Claescaster

Tag: 1966

Goya T-18

Levin Goya T-18 1966
My beloved Goya T-18, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966

When my Goya T-18 arrived from the US back in September I didn’t really know where to start. It had an amazing tone, actually every time I pick it up I think it’s my best sounding guitar, but it needed work. The action was way too high, there was three deep really annoying dents on the back of the neck and the pickguard was loose. Last weekend I actually got to work on all three problems and I managed to get my Goya up and running and now I struggle to put it down.

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin LT-18 / Goya T-18
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Single-bound ebony fingerboard with bass side pearloid block inlay
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Ebony bridge, natural finish and ten year warranty

Marketed by U.K. distributors as Super Goliath Model 1855

Goya T-18 1966 / Levin LT-18
First I had to try to fix the three deep dents in the back of the neck. Since they went through the original finish down to the wood I actually added some water first to let the mahogany swell a bit and that way make them less deep. After a couple of days I added the first layer of Nitrocellulose lacquer with a toothpick, just one drop at the time. I had to repeat the process quite a few times to get it even, the lacquer sinks when it dries. Next step was to get rid of the edges with a razor, like mentioned in my previous post, and then sand it even. I used 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit and then added a layer of  Carnauba wax and a lot of elbow grease and then buffed it up with a fine microfiber cloth. I guess because of the thickness of the original finish my repair blended in really well and it’s even hard to notice.

Goya T-18 1966 / Levin LT-18
The pickguard was loose so I decided to remove it completely and then glue it back again. I cleaned off the old glue with a razor blade and made sure that both the top of the guitar and the back of the pickguard was smooth and even before I glued it back with my trusty old fish glue. I added some pressure with a clamp, I had a little block of wood on the inside and half a wine cork on the outside for not ruining the finish.

Goya T-18 1966 / Levin LT-18
The main thing that was needed on this Goya T-18 was a neck reset to get the action down. I was pretty worried about this and that’s why I have put it off for so long. I have never done anything like this before and I wasn’t even sure what I could use to loosen the two bolts on the inside, these Levin / Goya guitars have used a combination of glue and the Levin bolt-on neck system since the early Sixties. It turned out that a normal Philips screwdriver no 2 fitted perfectly, they are square in the base of the tip. Once the bolts were off I tried to remove the neck completely but without any luck, well the heel came loose straight away but not the fretboard. I tried with heat, steam and all sorts of magic but it didn’t budge and since I didn’t want to do anything too drastic and ruin the guitar I left it. Then I read on a Swedish guitar forum that you could leave the neck on and just lift the heel, get a bit of sandpaper in under, add some pressure and then pull. That way you would get some material of the heel off without removing the neck completely. The guy in the forum mentioned that he had done 40 pulls on both the left and the right side so I did 30 on each to be on the safe side. I fastened the bolts and strung the guitar up again and it worked, it actually worked really well. I played it for a couple of days and then decided to sand off a bit more, so I loosened the neck again and did another 15 pulls on each side and now it’s perfect. Crazy Swedes, coming up with such a quick and easy way of resetting a neck on an acoustic guitar. Thank you Levin for thinking of me 47 years down the line.

Levin / Goya catalogue 1965Levin / Goya catalogue 1965
The Goya T-18 was top of the line back in 1965 and cost $219.50 new, I wish they still cost that.

Songwriting credits

Chest Fever, Claes Gellerbrink and Araceli Perez
Chest Fever, my first band without any issues regarding who wrote what, maybe because it’s just the two of us

