As a kid back in the '80s, I was a salesman in a music store with the unenviable task of having to sell Ovation solidbody electric guitars. One badass who rocked an Ovation Breadwinner was the dreamy-eyed teen idol David Cassidy (as well as Todd Rundgren and Steve Marriott). The Deacon pictured here is really just a Breadwinner with certain aesthetic upgrades such as neck binding, mother of pearl diamond inlays, and a glossy finish. Mostly, people wanted to play it because it was just so frickin’ weird looking, especially when hanging awkwardly next to the sleek lines of Strats, Les Pauls, and Steinbergers. But inevitably, when a customer test drove a Deacon, they’d be knocked out by how fantastic it played and by how great it sounded, while being simultaneously confounded by the contrary and unwieldy look of this ax-shaped ax.
The Deacon sports a 24-fret mahogany neck with a flat ebony fretboard. The low action gives a feel reminiscent of a black beauty Les Paul. This thing is fast! Thanks to the active electronics (powered by two 9- volt batteries—I know!), the EQ is sweeping and the output is hot. The clean tones are chimey and Fendery, but with distortion this guitar is capable of cool Brit-rock tones, like a cross between Brian May and Mick Ronson. It has a very focused upper midrange, both though my Marshall and my Boogie. One of the two switches on the face of the guitar is, in fact, a midrange cut.
Given the wild success of their acoustic-electric offerings, Ovation clearly knew a thing or two about guitar making. But like Martin and others since, they learned that just because people love your acoustics, it doesn’t mean they’ll buy your electrics, and Ovation stopped production of this guitar by 1982. As is the case with so many oddballs from the ’60s and ’70s, if they played well, they will most likely command serious dough today, and someone recently threw down $3k for a Deacon online. So, if you can afford it, and you don’t mind if your guitar looks like Gene Simmons’ bass with a tumor, this just might be the guitar for you. —Terry Carleton
Check out more of Terry’s killer collection at bonesandknives.com.