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  SPECIAL FEATURE. 

With thanks to Christian Benker, Jochen Pöhlert and Steve Russell for their help.

#081   The Pöhlert Jazz Guitar -  made by Hofner.

 
       
       
  Introduction.    
  In June 2010,  I found this guitar on eBay in Germany.    It was an 18" archtop,  very close in looks and style to a Committee Thinline but with some significant differences.   

It was a model that I had not previously been aware of.     I had neither heard about it, seen photos of it,  nor come across any published reference to it.

It clearly was a Hofner.    It had much Hofner DNA running through it but it did not bear the Hofner logo anywhere on the guitar.    Instead it had the name Pöhlert  engraved on the tailpiece!

 

 
  Please note:

All the pics on this page are as the guitar arrived and before restoration.

 
      
  I was aware of three Hofner Pöhlert models.    They are mentioned in Dr Christian Hoyer's "A History of Hofner"  but this was a fourth model,  or to be more accurate (from the dates) it would have been the first Pöhlert model!

It looked like I had discovered a guitar not previously known within Hofner circles  -  except for the people at Hofner who had made it, any previous owners and, of course,  Herr Pöhlert for whom it presumably was made.

 

At this point it is worth saying that Werner Pöhlert had been voted Top Jazz Guitarist at the 1957/58 German Jazz Festival.   Moreover,  he had invented an entirely new approach to Harmony theory and later published several Books and articles with the help of Jochen Pöhlert.    Werner performed and taught professionally and also had personal students.    Jochen continues to teach using the same methods but modified with the benefit of experience and student input.

I have subsequently learned that Werner Pöhlert used his Pöhlert Jazz Guitar for public performances and whilst teaching.

 

The seller told me that he had acquired this guitar around 2004 from the family of an old jazz guitarist in Bavaria and that it would come with some of his Pöhlert memorabilia.

I could also see from photographs that it had some poor quality repairs done on the neck.    Nevertheless it looked special and I just love these very rare guitars which only come to light occasionally.

Clearly this guitar deserved some serious research but I was confident enough to buy it anyway.

 
     
     
  The Guitar   -  A description.    
   
  The 18" body is based closely on the Committee Thinline but with a straight cutaway, simple binding and Flamed Maple back and sides, without inlays.  The neck is the conventional 5 piece construction for the period with volute.    
           
   
  The micro-matic bridge, the 511's and 4 rotary controls are right for the period.      Note that the pickup surrounds are "Toaster" type which dates it to '64-'65.      The nickel "Escutcheon" tailpiece, with Pöhlert name engraved,  was made by Johann Mueller & Sohn  (now ABM)  and was not used again on any other Pöhlert model.  
           
   
  Square-cut cutaway shows that this is not top of the range as does the choice of full width Verithin position markers.   Tapered cutaways were used on more expensive models and rounded cutaways (like the Committee) were absolutely top of the luthier's repertoire.     The plastic Verithin markers are much cheaper than Mother of Pearl and cheaper to fit as well.     Dr Pöhlert wanted to keep the cost down for his students!  
           
   
  Hofner's "Classic" headstock shape with "Bellflower" motif but no Hofner logo. Committee style Van Ghent tuners were used but the "Teardrop" covers are missing.  
     
     
  Identifying the Guitar.    
  I checked carefully though all my old literature and Steve Russell kindly helped by going systematically through everything he had for the period.     Moreover,  there are not any records of this model in the Hofner archive.

There is simply no mention of this guitar anywhere!     

With the guitar, however, had come a fly-sheet published by the Pöhlert family.     The document was ascribed to Jochen Pöhlert,  Werner's son,  who had played rhythm guitar on the Pöhlert CD that also came with the guitar.      I learned that Werner Pöhlert had died in 2000, on his 73rd birthday.    Consequently, I felt that Christian Benker,  the CEO and family owner of Hofner at that time,  might be the only person who could help me identify this lovely old instrument.    I wrote to Christian, who I had met a year earlier in Bubenreuth,  and asked if he could recall the events which lead to the creation of this guitar.    After several weeks of unsuccessfully searching for Jochen Pöhlert I also asked Herr Benker whether he could make contact for me. 

Christian Benker's reply was most helpful.   He recalled the background leading up to the creation of this model and was also able to shed light onto life in Hofner at that time.    Moreover, he managed to locate Jochen Pöhlert for me.     As a result I now have a mass of emails and documents which enable me to identify this guitar with some certainty:

Werner Pöhlert had asked Hofner to make him a high quality guitar but scaled down on price for his students.   He had in mind a Pöhlert guitar not a Hofner guitar and referred to this guitar as The POHLERT JAZZ GUITAR.     Hofner it seems would have been happy to supply him with Hofners but agreed to supply just a small series  "only very few"   Pöhlert guitars.     (I am still trying to find evidence of how many were delivered to Herr Pöhlert).

