for those playing a “serious” acoustic guitar back in the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve seen them featured prominently in the hands of famous players from that period. I have a ‘76 D-50 and it’s an excellent sounding and playing instrument.

    1. Were they every bit as much of a player in that market and time period as it appears?

    2. What happened by the 80’s and 90’s that caused them to cede that position to others like Taylor and Takamine? Quality issues? Buyouts? Personnel? Logistics? All the above?

    Thanks in advance for perspective from those who were there!
     
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  2. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Poster Extraordinaire

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    Mid-era Gen X-er here with the same questions...

    I’ll keep an eye here for the answers.
     
  3. Dan German

    Dan German Doctor of Teleocity

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    I remember being drawn to Guilds back in my youth. Hey, Richie Havens played one, and the first folk acoustic with a cutaway I ever saw was a Guild. The ones I got to play seemed like great guitars, not that I'm any judge. The 70s and 80s weren't kind to any acoustic guitar companies, though, and the pressure from imports didn't help.
     
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  4. Viejo

    Viejo Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Yeah they were up there with Gibson and Martin but a cost a little less. I bought a D50 new in '73 with a case for 400.00 in San Diego while I was in the Navy. At the same time I could have bought a used D18 or J-45 with case for about the same or a little less. I would like to have that old Guild,a thief got it down in FL in '79. The D 25,D35,D50 and D55s were were a departure for Guild up until then they were known for those big blonde F models and their 12 strings. There was a time in down in FL early '80s when you couldn't walk in a guitar store without tripping over two of those big blonde Guilds. I almost never see them for sale any more
     
  5. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Perhaps I’m a young “Boomer”.
    I guess that’s the only way I’ll ever be considered young again.
    I remember when Martin, Gibson and Guild were the big three acoustic guitar companies.
    Here’s my “take”.
    Martin was considered by most of my associates to be the best sounding guitars.
    They were sometimes harder to play, which may be a small part of why they sounded good.
    Gibson “won” the style and playability contest.
    The radius of the fretboard, fancy binding, inlays and flashier pickguards made them great stage guitars.
    Their generally softer volume made them good for singers.
    The guitar did not overpower them.
    Guilds were “in between”.
    They were easier to play than Martins, but not as good sounding.
    They played as nicely as Gibsons, but were not as stage-worthy.
    Where Guild excelled was in making good sounding, easy to play, and somewhat flashy 12 strings.
    John Denver probably sold thousands of 12 strings for Guild.
    I have owned a few Martins, many Gibsons, and no Guild acoustics.
    In the 60s and 70s, Gibsons were more common and popular.
    Martins were almost luxury-grade guitars.
    Guilds were good quality also-rans.
    Just my opinion.
     
  6. Cadillac_Mike

    Cadillac_Mike Tele-Meister

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    A '76 D-50, nice! Hold onto that baby... Hopefully it's got some cool patina, or not lol. From what I've heard quality for Martin really declined in the 70's which probably lead to brands like Taylor and buyers flocking to more competively priced Japanese brands. Guild 6-string dreads like yours are really underrated because they're most famous for their 12-strings. I love the Guild brand though, they actually have my favorite headstocks. I want to do a solo acoustic act and my dream acoustic is a Guild D-55e. Maybe someday, I got a nice Taylor 214 now :).
     
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  7. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Poster Extraordinaire

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    Guilds were always high quality through that period, and maintained that, much more so than most guitar companies. I don't see them having ceded position to Taylor and Takamine. They seem like a company that stayed strong through it all, while other companies went up and down.

    They were kind of like the G&L of acoustic guitars. Newcomers into a traditional market, but who built just as well as their predecessors. They really had poor resale, so they were the best bangs for the buck out there for decades. You could pick up a used one in like new condition for half what it cost new, at most. Incredible, truly well built, great sounding, great playing acoustic guitars for a few hundred bucks? Sure. I'll take it.

    I have owned four or five Guilds in my life, some electric and some acoustic. I'd put them up against any Gibson, Martin, Taylor, whatever, any time. And, like I said, they didn't get crappy in the '70s, '80s, or '90s, like Gibson did.

    Plus their electrics were every bit as good as their acoustics. My '68 T-100D is a lifer...as is my '68 F-50. The jumbo is a better sounding guitar than any Martin I have ever played...and I've played some AMAZING Martins. And the Guild has an incredible neck.

    The changes only started in recent decades. In the '90s, they were still magnificent.

    FWIW, I have never played a Taylor or Takamine that I fell in love with. I have been in love with at least three Guilds in my life, and pretty much on first meeting. Two are the ones I still own, and the third was a '90s Starfire that I played for years in a shop, but never scrounged up the money to buy.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2021
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  8. Turtleneck

    Turtleneck Tele-Holic

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    Guilds were right up there with Gibson back in the day, but nothing set them apart. I think that is why they fell by the wayside. They were excellent guitars to be sure, in fact the first real guitar I "played" was my best friend's D-35 which he bought in high school and still owns.

    Martins were always Martins. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young played the mythical Martins.

    They have always been a cut above IMHO.
     
  9. Cali Dude

    Cali Dude Tele-Afflicted

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    I used to play with a guy who had a 70s Guild D55. That was one of the best sounding, looking, and loudest guitars that I have been around for an extended period of time. You have a very cool guitar. Enjoy that baby.
     
  10. slauson slim

    slauson slim Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    I own an early ‘60s Guild D40, bought for $100 in 1967 at a pawn shop in Victorville, California. It had a few dings from playing, which have been added to over the years. Made in Hoboken. A spur of the moment buy. Electric guitars and basses have come and gone but the Guild has stayed. It has a sweet, rich sound with plenty of volume.

    It is strung with 12 or 13 gauge bronze strings of various makers. It is tuned a whole step flat - D G C F A D - or in C, G, D or D A D D A D open tunings.

