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Connecticut Ovation guitar factory to close after 47 years

Fender blames market conditions, insufficient volumes; will manufacture offshore.


Melissa Etheridge playing a 12-string Ovation. Photo: Craig ONeil

Melissa Etheridge playing a 12-string Ovation. Photo: Craig ONeil

HARTFORD, Conn. — An Ovation guitar factory in the western Connecticut hills that produced instruments for music legends from Paul Simon to Cat Stevens to Glen Campbell will be closing in June after 47 years and production of the Ovation line in the US will stop, the manufacturer’s parent company told the shop’s 46 workers this week.

Fender Musical Instruments Corp., based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and maker of the iconic
Stratocaster electric guitar, said it was ceasing domestic production of Ovation guitars and closing the New Hartford factory, citing “current market conditions and insufficient volume levels.” The company also said it is consolidating production of US-made acoustic instruments.

Ovations will continue to be manufactured outside the US, Fender spokesman Jason Farrell said. Fender also builds Ovations in China, South Korea and Indonesia.

The factory also has been making Fender and Guild guitars since Fender bought Ovation’s owner, Bloomfield, Conn.-based Kaman Music Corp., in 2007. The shop opened in 1967 after Charles Kaman, an engineer who founded Bloomfield-based aerospace company Kaman Corp., developed the first Ovation guitar. Kaman died in 2011.

The factory closing was first reported by the Republican-American newspaper of Waterbury, Conn.

Richard Hall of Winsted, who worked for Kaman and Ovation for three decades including 18 years at the New Hartford plant, told the newspaper that Ovation made the first acoustic guitar that could be plugged in to an amplifier and the company had 66% of the acoustic market in the US in the early 1990s.

“It’s the end of an iconic American brand,” Hall said. “In the 1970s and ’80s, just about every big touring band was playing Ovation.”

Ovations made in New Hartford have been praised for their craftsmanship and tone. The company’s website shows pictures of many music legends playing Ovations, including Simon, Campbell, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Eddie Van Halen, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond and Melissa Etheridge.

Fender officials say the factory closing will affect all 46 workers, who will get severance packages, outplacement services and other assistance.

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