2001 Lance McCollum Harp Guitar
Stunning in appearance and tone
Lance McCollum passed away suddenly in 2009. Having only briefly met him once at Healdsburg, and never having a chance to fully explore his harp guitar production, I am now at a loss on many levels.
This instrument, which he built in 2001, is innovative and spectacular. Though the fretboard shows the finger pressure wear of lots of play, the instrument is in near-immaculate condition, with only occasional minor dings and a worn down spot on the arm in the beautiful finish to show that its well-loved pedigree.
Though it vaguely resembles a Dyer, its obvious inspiration, it has many noticeable differences: 14 frets to the body, the flat dove-tail heel neck joint, fully separate bridges (with a string bank gap to match - this will either be a boon or a point of confusion to some harp guitarists), an original bass headstock design, well away from the main neck, with matching Grover tuners, a bit more depth than a Dyer (nearly 5"), and of course, that bizarre "corner sound port"!
Though it looks a little odd, it is an amazing piece of work, with the binding splitting into two paths as it traverses the strange gap. It also makes a wonderful and natural "speaker" for the player. Cover it up, and the harp guitar sounds amazing - something akin to a warmer, more buttery Duane Noble sound. With the port open, the player enters their own world, a veritable "orgasm of sound" (Too descriptive? Sorry, it's true!).
Fit and finish are a solid 10, with a glossy, "eye candy" beauty that similarly reminds me on a Noble HG.
I'm guessing the "vintage" colored top is Sitka, and this symmetrical bear claw harp top was a find, indeed. The walnut (I'm guessing Claro?) back and sides are similar prime real estate - notice of course the transitional color and grain in the back. The headplates appear to be rosewood.
Fully bound in what looks like rosewood, the top ups the ante with additional abalone. With side dot markers, only the single pearl fretboard inlay is required. Sorry for my headstock inlay photo - this is beautiful, shimmering mother-of-pearl as well, flawlessly executed.
Action is good, neck and intonation essentially near perfect (truss rod in there, just in case). The top has normal bellying behind the bridge, and a paper-thin bridge separation here; owners have all said this was like this from day one - you could always have a good luthier check it out. The clear plastic pickguard is mostly invisible.
Grover tuners are a nice choice, and work great. I'm not a fan of the side-mounted L.R. Baggs control, but I imagine this helps with stage functionality. Lance always maintained that Michael Hedges was on the cusp of ordering his first modern harp guitar from Lance, and I can easily imagine this being the "dream design" (see Lance's Oct, 2000 forum post about Hedges here). The 5 subs are of course the traditional Hedges number, and perhaps their placement off a ways in a tighter cluster are geared specifically for tunes like Because Its There. The electronics may similarly be geared toward this song - they are outrageous! The main strings appear to have an under-saddle pickup that sounds very natural; this seems to go straight to the main endpin jack with no controls. The 5 subs each have individual Baggs Hex pickups and have a separate jack off center on the body. The Baggs side panel is dedicated to the subs and provide full EQ control: Volume, Low, Mid and Hi, with EQ sweep for the Low and Mid faders. In a word, "overkill" - but if you wanted to crank your subs and perform BIT at, say, Woodstock - this would do it!
It comes with a foam-fitted, soft Pro-tec case, but just fits into a Holloway hard case (I can probably get one) or my HGM gig bag (with or without caseXtreme), should you want to upgrade.
Frankly, considering the circumstances, I have no idea how to price this one-of-a-kind instrument. The last price for a "basic harp guitar" on the now retired McCollum web site was $9500. I can only imagine the up charge for the appointments on this one: Killer wood, Abalone binding, rosewood headplates, corner soundport, electronics, etc. I'd guess about 15k, wouldn't you? Though well-played (it has had three owners to my knowledge), I'd call it "barely used" - rather, it's perfectly "broken in." It's Sad to say, there will also never be another. If I owned it myself, I'd call it a 20k irreplaceable collectible (with apologies for the circumstances), and not let it go for a penny less. The consignor is being very reasonable with what he needs to get out of it. So in this case, I want to do right by him, honor Lance with the true value of this masterpiece, but also make sure it sells. See price and terms below, and make your decision accordingly.
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