The three pickup Harmony H78 full hollow body is similar to the popular Rocket series from Harmony and were also distributed under other brand names including Airline, Regal and Silvertone in the 1960s. These guitars were Harmony’s “top of the line” guitar that seemed to have taken some cues from the Gibson Switchmaster. Classic Beatles, Stones and 60s rock and roll tones galore. Keith Richards very early on used a Harmony H72 Meteor.
Recently, they have become more popular and prices have risen as people rediscovered these old vintage guitars. Mostly due to the unique tone that players like Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, husband-and-wife duo Luke Doucet/Melissa McClelland of Whitehorse and the band White Stripes have demonstrated the these guitars can achieve.
Harmony was one of the most successful guitar companies in the USA, manufacturing most all of their guitars in Chicago during the peak years in the mid 1960s. The production years for the H78 were between 1965-1972. Same guitar as the H77 but with a Bigsby vibrato.
These guitars were mostly sold through big mail order catalogs like Sears Roebuck (Silvertone) or Montgomery Ward (Airline). Harmony was one of the largest manufactures of musical instruments. In fact, Harmony was purchased by the Sears, Roebuck Company in 1916. Many players felt they were the “poor man’s” Gretsch or Gibson guitar. However they have their own unique tone and vintage vibe. The H78 sounds great especially into an over-driven amp or when using a Fuzz box. These guitars can be considered the “roots of rock and roll.”
Harmony guitars, although they were mainly marketed to beginners, also built some guitars to attract professional players. The H78 was one of Harmony’s better quality guitars. Note that all Harmony guitars these were mass produced. Inexpensive rock and roll machines.
In 1975 the Harmony Guitar Co. in Chicago ceased operations and had a three day auction. The auction was huge since it was two city blocks under one roof. Must have been some event! Later in the 70’s the Harmony name was sold to be used on Asian guitars. Keeping with their tradition of selling through catalogs and department stores, the 1990’s saw Harmony sell most of their guitars to J. C. Penny stores. The Harmony trademark and all intellectual property was acquired in 2009 by Westheimer corpoaration in Northbrook, IL. In 2011 they debuted the New Harmony Vintage Reissue series.
Harmony thinline 3 pickup guitars:
- H75 – years made 1960-1972 – Electric hollowbody – Sunburst
- H76 – years made 1965-1972 – Electric hollowbody – Sunburst – Same as H75 but with Bigsby
- H77 – years made 1963-1972 – Electric hollowbody – Redburst – Red version of the H75
- H78 – years made 1965-1972 – Electric hollowbody – Redburst with a Bigsby. Some late models have white plastic inserts in f-holes, white knobs, and a Hagstrom bridge
- H79 – years made 1966-1970 – 12 string Electric hollowbody – Dark red
From the 1966 catalog:
Harmony’s Finest Electric Guitars – with maximum electronics
Three pickups… DeArmond designed for Today’s Sound
– “Double Cutaway” – 16 frets clear of body – the highest registers easily fingered.
– “Ultra-Slim” narrow fingerboard – Short scale for easy chording.
– “Ultra-Slim” neck – with adjustable TORQUE-LOCK reinforcing rod. Unfiform “feel” throughout.
– Modern Flat Wound Strings – Quiet – Smooth for fingering comfort
Will be played with pride by the most experienced performer ! Truly precision instruments, finely adjusted befor leaving the factory. The top quality electronics in the triple pickup give brilliant and flexible response. Silent action switches permit selection of any of 7 combinations of pickup heads. Individual adjusting pole-pieces under each strings, on each pickup, permit the most critical adjustment for emphasis and balance response.
Ovalled rosewood fingerboard has 8 large inlaid position markers. Individual tuning keys have metal buttons ; headpiece is engraved ; ornamental taipiece is modern design, chrome plated. This guitar is also avalaible with Bigsby True Vibrato Tailpiece.
The geaming polished finishes on the curly maple Ultra-Thin arched bodies are in keeping with the professional quality of these models – Harmony’s finest.
H78 – With Bigsby True Vibrato Tailpiece. Warm cherry red tone lightly shaded. Size 15 3/4 x 40 1/2. Rim 2 inches deep : $300.00. C70 Carrying case, keratol, plush lined : $24.00.
1966 : $300.00
1967 : $300.00
1969 : $325.00
Harmony also made a single cut version of this guitar that was sold as a Silvertone Model 1454
This Harmony H78 is a double cutaway f-hole hollowbody archtop weighs 6-lbs 9-ozs pounds. Has a shaded cherry red finish with chrome hardware. It features a faux tortoise overlay on the headstock with a raised Harmony logo. Matching pickguard, toggle switch cover and truss rod cover. The neck is a bolt-on that has 22 frets and a rosewood fretboard. Width at the nut is 1 11/16 inches with a scale length of 24 1/2 inches. There are eight block pearloid inlays on the neck which is a thin to medium profile. The neck, top, sides and back are laminated maple. The top has 3-ply binding and the back and neck are single bound. The depth of the body is 2 inches. Grover open back tuners plus a Bigsby tailpiece.
One very nice feature of the H78 is that all fret positions are so easy to access. A little bit like a Gibson 335, but since it is a full hollow body it reminds me more of a Gibson 330.
It is in excellent condition with hardly any body or fret wear. The original finish still looks great. No bucket rash or excess wear. Looks like it was hardly played and sounds great. Even the chipboard case is in great shape and these light duty cases usually fall apart if not treated with great care. Would be hard to find a cleaner example of a Harmony H78 that is all original.
The three gold foil DeArmond pickups are original as all the parts on this guitar. They were manufactured by Rowe Industries like most all pickups from this era for Harmony. Each pickup has a on and off toggle switch for mixing and matching the pickups. The unique pickup tone of DeArmonds is somewhere between a single coil and a humbucker in tone. Unlike many gold foil pickups from this era, the ones on the H78 also feature adjustable pole pieces, so you can really dial in the balance between the strings.
Recently Eastwood guitars re-issed the H78 model with the Airline brand name. I have not seen one in person, but looks like a nice re-issue from the pictures.
Dan Auerbach Harmony H78 on Bridge Pickup
Dan Auerbach Harmony H78 Playing Clean
Rig Rundown – The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach
Whitehorse Passenger 24 Live
Demo I found on YouTube