A big discussion in all bands I have ever been a part of has been, who is going to get credits for the songwriting? Since I have never been a part of a successful band that has actually made any money this hasn’t really felt too important in the past, especially since I didn’t use to write music. However, over the years my opinion has changed quite a lot. I started to write music seriously when I moved to Spain in the spring of 2010, before that I just expected others to supply the band with songs. I think I wrote one or two songs for The Caper Story, the last band I played in when I lived in London, well I came up with the riff and then the singer sorted the lyrics. In those cases I felt it was more of a collaborate effort to create music and didn’t mind if the others had an equal share in the credits of writing the song. After all we were a band and we all added something to the finished sound of the song. When I arrived to Barcelona I was unemployed for the first two month and decided to write a song a day however bad it was, just to get used to writing songs and especially to get used to write lyrics. It went pretty well even if I didn’t managed to write a song a day I probably came up with 10 songs at least during this period, some of them I still play today and think are pretty good songs. These songs I consider being 100% mine, not only because I wrote them on my own without the influence of others, but because I have tried to be in 3 different groups during my 3 years here and played those songs in all three bands. If I would have given credits to the others in the first band I played in but recorded it with the last, how would that have been? The drummer kept the beat, the bassist came up with their own bass lines and the guitarists added a fiddly bit or two in every band but to be completely honest, they didn’t sound that different. The songs sounds like they do because of me, what I had in my mind when I wrote the songs still guides anyone who I play it with and therefore the credit should, according to me, be solely mine. It might seems like a egoistic way of seeing music and I can understand that, but if you change this from songwriting to any other form of artistic creation it would seem fairly obvious. I’m a photographer by trade, well nowadays I’m mainly a retoucher but still, I would never give away the copyright of my images or share the credits with anyone else and I don’t think others should either. If you have a few beers and jam up a song, that’s a different story, anyone adding anything to that song should of course have a part of the credit. I’m referring to when you bring a finished song to a band and they expect to get songwriting credits just because they changed the drum beat or added a bass line. This is not even a matter of money, well I haven’t made any money out of my music yet, it’s just a matter of freedom. I don’t want to end up having to share my credits with someone that I might not even be friends with any more just because we used to be in a band together at one point. Or having the possibility that someone decides to play a song that I wrote in his new band without my consent just because they got a share of the credits and therefore can partly call it their own. I need and want the freedom to be able to do do whatever I want with with my own music, now and in the future. It’s perhaps a silly matter until money comes in to the picture but I still think it’s important to make up your mind before greed starts to influence and cloud peoples judgement. A song you have written will be with you for the rest of your life while band members tend to come and go.

I thought of all this because I was listening to Boris the Spider, a song written by John Entwistle for The Who’s 1966 album A Quick One. I read somewhere that they all contributed with songs to the album because they realised that a lot of the money lied in getting royalties for the songwriting. If this is true or not, maybe Pete Townshend was just tired of supplying all the material, it’s a good point. If you want some royalties you better start writing songs.

Goya T-18

Goya Model 163, Goya T-18, Levin Model 13, Levin LM-26, Levin Model 65, Levin LT-16
The Levin family, Goya Model 163 (1968), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin Model 13 (1950), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 65 (1941), Levin LT-16 (1966)

Last week I received my latest project, a lovely Goya T-18 made in Sweden by Levin in 1966. It sounds really nice and works great for cowboy chords but there are a few things that needs to be sorted before I can play her properly. First of all there are two dents on the back of the neck, it almost seems like the lacquer has melted or reacted with the the leather flap for the accessory department in the case. It came with what seems to be the original hard case and who knows, maybe she has been stored in there for decades. So these dents or groves needs to be filed with lacquer and evened out, let’s see how that goes. I also need to re-glue the pickguard, but that shouldn’t be too hard as soon as I receive my fish glue that I’ve ordered from Germany. The Van Gent machine heads looks almost new and it could be the original nut and saddle but not bridge pins. There is a few marks on her but overall she is in really good state for her age. The lacquer on the top has cracked a bit but that seems to be standard on these late 1960’s Goya T-18, but not on the Levin LT-18 so they must have used different lacquer for them. The big thing that needs to be done is to try to reset the neck. I have never done anything like it but since these are quite cleverly bolted on maybe it wouldn’t be impossible, if I just find the right square key to loosen the bolts inside. The Goya T-18 sounds a lot bigger and fuller than my dad’s old Levin LT-16 which could be down to the size more than the materials, I’m not sure. She sounds bright but still with a lot of bottom which I like, I actually think this is my best sounding acoustic after my Morris W-40. I’m trying to get the biggest Levin collection in Spain, well I might already have it, who knows.

Update: December 6, 2013
I finally managed to get my beloved Goya T-18 sorted and now it plays beautifully

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966
Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966

Goya T-18

Goya catalogue 1965
Levin’s Goya catalogue from 1965

I’m very excited about my future Goya T-18 from 1966. I managed to find one in a fairly good state for a reasonable sum on eBay and couldn’t resist. I’ve decided that from now on I’m just buying Swedish made Levin acoustics, they were called Goya in the US. Since I haven’t received the guitar yet, it will probably spend a week or to in the customs office in Madrid, I have to stick to looking at old catalogues and dream. They have a review of a Goya T-18 from 1965 in the latest issue of Acoustic Guitar, under Great acoustics, 1965 Goya T-18 by Teja Gerken. I need to find a copy so I can get an idea of what I’ve got myself in to. It can’t be that different from my dad’s old Levin LT-16 also from 1966, which is among the best acoustic guitars I’ve ever played. The Levin LT-16 or Goya T-16, has alp spruce top and mahogany back and sides while the Levin LT-18 or Goya T-18, has alp spruce top and flame maple back and sides. The LT-18/T-18’s Goliath size is also a bit bigger than LT-16/T-16’s Grand Concert size so let’s see how the size in combination with maple instead of mahogany affects the sound. The LT-18/T-18The LT-18/T-18 was top of the line in the mid Sixties and cost $219.50 new in 1965.

