I have three Gowers and one Grammer Guitar and I’m really proud to have them. They are part of my family heritage that I had nothing to do with…My family built guitars (Gower Guitars and Grammer Guitars) starting in the 1950s and made them until the 1970s. Country artists such as Johnny Cash, Leon Rhodes, Gordon Terry, and George Jones played Gower and Grammer Guitars.
I keep my eye out for them but on eBay, they are anywhere between $1500 – $5000 and more. They are rare…if you run up on one for a good price grab it. I don’t want them only for the family connection…they sound great.
I have two acoustics and two electrics. They didn’t make a lot of electric guitars. They all play great and the acoustics have the feel of a Martin. I asked my dad once why they didn’t make more electric guitars. He said because acoustics took craftmanship and electrics were basically “2 x 4’s with strings.”
Well, the electrics I have are more than that. The Green sunburst hollow body electric I have has a Gibson 335 feel and the mahogany solid body electric I have with original DeArmond pickups I would put it against any Gibson SG…
In the sixties, my family also built a studio where singer-songwriters Joe South, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Ray Stevens, Johnny Bragg and drummer D. J. Fontana recorded demos there.
I remember when I was 4 or 5 and walking into the Grammer guitar shop in the early 70s around the time it ended. I will never forget that smell of wood and glue…I also remember the studio and walking in with my cousin Ricky and seeing egg crates on the wall. I do wish they would have continued.
I will let two of my relatives who were there at the time and remember, tell the history…one being Randy Gower who’s father was J.W. Gower and Ricky Moore who’s mother was Alma Moore. My father was Bobby Max Gower.
The below is some history by Ricky Moore and Randy Gower
In 1955 J.W. Gower and his sister Alma Moore started the Gower Company. The first guitar was made by bending the sides on a tree. This did not work well but they still got the Guitar together. After a few months, they had purchased some woodworking equipment and had a brick building built by their duplex where they lived.
They built acoustics and electrics from 1955 until the early 1960’s. They made their own guitar pickups. Alma Moore’s husband Kellice Moore built a machine out of an old sewing machine and an old part from a car to wind the pickups.
Then one day, out of nowhere, dad (J.W. Gower) decided he wanted to build guitars. He went and visited a violin maker in town and picked his brain and as George Jones would say “The Race Was On”. The beginning of the guitar business was slow. If you had seen the first one you would have known why, uglier than a bowling shoe. Made out of maple it was a big jumbo guitar. The sound was good but it looked rough. He made the beast and he did not stop there. He made another one that looked better. Dad and his sister (Alma Moore) decided they could do this for a living so he and Alma’s husband Kellice Moore got together to build a brick o block shop in the back of the house where they could build guitars and do repair work on others. Gower Guitar began. It wasn’t long until he had the shop going. Alma and him would make a guitar on occasion. To help pay the bills they did a lot of repair work for the guys at the Opry. Paying the bills proved to be a challenge. I was only ten years old and I could tell for the time he was putting in on some of these jobs he was not charging enough. He would work 2 hours on a job and charge .50 cents. Granted this was 1958 and .50 was worth much more then than it is today but he was never going to get ahead. The shop was a who’s who of country music stars. Stonewall Jackson, Faron Young, Sonny James, Earl Scruggs, Eddie Arnold, Harold Bradley, Pete Wade and many more would hang out or pass through over the years.
I can remember being in the shop with a fire going in the old pot belly stove in the shop when Faron Young came by to pick up a job. He told dad he had just left the studio where he thought he had cut another hit. He reached down to pick up a guitar that was laying there, strummed a cord and said, “Hello Walls how’d things go for you today”. He was right it was a hit, a big hit.
Then there was Eddie Arnold. I came in from school one day and dad was on the phone with Mr. Arnold. As usual, I went over and ask for a nickel. For all of you, youngsters a nickel would buy a soda or candy bar back in the day. I regressed, he waved me off but I was persistent, I said give me a nickel, once again a wave off. I tried once more with the same response at which point I ran my hand down into his front pocket. I did n’t reach the bottom when out of nowhere a hand came flying across my face. He had smacked the shit out of me. I bounced off the block wall and stood there stunned in disbelief. That was the only time he ever smacked me but I will say I never really gave him a reason again, nor did I ever put my hand in his pocket again. To this day, if I hear or see Mr. Eddy Arnold the hair will stand up on the back of my neck. Life lesson learned.
At some point in the early 60’s J.W. Gower and Kellice Moore decided to build a recording studio in the building they were making guitars in…no Gower guitars would be made again until the mid-1960’s. Around 1964 Billy Grammer came to the house and ask dad if he wanted to go into business with him making guitars. They went and got a third partner in Clyde Reid to help sell stock and raise money. The start of Grammer Guitar had its start. They brought in a man named Fred Hedges who was an outstanding machinist to build equipment for the manufacturing process. It wasn’t long until dad realized the thing was not going to work out. Billy and Clyde wanted to go to a laminated Rosewood for the backs and sides. Like most companies, this was just a cost saving and nothing more. However, dad contention was it affected the sound of the instrument and would not go along with the change. They could not agree so dad left the company in ’66.
There was a gap between Grammer and the new Gower Co.
At some point, Hatch Reid approached dad about starting up Gower Guitar. Hatch was Clyde’s uncle and there again the money man.
J.W. Gower and his sister and brother Max started manufacturing acoustic guitars around 1966. The company was in business until sometime around 1969 when they went bankrupt. A salesman that worked for the company took orders for guitars and pocketed the money…
Alma Moore and her brother Max went back to Grammer Guitars and worked there until Grammer went out of business. Tut Taylor bought all the equipment at auction and leased the same building Grammer used. Alma Moore and her brother Bobby Max Gower worked for Tut Taylor until he also went out of business. She would go on to work for Gibson Guitars for 11 years until she retired. Max went on to work with Tut Taylor’s son Mark for a few years building wooden instruments.
J.W. Gower moved to Franklin, TN and made more Gower Guitars with his son Randy.
I’m proud to be associated with these guitars and studio if only by family. Not long ago I met the great guitarist Leon Rhodes before he passed away. We were introduced and when he heard who I was he started to tell me some stories about the old days and my family that I didn’t know.
All in all, I have 12 guitars… I like playing vintage guitars through vintage amps because I like the instruments to have a history. I like knowing I can get the exact sound now that someone got in 1970…I have some older guitars but the Gower guitars have part of my history.
This guitar was given to me by Randy Gower that J.W. Gower made. I wouldn’t take anything for it. My guitar guy installed humbucker pickups and I can get about any tone I want out of it.
This one plays like a Martin. It is the best acoustic I have. It was made in the early sixties.