The Bozo 12-string guitar was endorsed by Leo in the 70's.


The Bozo 12-String Guitar

I am a loo-thee-ay, I file the frets all day...

If you are a long-time fan of Leo Kottke you will remember those big old Bozo guitars he used to play. (A very ornate one is shown in the photo of Leo on the inner sleeve of the LP issue of Chewing Pine. ) The Bozo's were built by Bozo Podunavac, a Yugoslavian refugee and were built to order. The Reverend Gary Davis also played a Bozo 12-string. Here are some exerpts for interviews with Leo where he talks about the guitars. I read in a newsgroup that Bozo is still making guitars but I have not been able to find out any more information. In Acoustic Guitar, November/December 1992 they mention "the late Bozo Podunavac".


  • A guy who introduced himself to me as Bozo fixed my 12 string about 25 years ago or so as a friend. He was an interesting character. I liked him. He used to come to the Hot Springs I ran at the time.
    I still have it too. I would like to talk with him about it as I have been unable to find another guitar that can compete with the sound. It was the first guitar I ever owned at 12 years old. Purchased new then and its a made-in-Japan 12-string with the label of "Crown Guitars". I goning to try and make contact by snail mail if I have to. I have recently started building Acoustics...got a 6 and a 12-string ready (almost) for the finish applications.
    Take care & Thanks again
    Jack Sherman
  • Gruhn Guitars has a picture of a Leo Kottke Prototype by Bozo. They also have a short article about a Bozo guitar. They mention that LK used a Bozo on 6 & 12 String Guitar,  but he did not and Denny Bruce also informs me he has never owned a Bozo guitar in his life.
  • Check out Guitar Bob's story for more history on Bozo.

 

Guitar Player, 1977 by Gil Podolinsky

Is this why you approached Bozo Podunavac to build a guitar for you?

I traded one of my guitars for one of his 6-strings because the sound was what I was after. I felt then that if I asked him to build a 12-string, I'd come close to what he did with the 6- string and what I wanted to hear in a 12-string.

How much were you involved with Bozo in the construction of the first 12-string he built for you?

I didn't really get involved with the construction. I told him where I'd be pitching it [the E string is pitched two steps lower, to a C] and that I wanted a 2" wide neck... I did decide on rosewood for this Bozo. On a proper guitar -- that being one that sounds right -- I prefer one that has mahogany rather than rosewood because the note sounds warmer, more apparent, friendly, more musical. That's true of any mahogany guitar, but especially true of the 12-string, and you don't need much of that. Bozo also knew that I liked a cutaway since I play a Martin Conversion that is a 28" cutaway guitar.

Do you plan to add any other Bozo guitars to your present collection?

Bozo recently built me a new 12-string that has a smaller box. The reason why I opted for that is I wanted a 12-string with a faster decay rate. On the 12-string you don't want a lot of ring because it will run into itself.

You first asked Bozo for a 2" neck and now you've changed your mind. Why?

Right, I don't want it as wide as I did at first. The first guitar I got from Bozo had a 2" neck, like the Gibson B-45, only with the fingerboard less curved, which makes a big difference. I'm personally in favor of the curve, but again it depends on who's making the instrument. Bozo uses much less of a curve than Gibson so that a 2" neck was a little too wide. We're down to whatever his standard is for a 12-string [about 1 & 7/8"], which is perfectly comfortable...Although I really like the tone of the new, smaller bodied Bozo, I may go back to the big bell, which started off as an experiment for me anyway.

Can you make a comparison between the Gibson and the Bozo?

The Bozo is sweeter, more melodius. The B-45 has a "quack" sound -- more presence, more apparent level -- which is both good and bad. The Bozo is my favorite instrument in my collection. It's just at this moment I'm not sure how I want to reproduce it live. I stopped using the big bell Bozo when I found this Gibson B-45 and I wanted to see if I could still get the same sound as I had on my first B-45, the one that was stolen.

How many guitars do you own?

...I also have four Bozos; one 12-string is about six or seven years old, and the other, a cutaway, about three. Then there's the new one with the smaller bell, and I also have one of his 6-strings. I find that I no longer like guitars with a lot of inlay. It seems more fitting to have the plain, straight line...

Bozo uses sitka spruce from Washington for his tops. Does that make a difference from the sound a 12-string gets when European spruce is used?

Well, Bozo and I think that European spruce is too fragile, plus there's not much of it left. The most important thing I found out about a top, especially a twelve, is that it has good silk. You have vertical grains, but there's a grain called silk that goes straight across. You get it when you have the right kind of wood first of all, and a perfect quarter cut. That makes all the difference in the world because if you've got good silk everywhere, that means the wood isn't torquing very much. So going vertically, it will stand pretty straight. A tree eventually twists doesn't it? But Bozo's construction is achieved by the use of a big cross brace with delicate bracing elsewhere. It doesn't look standard at all. He uses thicker spruce and arches his top just a bit so there's a bubble; a slight bell to it.

 

Stereo Review, 1974 by Joel Vance

We fell into a discussion of various instruments, and I remarked that I hadn't recognized the brand-name on his guitar. I asked him where he had gotten it. "It's a Bozo [pronounced beau-zhow ]," he answered. "It's made by Bozo Pogunavac, a Yugoslavian refugee. He has a shop in Chicago and makes strange guitars. They have big bodies, and if you drape your arm over them in the usual way to get to the strings, your arm slides either one way of the other. It takes a little getting used to.
    He builds to order. I once bought an old six-string of his from someone, and when he saw it, he though it had been stolen. As it turned out, it was stolen, but I had a bill of sale with about ten names on it, so he knew I was legitimate, at least. I ordered the twelve-string from him, and he's so busy it took about a year to make. Some of his guitars have real gaudy gypsy inlay decorations -- they look as through they came right out of the Slavic woods. He makes a few electrics -- he built two for Harvey Mandel.
    Bozo says he wants to move out of Chicago because he doesn't like the air -- it's probably sitting around with all that varnish. He also wants to go into mass production. Somebody said to him, 'Well, if you open a factory everything will be machine-made,' and Bozo said that what he'd do is bring over some of his Yugoslavian buddies. I've seen guys working with him in his shop -- apprentices, kind of -- but they don't last too long. Bozo got his training in Belgrade, and I guess he doesn't trust anybody but a fellow Yugoslavian in making guitars."
    Denny Bruce left to make some last-minute preparations for their departure for Long Island, and Kottke continue to talk about instruments. "I was playing one night, and one of the guys from the Firesign Theater came running over and said, 'You're playing a Bozo. I knew you were a Bozo! We're all Bozos on this bus!'"



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