Goya catalogue 1965
Levin’s Goya catalogue from 1965. Next I will have to find a Goya N-26 or Goya N-22 in sunburst from the mid 1960’s.

Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966
My dad’s old Levin LT-16 from 1966

Levin

Goya GG-172 (1970), Levin Model 13 (1950), Goya Model 163 (1968), Levin Model 174 (1972), Levin Royal (1951), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 65 (1942), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin LT-14 (1965), Levin LT-16 (1966) The Levin family back in the days, from left to right: Goya GG-172 (1970), Levin Model 13 (1950), Goya Model 163 (1968), Levin Model 174 (1972), Levin Royal (1951), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 65 (1942), Goya T-18 (1966),  Levin LT-14 (1965), Levin LT-16 (1966)

Last week I managed to become the proud owner of two new, or rather very old, Levin guitars. With some persistence, a huge dose of luck and some money changing hands I managed to get them both here safe and I already love them. I have always been a huge fan of Hagström, also built in Sweden, but didn’t know how much I loved Levin until I figured out that my dad’s old guitar was actually a Levin. It doesn’t have any markings on it but you can read about my Levin epiphany here. The problem with old guitars is that they quite often forgot to mention the model anywhere, so you have to do a lot of detective work. Luckily for me there is an awesome guitar shop, Vintage Guitars Stockholm, that has more or less everything Levin has ever made listed on their Levin information pages. They also have some info on Hagström and the brands built by Bjärton, and the rest of the brands built by Levin: C. F. Martin & Co, Clangiton, El-Goya, Goya, Kay-Tone, Klangola, Torres, Zandelin, Nivello, Rondo. I managed to track mine down to a Levin LT-16, Levin Model 65 and the amazing Levin Model 13 Ambassadör. These Levin guitars are a bit thin sounding compared to other guitars, well I don’t have any other guitars that are 70 years old, but still. Then again they aren’t full sized so no wonder that they lack a bit of bass compared to a dreadnought, but they are very light and extremely resonant in the higher register so they are perfect for finger picking. Either way I’m super happy to have found four so old and amazing guitars that have been built in the country where I grew up, Sweden.

Maybe I should add a little disclaimer here, this was originally posted back in August 2013, the Levin collection and my appreciation and understanding of the brand has grown a bit since then.

Levin Model 2 Parlour Made in Sweden 1914Levin Model 2 Made in Sweden 1914

Levin Goya F-11 Made in Sweden by Levin 1963Goya F-11 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1963

Rondo Model 29 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1960Rondo Model 29 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1960

Levin LT-14 / Goya T-14 Made in Sweden 1965Levin LT-14 Made in Sweden 1965

Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965
Goya T-16 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1965

Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966
Goya T-16 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1966

Levin LS-16 Made in Sweden 1963Levin LS-16 Made in Sweden in 1963

Levin LS-18 Made in Sweden 1960Levin LS-18 Made in Sweden 1960

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1963Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1963

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1966Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968
Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966Goya T-18 Made in Sweden by Levin 1966

Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966
Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin LM-26 1959Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1959

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1959Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1959

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1963Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1963

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970Goya GG-172 Made in Sweden by Levin 1970

Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden 1968Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden by Levin 1968

Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972

Levin Model 3 Royal Made in Sweden 1951Levin Model 3 Royal made in Sweden 1951

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946Levin Model 32 made in Sweden in 1946

These two Levin guitars used to be a part of my collection but I had to sell them to make space for other Levin guitars:

