...Lay down your weary tune lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself ‘neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum...
                                 Bob Dylan

When a group of people leave their motherland, whether it is by choice, or by force, frequently the only thing they are able to take with them is their music.

Music is my life. It is what sustains me. One day long ago, and far away, a Goya guitar turned up in my English-style cottage on Larrabee Street in West Hollywood. To this day no one knows who brought it, who left it, or the exact details of how it actually came to be there.

As visitors and suitors came and went, each of them one by one, fell under the spell of this magnificent instrument. Night and day, guitar adagios filled the incense-scented air.

My concert partner, Peter Walker, when we provided the music for Dr. Timothy Leary’s Celebrations, taught me to play simple drones on his José Ramirez, and although his was an older more expensive guitar, when I began to play those same drones on the Goya there was no comparison.

My guitar, Gitanita, had a full rich voice, but the sounds were soft and gentle, and the quality was so good that people often asked to borrow “her” for recording sessions and gigs. Donovan used the Goya, and my Appalachian dulcimer, on his Atlantis album.

This particular Goya G-13 actually rivals Terry Reid's Martin D-26, which I ask him to leave as collateral whenever he borrows the Goya, which has a softer more intimate sound than his Martin. Terry Reid, that great unheralded talent, was almost an original member of Led Zeppelin, but his foolish manager turned the offer down, and refused to let Terry out of his contract, even when Atlantic Records founder, Ahmet Ertegun, offered a million dollars to buy him out.

My Goya, Gitanita, was made in Sweden. She has 18 frets, solid Alpine spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and multicoloured inlays around the sound-hole. It is a light golden auburn colour, with rosewood fret-board, old butter button tuners, rosewood bridge, a hand-carved bone nut, and she keeps in tune for up to 6 months just sitting in the case. Not bad for a guitar 3 years shy of her 50th birthday. She has a very deep mellow tone and the treble is good.

Never a sweeter song was ever played than those strummed or plucked on this fine instrument.

Stevie Nicks, the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac composed her first song I've Loved and I've Lost with a Goya. During an interview, she was asked how long she had actually been composing songs, and she replied “It was my 16th birthday – my mom and dad gave me my Goya classical guitar that day. I sat down, wrote this song, and I just knew that that was the only thing I could ever really do – write songs and sing them to people.”

Melanie was another wonderful artist who used a Goya guitar for all of her songs. Andrés Segovia, the Andalusian born, Spanish classical guitarist, father of the modern classical guitar movement, often suggested the Goya to his students for a more resonant and incisive sound as they “nail-picked” their way through a Bach Suite or Villa-Lobos’ Prelude No.1. The Goya is a wise choice for any beginning student, especially for a female to learn on because it has the short scale neck.

Those who saw the 1967 feature film The Sound of Music, will remember Julie Andrews playing a classical Goya guitar. For many years Goya aficionados believed it was a G-13, then in January 2009, a Goya guitar turned up in Florida during an estate appraisal. Its serial number is 179061, Model G-10. It has a plaque that states “Property of 20th Century Fox, Serial #179061 Goya Guitar-Maria, Sound of Music." The gentleman who appraised it, Robert Bass, told me he later determined this guitar was possibly a part of the movie but not used in the actual filming. The debate continues. Mason Williams, well known for his guitar instrumental Classical Gas, was also associated with Goya guitars. His second guitar, which he bought in 1958, was a Goya.

Goya instruments were originally produced in Sweden by the Levin Company, which has been making guitars since the early1900's. Hershman Musical Instruments Company of New York distributed these guitars.

Hershman initially used the Goya brand name in the mid 1950's for acoustic guitars made in Gothenburg, Sweden by Herman Carlson Levin, particularly known for his classical guitars. H.C. Levin was originally from Sweden but worked in the United States as a trainee at the Martin Guitar Company (as did his son just before World War I). Hermann Carlson went back to Gothenburg and formed the Levin Guitar Company, which was known as Goya in the US.

As early as 1952 initial contacts were being made between the Hershman Musical Instrument Co. of New York and Levin regarding marketing Levin made instruments under a different brand name in the U.S.A.

Jerome Hershman, who saw the Levin guitar at a trade show in Germany in 1952, suggested the “Goya” name. He believed a guitar named Levin would not go over well in the U.S., and felt they needed a more rustic name. Hence the trademark name was chosen for Francisco José de Goya, the famous 18th century Spanish painter known as the father of modern art (Many of his pictures depict Spanish guitar players). Before finally settling on the Goya name in 1954, a line of instruments named El-Goya were made.

Instead of using already existing Levin models, it appears that Levin designed completely new models for Hershman, and only some of these models would later appear in Levin catalogues as Levin versions, often with some minor changes in detail.

In 1963 the company changed its name to the Goya Musical Instrument Corporation. Dates of manufacture for the G-13 were between 1963-1973. The Goya brand then went to Martin Guitars in 1974 (the same year they acquired Levin) and lasted until 1996. However these Goya guitars were made in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. According to the 1958 Goya Guitar Catalogue, the earliest known Goya guitars are from 1958, but other vintage Goya guitar collectors have stated they can trace them back to 1955.

The Goya Company featured many new innovations, of which most people are unaware. Goya was the first classical guitar line to put their trademark name on the headstock, and they also created the ball end classic guitar string. The use of nylon strings, instead of steel strings, made the guitars a favourite of folk musicians.

The Levin-Era Goya models featured an interior paper label with the Goya trademark in a cursive style, and designated "Made by A.B. Herman Carlson Levin - Gothenburg Sweden." Model and serial numbers appeared on the label, as well as on the neck block.

Should you happen to run across a Goya in a pawnshop or the back room of a music store, do not hesitate to pick it up and give it a few licks!

From our CD Sueños http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16M4O_TBb5U


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