    Aside from a 12 string I have never wanted another acoustic or considered replacing the Guild. I have played a few Martins and they seemed stiff to me. I recently played a friend’s mid-‘50s Gibson J-200 and it wasn’t as loud as I expected - the first time I ever played a Gibson acoustic.

    The guitar came with with a cool plastic brown vinyl (?) fake alligator skin covered cardboard Guild case that disintegrated despite the hundreds of feet of duct and gaffer tape attempting to hold it together. Even my grandmother put some tape on the case.
     
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  11. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    This is my 1967 Guild F47, red spruce top and mahogany box, made in Hoboken, which I bought in 1974. It’s had a neck reset and has at least a dozen cleats inside. It plays and sounds great. I’m lucky to also have a 2008 Gibson J50, a 2015 Martin OM21, an Alvarez D28 copy from the late ‘80s, and a few others, but the Guild remains my favorite for all-around picking. The others may do some things better.

    upload_2021-2-2_6-15-20.jpeg
     
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  12. naveed211

    naveed211 Friend of Leo's

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    I love Guild acoustics, they’ve been my favorite basically since not long after I started playing. I’ve had quite a few over the years.

    What I will say is that Guilds tend to be more “overbuilt” than a Gibson and certainly more than an old Martin. They don’t tend to breathe as much if that makes sense. The best ones I’ve played have been the REALLY worn in ones. They tend to have a more powerful tone, more firm, to my ear than say a Martin.

    I just don’t think they have the same name recognition as Martin and Gibson (and now Taylor). They certainly have had a good run and plenty of rock stars played and endorsed them over the years, but for whatever reason they didn’t carry the same cache.

    Personally I love them all the way through the Westerly era, one of my favorites was a late 90s JF30. But I will admit the Hoboken ones from early on often have some serious mojo that you don’t get with later ones.
     
  13. Bryan A

    Bryan A Tele-Meister

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    The 70s, and into the 80s, were known as a bad era for both Martin and Gibson. You can even see it in some of the listings for those hideous square shouldered J45s, etc. Guild, as far as I know, has always had a solid reputation, at least the USA made ones. Mississippi John Hurt played a Guild, and 30 years later Jerry Cantrell from Alice In Chains played Guilds. That’s a pretty big spectrum. All that said, I don’t think Guild ever have a resale value like Martin and Gibson have. The good side of that is that I’ve seen some VERY good deals on used Guilds.
     
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  14. bonzo898

    bonzo898 Tele-Meister

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    Appreciate all the responses. A little more background on my experiences:

    I first clued in to Guild acoustics about 20 years ago when I randomly picked up a beat up old specimen in a mom and pop guitar shop in my home town of Peoria, IL. I was just a kid and didn’t know the model but it played and sounded amazing. It was probably something like a D40 or D50 and they were only asking $600, but I didn’t have any money then so I just filed away to keep an eye out for one in the future.

    Fast forward 18 years and I was passively searching for a really great acoustic in the range of $1000 or so. I wanted something all solid wood. I played lots of new or gently used Taylors and Martins and they were nice enough but then I found this old Guild. I strummed a chord and knew instantly it was the right one for me, case closed (pun intended). It was head and shoulders above anything else in that range. Even had the original hardshell case.

    I’m glad they fly under the radar to a certain degree, else I would have never gotten my hands on such a choice vintage instrument for $900. They do seem to be creeping up in price lately like everything else.
     

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  15. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

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    Ya, some of the old guilds are big and boomy.
    The 60s hog Martins were great too.

    You might remember in the 70s Ovation took over the scene
    and some Taks.. They were so cool and modern then everyone
    jumped on them.
     
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  16. bowman

    bowman Friend of Leo's

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    I don't know what people thought of Guilds back in the day, but they have a solid reputation now. I have a '78 D40C that is just a great sounding guitar. It's pretty beat up, and I'd love to know its complete history - I only know who the previous owner was, and he's deceased now, so the story will remain unknown. I bought it from his widow, and had it refretted right away. But man, it sounds so good and plays so easily. For comparison, I also have multiple Martins and a J-45, and I like the Guild as much as any of them.
     
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  17. TeleUpNorth

    TeleUpNorth Tele-Meister

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    It’s hard to say if they are better, but Guild definitely made some great guitars. I’d say if nothing that they are on par with other quality makers. I went shopping with a $2k budget for a J45 (my dream acoustic). What I bought after months of demoing and trying Gibsons, Martins, and others of several different models I bought a $700 Guild 1974 D25M. It just played and sounded so sweetly.
     
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  18. adjason

    adjason Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I've got a 70's Guild 12 string that I really like- you have a great guitar for sure...been looking for a 6 string Guild to go with it
     
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  19. TheDavis

    TheDavis Tele-Meister

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    I think the problem with Guild versus Martin and Gibson is they just aren’t the hip choice. They don’t have that bad boy appeal. I’ve always thought of guild as humble, they don’t drop your jaw with price style or sound but they are solid. They don’t scream rock and roll or whiskey drenched country or blues. My accountant plays a Guild.
     
  20. kingofdogs1950

    kingofdogs1950 Tele-Afflicted

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    I bought a '60s J-45 in the early '70s.
    It had the funky adjustable saddle that was
    not well received.
    I never had any trouble with it and it was a great sounding guitar.
    My crew had keggers about once a month and some drunk sat on it and crunched the top pretty badly. I sold it rather than repair. Sigh...
    In ~'74 I bought a new D-35.
    Very nice playing/sounding guitar.
    This was one that didn't have an adjustable truss rod.
    The neck was perfect.
    The guitar was a bit bass heavy and benefited from reguiar string changes.

    Mark's lawn care services - prompt removal of all punk kids.
     
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