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942

Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950

Herman Carlson Levin was a young furniture maker that moved from Gothenburg to America and got a job at a guitar manufacturer in 1888. He soon started his own company in New York building instruments and while he was back visiting Sweden he realised that the demand was even higher there. He moved back home and in 1895 started Herman Carlssons Instrumentfabrik in Gothenburg. They were only five instruments makers in 1903 when they built their 1000th guitar but they soon grew bigger and bigger. The factory was one of the best in Europe and between 1904 and 1912 Levin received many awards including the gold medal in Madrid in 1907 for best guitar as well as the exhibition’s Grand Prix price. By 1936 the 100,000th instrument had left the plant and Levin was marketing a successful line of archtop guitars, like the world famous Levin De Luxe 1938. Shortly before 1940 Levin employed a crew of 45 in facility of a 1000 m². In the 1950s, Levin launched a line of inexpensive guitars intended for schools and novice guitar players. These guitars were of lower quality than the rest of the Levin line up. In 1952 Jerome Hershman a guitar distributor from America noticed Levin guitars at a trade show in Germany and convinced the Levin company to let him market their guitars in America under the name Goya, Levin apparently sounded too Jewish. He also got Hagström to make some fine electric guitars for the US market as well. These nylon stringed Levin / Goya guitars got quite popular in the late 1950’s and especially with the folk singers in the 1960’s when they started to produce steel stringed guitars on a typical nylon stringed body. When Goya was sold in 1968 the Goya export was approximately 70% of Levin’s total production. They had a huge contract with Goya that they lost in this sale, something that took really hard on Levin and they had to close down the second factory they opened in Lessebo and let half of its work force go. A lot of companies got bought and sold over the next few years, Kustom bought Goya, Dude bought Kustom and in the end C. F. Martin & Co bought them all. In 1973 when Martin bought Levin, it became the headquarters for Martin Guitars and their Japan import brand Sigma Guitars in Europe, as well as actually producing a run of some 200 Martin D-18 acoustic guitars, which were labelled “LD-18 – Made In Gothenburg, Sweden. These are quite rare and expensive today. The last “real” Levin built in Sweden left the factory in 1979, they are still building nylon stringed Levin guitar in Sweden to this day. In 1982 Svensk Musik AB bought the name Levin and the remaining stock from C. F. Martin & Co and in 2000 they changed their name to Svenska Levin AB. They are now producing steel stringed guitars in the far east and have a small batch of nylon stringed guitars being built in Sweden. Here is the whole story about Levin together with some amazing photos, Levin History.

Django Reinhardt at the Aquarium, New York City, 1946
Django Reinhardt is playing Fred Guy’s Levin De Luxe backstage at the Aquarium in New York City 1946. © William Gottlieb

Nick Drake playing a Levin guitar
Nick Drake playing a Levin guitar

Hootenanny Singers
Hootenanny Singers sure liked their Levin guitars. Björn Ulvaeus, the guy on the far right got a bit famous later on with his next band, ABBA.

Levin was pretty much the main brand for acoustic instruments in Sweden back in the days. We also had Bjärton but they mainly made nylon stringed guitars and of course Hagström but they were more famous for their electric instruments, even though they built some really nice acoustic guitars together with Bjärton like the legendary Hagström J-45.

Levin guitar factory
I’m not sure if it was the handsome chap to the left that built my Levin Model 13 Ambassadör. The Levin guitar factory on Kvillegatan 9 in Gothenburg in the late 1940’s.

Levin catalogue 1968
Taken from the Levin catalogue 1968

In 1972 negotiations between the C. F. Martin & Co. and Levin results in that C. F. Martin & Co. purchases Levin in June 1973.
In 1972 negotiations between the C. F. Martin & Co. and Levin results in that C. F. Martin & Co. purchases Levin in June 1973 and Levin got to make some 200 Martin D-18 acoustic guitars, which were labelled “LD-18 – Made In Gothenburg

Levin LT-16

Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966

When I grew up back in Sweden we always had this old acoustic guitar standing in a corner. It was from my father and I never knew what make it was or how old it could be, my mum just told me that my dad bought it second hand in the early Seventies. Someone had sanded off the name on the headstock and taken off the sticker inside before my dad had bought it. I learned to play on this guitar and it’s still one of my favourites because of the thin neck and slightly smaller body. I recently had an epiphany and found out what guitar it is. About a month ago my girlfriend and I was watching a film and suddenly I got this weird feeling that I actually knew what make my dad’s acoustic guitar is, I recognised the head shape.  I was convinced, it’s an old Levin. I have always thought that it was a Japanese guitar since the pickup looks like one of those Japanese gold foil pickups from the Sixties. I stopped the film and started to search for Sixties Levin guitars and managed to find a very similar one in a vintage guitar shop in Stockholm. I found some more info on the model and now even the serial number on top of the head made sense. It is a Levin LT-16 made in Göteborg, Sweden in 1966. The nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons can be found on Hagström guitars from this time as well. I wish that we would have taken better care of it over the years and that I wouldn’t have been so hard with the pic when I first learned to play but at least now after more than four decades of family confusion we know what it is. It’s a Swedish Levin.

Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin LT-16 / Goya T-16
Grand Concert size: Body width: 380 mm, body length: 480 mm, body depth: 98 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, mahogany back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with bass side pearloid dot inlay.
Rosewood bridge, nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Matte natural finish and ten year warranty