“Interesting, keep up the good stuff.”
ResonatorGuitarGuide @ResonatorGuide, October 5, 2013. 

“The story of National/Dobro/Rickenbacher guitars would make a great movie. Roaring 20s, Great Depression, etc.”
Al (@Resoguitar), October 5, 2013.

“Great post! Worth also exploring the hoops Dopyera had to jump through in launching the Dobro not to compete with HIS OWN patent.”
ResonatorGuitarGuide @ResonatorGuide October 1, 2013.

“Awesome reading here Paul.”
 DJ Bob @zczbob September 27, 2013.

 

BLUESMUSE38.  A kind tweet about last week’s blog from Al@resoguitar prompted this latest post. Al’s Twitter profile says he is a resonator guitar enthusiast, “National, Dobro, etc.”, so I thought why not throw in a few facts about resonators gleaned while researching How Blues Evolved Volume Two?

 

Al probably knows much of this, but the problem with acoustic guitars in the pre-electric era was that they were always drowned out by the rest of the band. Only when Sylvester Weaver was recorded in 1923 playing individual acoustic slide guitar with a knife, and picking out individual notes, were the unbounded possibilities of the blues guitar unveiled to the world. See From Russia With Love (14 May archive).

 


Growing up in Tampa, Florida, as Hudson Woodbridge, Tampa Red acquired his nickname due to his light-coloured reddish skin. He had started off accompanying the formidable Ma Rainey, as one of her Blues Assassinators, and now specialised in
hokum blues, a near-the-bone comic blues of the sort mentioned in Dirty Blues Lyrics and Filthy Rugby Songs (21 August archive).
Tampa Red’s first 78 rpm recording was the raunchy, ‘It’s Tight Like That’, recorded with Georgia Tom in 1928 and produced by Lester Melrose. (See The White Guy Who Gave use Chicago Blues in the 20 May archive.) Have a listen on the link below.
 
 
It’s Tight Like That sold in its millions, being one of the best-selling songs of the era. By definition of its recording date, it also has to be one of the first resonator guitars on record. The most prolific blues artist of his era, Red often played in the single-string bottleneck tradition forged by Sylvester Weaver, except louder (now that he had his resonator guitar).
Tampa Red’s magnum opus surely has to be his 1940 blues classic, ‘When Things Go Wrong (It Hurts Me Too)’, covered by Elmore James amongst many others. Altogether, it’s been estimated Red made over 300 records.
John Dopyera
  
But back to 1928. Almost as soon as they had released the National resonator, John Dopyera decided to split from George Beauchamp and leave the company. With his brothers, the resonator’s original inventor then founded a rival company, the Dobro Manufacturing Company. Dobro stood for Dopyera brothers, and also meant ‘good’ in Slovak. The brothers quickly launched the Dobra resonator guitar in competition to National’s resonator. 
With neither company able to manufacture the vital aluminium resonators, however, both
National and Dobro continued sourcing their metal bodies and
other components from a Swiss-born engineer called Adolph Rickenbacher, based in Santa Ana, California.
George Beauchamp, meanwhile, still persevering with his idea of an electric Hawaiian guitar, then teamed up with Adolph Rickenbacher in 1931 the hope of producing a electric lap steel. This they did, and the electric guitar was born; but more about that later. 
For more information on the birth of the electric guitar, why not invest (going for a song) in How Blues Evolved Volume Two. Here are the links and here’s a picture of the Ebook.
How Blues Evolved in the UK is on the following link:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital- text&field-keywords=how+blues+evolved+volume+one

 

In the USA, please follow this link:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=how+blues+evolved

Both Ebooks with their illustrations have now by combined and added to in America’s Gift, a big paperback available at Amazon.

Here’s the American link:

http://goo.gl/At5AZe

Postscript
Sunday, 29 September 2013. London. Down by the River Thames at Greenwich, by the restored tea clipper, Cutty Sark, a busker plays and sings some pretty decent blues on a shiny all-metal resonator guitar. Not a soul watches or listens. A couple of hundred yards away, a one-man band plays an MOR version of the Stones’ Get Off Of My Cloud on a banjo, tambourines on his ankles, and draws a crowd. Was it just down to the location of their patches? I hope so. 

 

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