Reconditioning an old old guitar that breaks ALL the rules of what a fine instrument should be

I picked up an EKO Rancher XII today… and by ‘picked up’ I mean when I bought it I almost got a hernia. The thing weighs 7+ pounds. It ws made in the 1960’s or early 70’s.


I have been looking around for an inexpensive 12 string for awhile and playing a bunch. I can honestly say this 50 year old thing is the best sounding and best playing 12 string guitar I tried out over the last week. The only thing is, it shouldn’t be. Everything is wrong on this guitar and yet it all conspires to make it just right.

It’s a 50 year old 12 string. Guitars warp insanely or just collapse after 10 or 15 years of fighting all that string tension. This one has no warpage and the action is perfect. There are cracks in the lacquer and normal scuffs. Otherwise it’s fine.

The top is not solid spruce or solid cedar or solid anything. It’s plywood. Plywood sounds bad, as a rule. Plywood usually sounds dead, bcause glue doesn’t resonate. This sounds great though. The notes are articulate and airy.

The neck is bolt on. That’s rarely done in acoustic guitars. It can affect sustain. This guitar rings all day long, though. There’s also a little shim underneath altering the angle of the neck,  so the neck isn’t even in full contact with the neck block. This should also adversely affect sustain. It doesn’t on this guitar.

Other weirdness: It also has a brass I-beam running through its entire length. I guess that’s why it’s heavy, and also why it survived 50 years without twisting or taco-ing.  The trapeze tailpiece also helps the guitar’s integrity– the top is only fighting down pressure, not torque or pulling. So the top hasn’t collapsed.

It has a ‘zero fret’.  People have looked down on zero frets for decades. This one works fine, the action is low as can be and does not buzz at all.

The saddle and nut are made of aluminum. I’ve never seen that. Nobody uses aluminum.

The saddle adjusts with 2 big screws that twist into brass ferrules in the body. Very poor practice as a rule. The saddle should rest on the full width of the bridge to tranmit vibration into the guitar’s top. This one only transmits the sound through the ferrules. It’s wrong;  This guitar makes it work.




At some point, somebody recoated the lacquer with some thick clear stuff, of the kind you use when you want to put a deep, thick coat on a bar and inset pennies in it in a tavern somewhere in northern Wisconsin. By rights, this thick lacquer should kill any resonance the plywood top has. But it doesn’t.

While I was shopping for inexpensive guitars, I did play expensive ones to get some idea of where price and sound intersected with these. This thing is a joy to play and sounds better than an 1800.00 Taylor 456e I tried, a Larrivee 12 string that cost 2400.00, 2 different 500.00 Guilds, and a vintage Harmony Regal. This one cost 300.00. SCORE!

This thing just shouldn’t sound good but it does. It’s a wonderful guitar. I’m adding a Fishman under-saddle pickup and then it’s going to play out sometime.

Guitars are magic and sometimes it all comes together when it shouldn’t. When the magic happens, it’s worth taking note of.



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