The guitar was developed from a Thinline Committee but without ornamentation.   The bindings are white not Marble, there are not any inlays, and Verithin striped position markers have been used, all to keep the cost down.     It had twin humbuckers with four rotary controls and a personalised escutcheon tailpiece, and was finished in a distinctive Burgundy-burst almost exactly like the Framus Black Rose.   

Jochen still keeps all Werner's guitars, including his personal Pöhlert Jazz Guitar, and is aware of the ownership of most of the other student guitars.

My guitar is one of that handful which went to Werner's students in the early '60's, some of which it seems had the Hofner logo on the headstock whereas mine doesn't.

 
     
     
  Dating the guitar.  
  Firstly, everything appears to be original on the Pöhlert which is always helpful from a dating point of view.    Unfortunately the body is not dated.   As is usual with Specials, there is not a Hofner label inside or any other markings.   The pickups are type 511s but mounted in Toaster type rings so this sets the window around  1964/65.    That accords with all other dating features so I guessed this guitar was made around 1964.   Steve Russell agrees.   

When I begin the restoration of this guitar I shall be able to date the pots which should define the date pretty closely.

 
     
     
  Specification.    
     
 
Spec:  Based on Model 4680  
       
Body    
  Top      Laminate Single brace on Treble side only!
  Upper 127/8  
  Waist            107/8  
  Waist Posen     71/4  
  Lower Bout   177/8 Nominally 18",  it will have shrunk.
  Length          211/4  
  Thickness  21/4”   56mm  
  Binding  W--b/w/b/w/b  
Neck    
  Construction  5 piece spliced  
  Scale    25”  
  Body joins  Unusual Body joins between 14th & 15thfret
  No of frets 21  
  Binding  W--b/w/b  
Headstock    
  Shape Classic  
  Motif             Bell Flower  
  Logo             None  
  Binding  W--b/w/b  
Finish    
  Nitro-cellulose  Black Rose  
Hardware     
  Tailpiece Unique ABM Custom Engraved Escutcheon
  Bridge Micromatic  
Electrics    
  P/ups    2 x 511  
  P/up Rings Toaster  
  Controls        4 Rotary 2 x Volume and 2 x Tone
            
              
       
       
       
 
     
     
     
  Memorabilia.    
  With the guitar came some very interesting memorabilia,  a CD,  a pamphlet and some strings.  
     
   
     
  Fortunately, the pamphlet gave some helpful information about Werner Pöhlert and his guitar and enabled me to start the research trail which lead to Jochen Pöhlert who has been so helpful in providing background information for me.  
     
     
  Restoration.    
  The guitar needs quite a bit of work to allow it to play nicely.    There also have been some repairs on the neck.    My first feeling was that I should restore it fully.     On reflection, this instrument has an important place in the Hofner story  -  it is full of originality, authenticity and carries its history with it.    Consequently,  I shall rectify the past repairs,  set it up to its best advantage, then allow the guitar to guide me in how much to restore it but I now feel that it should be a sympathetic, "light" restoration.

Interestingly,  this guitar has a single brace on the Treble side only.    This may have been deliberate to tighten up the Treble response and allow more, soft Bass to come through,  or it may be an error.    At present I am checking to see whether Werner's personal guitar has the same structure.

I have three other partially restored Hofners to complete ahead of this one.     So the Pöhlert must wait.    When I start its restoration, you will be able to follow its progress in a new "Restorations" page at that time.

 
   
   
  New Research.  
  18th Jan 2012.

I have started work on the restoration of this intriguing guitar today.

I recently had the benefit of examining a series of photos of Werner Pöhlert's own guitar that Jochen sent to me last year.    They show that  Werner's guitar has conventional bracing so I think it means that mine is the odd one out!    Conversely,  mine has conventional binding on the headstock whereas Werner's has none.

There is also a defect in the finish on Werner's guitar, as if a label had been applied to the finish and the top coat sprayed over it, then the label removed at a later date.     It looks like an oblong depression in the finish.      My Burgundy President has exactly the same feature which greatly supports my assertion that the President was made at the same time as the Pöhlert and both finished together.    I have said elsewhere that these two guitars look identical and in a finish colour not used on any other Hofner.     Could it be that Hofner made two guitars to show Werner,  one based on a standard President and another based on a simplified Committee  ..........  and these marks in finish on the two guitars??     "SAMPLE" perhaps!     Maybe "PROTOTYPE"     I know who I can ask!!!           

   
   
  Further Research.  
  Meanwhile,  if you can add further to our knowledge of The Pöhlert Jazz Guitar,  please mail me via this website  (go to "Contact" button above).

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