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The Ones that Got Away - Harry Tuft

Denver Folklore Center founder, Harry Tuft, has so many instruments that got away, we had to give him his own page! Get ready for another sad tale told by Harry himself:

I was about to go on a trip for a couple of weeks and thought some of my guitars would be more secure in a storage locker than at my condo, which turned out to be an incorrect idea.

I had the instruments in hard-shell cases and took them to my storage unit. Unbeknownst to me, the woman in a white Mercedes was behind me was a thief and also had a storage unit there. She followed me and saw the instruments in hard-shell cases. What that generally means is that they are of considerable value. While I was away, she and her boyfriend cut the lock off, stole the instruments and put another lock on so it wouldn’t be noticed by the storage unit manager.

When I came back, I saw that it wasn’t my lock. The manager cut the lock and realized they were gone. Luckily, there were cameras by the elevator and we were able to reconstruct what had happened. Later we found out she, her daughter and boyfriend had records. She ended up getting caught and sent to prison. Some $12,000 worth of instruments were stolen. There was one electric, two acoustic and one classical guitar.

gibson es-225tdGibson ES-225TD (electric)
I had sold this instrument to Otis Taylor in 2012. He used it for two years and I subsequently bought it back from him, as a friend, for the same price of his purchase ($2,000).  It was a wonderful instrument to play – a slimline hollow body guitar that one would use more for jazz. I had it set up with easy-playing strings. It was a joy to play and of the four, the most reproducible. It was the only one that was not unique. (photo source:

Santa Cruz Guitar, OM Grand
This was the first of five custom-ordered guitars I had Santa Cruz build to celebrate my 50 years in business. Santa Cruz made a lot of guitars that replicated Martin shapes, but they had never made the largest shaped Martin (0000). So I asked Richard Hoover, the owner of Santa Cruz, if I purchased five of the 0000s, would he consider making the new mold for the new shape. At the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) meeting that winter he asked the question if he made the 0000 would the dealers be interested and enough of them were that he decided to go about making them.

He made me five. And four of the five were a particular insignia inscription in the fingerboard that was a “50” at the fifth fret and a “1962” at the 12th fret and the last three frets had “Denver Folklore Center”. I ordered the fifth one without the markings because I would just use it as a working guitar, which fortunately I still have. And there was one at the store, which I eventually sold to a good friend who still has that one.

Santa Cruz decided they liked the shape so much they established it in their catalogue as an OM Grand and that’s what it’s called today. But the very first one is the one I kept. Santa Cruz numbers its guitars by model, so the very first one has the serial number 01. And it was that last one that was stolen. It was spruce topped, mahogany back and sides, celluloid tortoise shell binding. The wholesale price to me was $4,300.  It was sold in either Texas or Florida so it’s floating around the country or the world somewhere. (photo source:

Juan Pimentel Flamenco Guitar (1957)
A traditional Spanish-style flamenco guitar has a spruce top and white Spanish cypress sides. I got it through a friend, Steve Wiencrot, who got it from someone in Ft. Collins. It had a smashed-in top and they didn’t feel they were up to repair it, so I bought it. I took it to a wonderful repairman who was living in Boulder, Bob Westbrook. I asked him to repair the top but not cosmetically, I only wanted it to be playable. I didn’t care what it looked like. On a side note, if Bob came into a situation where he needed a tool that he didn’t have, he’d make one. He was a superb repairman.

This was a wonderful guitar. It had a rich tone to it and I valued it around $1,500 and I’m sure when these folks went to pawn it they never got more than $50 for it because it looked like a junker guitar. The DFC sold this guitar to Phillip Beasley in 2003 without a case. I subsequently added a hardshell case. It was made in Mexico City and is not the same family as currently makes guitars in New Mexico. Phillip subsequently made a gift of the guitar to me, around 2007, and I had kept it in my personal collection ever since. (photo source:

Custom “J-200 Style” Jumbo Flat Top Guitar
This was an absolutely unique guitar made by DFC luthier John Rumley. John and I have a friend named Larry Pogreba who frequently came through the store and had things to sell. He had four tops he had acquired somehow that came from the Kay factory from the 1950s. These tops had already been pre-cut in the jumbo style that replicated the Gibson J-200. The sound hole had been cut and I believe the sound hole inlay also. He sold them to John who made two guitars out of two of the tops, just wonderful instruments. The guitar had an amazingly clear tone, with nice trebles all the way up the neck. It was amazingly responsive. John used a violin-quality maple back. It was one-of-a-kind and had only John’s logo on the top. So once again they probably didn’t get much for it when they pawned it because it wasn’t a well-known brand instrument. John and I valued it at $1,500. So that’s also out in the world somewhere.