I’VE HEARD IT SAID THAT any deviation from a standard
opening in chess is an error.
Unless, that is, you are a Grand
Master. Regardless, those gambits
are well tested and have
evolved to a point of greatest
advantage. Anything else is inferior
or a revolution. Not withstanding
whim and fancy, every
iconic guitar design also started
as a revolution, and then evolved
or became extinct.
The Ovation Breadwinner and
Deacon Deluxe skirted fame, never
quite gaining mass appeal, and
then sadly died out. Each time a
new endorser came forth—Glen
Campbell, David Cassidy, Ace
Frehley, Steve Marriott, Robert
Smith, Colin Newman, Tom
Morello, Bob “Willard” Henke
(Dr. Hook’s guitarist, whose
unique factory-custom Deacon
Deluxe I now own)—it served
only to keep the brand afloat. It
was like a crowd batting a balloon
in the air.
Breadwinners came in tan,
black, off-white, and blue. They
featured a Teflon-textured coating,
24 frets, active electronics,
and two huge single-coil pickups.
Later models introduced mini
humbuckers and a brass bridge.
The upscale Deacons included
these features, but boasted a
more traditional wood finish
in brown or dark sunburst, and
also offered diamond fretboard
inlays and neck binding.
For collectors, older singlecoil
Breadwinners and Deacons
with the “bad teeth” nylon bridge
saddles are more desirable. Additionally,
there were a number of
rare runs, including the more contoured
Limited and the superb
Deacon 12-sting with its graphite-
reinforced neck. Ostensibly,
these were all variations of
the same vision—a revolutionary
guitar with an otherworldly
design and active electronics.
While the action is usually
crazy low, the worry with these
odd instruments seemed to
revolve around the question of
tone. Could these guitars really
produce usable sounds?
Frankly, if I want a Strat
sound, I use a Strat. For lusher
tones, something like a Gibson
ES-335. But despite the fact that
both pickups cannot operate in
phase together on the Deacons
and Breadwinners—and the
notch filter is a bit arbitrary—
I find plenty of utility of sound.
With all its quirks, the Breadwinner
series has slowly gained
admirers, and it now teeters on
the edge of becoming iconic, like
the Flying V or Vox Teardrop.
Ovation’s Viper 3 and Preacher
might have been technically superior
instruments, but there is a
charm about the Breadwinner
that I can’t resist.
The Eastwood Breadwinner
tribute addresses some of the
complaints about the original
Ovation models. Re-stringing is
easier with the exposed bridge,
the notch filter has evolved into
an on/off switch for the active
electronics, and the pickup selector
is now the standard type. A
nice addition is the option of a
If the Breadwinner had gained
critical mass, we might now have
a Breadwinner 5 or such—perhaps
a three-pickup version with
trem and a custom-shop finish.
Still, these fabulous guitars are
well suited to customize, and
you’ll not find a better neck or
a more comfortable play. Dead
now for more than 30 years, I
say, “Canonize the Deacon!”
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