Thanks for having me. This is my first post here; I had been given a good recommendation that you fine folks might be able to help me identify my Great Grandfather's guitar.
He was a singing cowboy based out of Montana in the late 20's, and the guitar was most likely purchased in 1926 in a pawn shop. I know he bought it used and have a picture of him with it from 1927 when he had a radio show in Minnesota.
The guitar sat unplayed for decades in my parents closet. I had it repaired by a reputable luthier who specializes in vintage instruments who informed me that the bridge had likely been replaced long ago (and fairly well done). It needed (another) new bridge and bridge plate.
Some knowledgeable people have told me it looks like a Larson brothers guitar. The luthier who repaired said it does not, since it is lacking some of the features he has seen on other Larson-made guitars. In any case - I love it and it sounds wonderful. Light as a feather and the whole guitar just vibrates when you play it like a living thing.
No Labels, Stamps, or Serial Numbers.
I'd love to hear any thoughts you have regarding the pedigree or history of this guitar! Thank you for your time and help!
That headstock would have me thinking about being a Regal made instrument.
What an amazing legacy you have been left. Thank goodness that you were in a financially viable position to get to done! What a marvellous looking guitar. I hope someone here has the information that you need...
Aaron, I have to agree with your repair guy, not Larson.
Has the guitar been re-fretted to your knowledge? I'm thinking/ wondering if the dot marker at the first fret and the vine inlay are actually original to the piece, it almost looks like an after thought with the placement. If it has been re-fretted, that would have given opportunity to add some more bling. You did mention the bridge being replaced at one time by competent hands. Maybe the inlay was added then as well.
Can't say for sure the manufacturer of this guitar but I am betting a Chicago maker, likely Lyon and Healy who also owned the Regal company after they left Indianapolis. Lyon and Healy ended up with lots of parts and components after acquiring Regal and made instruments out this new inventory, so there is going to be some confusion when trying to determine who done it.
The Washburn line by Lyon and Healy was their higher end grade and was always labeled and or had stamps. Not so much with the other mass produced Lyon and Healy instruments, although I think it would be somewhat unusual for them to not have a paper label, or at least evidence that it once had one.
I looked through my Washburn Prewar Instrument Styles book by Hubert Pleijsier and could not find one example with a simple dot marker at the first fret, 5, 7 and 10 was fairly typical for most of the lower end models with dot inlays. Fancier models would use something other than a dot if an inlay was present at the first fret. The pictured guitar is a bit fancier though with the shell rosette and purfling. I'll try and remember to check my Regal book tonight and look at their examples.
Thanks Paul and Doc!
I do not believe the guitar has been re-fretted - or if it was, it was done prior to 1927. The binding looks untouched and the frets are very similar to what came on an old Recording King (Kay Kraft) two-point/ Venetian guitar I also own - thin and tall.
Kerry, thanks for the kind words. Getting this guitar restored is what sent me down the dark path of geeking out on vintage instruments, yodeling, and playing more traditional music nearly 10 years ago. I have an old (78 RPM) recording of my Great Grandfather that I've never heard. I'm hoping I can get it transferred soon and will share it here along with some pictures if people are interested.
Again, thanks for having me here!
Aaron, did I know you had one of the KayKraft guitars? Maybe you already knew, but a few years back, I had upwards of 37 KK instruments. 12 and 14 fret Mahogany/Maple/Rosewood, all the tenors they put out, some of the Nick Lucas KK models, mandolins, mandolas, I had them all. Here is my site of Facebook:
What a great guitar! I have to agree with the others that it's probably not Larson but that doesn't really matter unless you intend to sell it soon. In my opinion, the best thing about it is that it seems to have been picked for the best reason that I know of. It was the one that he like best.
Perhaps a towel or something to fill the space around the lower bout when it's in the case so it doesn't bounce around. It's a great thing to have.
I got out my Regal and Larson books over the weekend. I haven't picked them up for a while and spent a few hours enjoying all of the photographs and catalog images. The Regal book; Regal Musical Instruments: 1895-1955 by Bob Carlin, is a great reference with tons of catalog images and photographs. My Larson book; The Larson's Creations by Robert Hartman is a good over view of Larson material but the printing quality of the Black and White images is rather low. Color plates at the end of the book are quite good though and I wish there where a few more of those included in the book. I think that there have been subsequent printings of the book since I got mine. Maybe the newer additions are better quality printings. Regardless, I would buy it again, knowing what I now know.
I did not come across anything that might point to one maker over another and am still thinking Regal-esque. One thing that does stand out though; not one catalog image or photographed guitar or mandolin from the Washburn, Regal or Larson Bros. book had any examples of inlay even remotely like the vine inlay on your guitar. I also did not find one example in those three texts of a simple dot marker used at the first fret. Those makers all would do custom orders, I suppose there is no way to know for sure if it started out this way or was modified at some point.
None of this should diminish in your mind the value or importance of this inheritance, you are so lucky to have your great grandfathers guitar! Having a recording a recording of him playing is the icing on the cake, very fortunate! My mother's father and mother both played out for dinner parties and some Vaudeville shows. He played cello and she played a Vega Tubaphone tenor banjo. The cello survives and underwent extensive restoration. It is now in the hands of a second cousin that is a concert cellist. The banjo is gone though, all I have is a photograph of her with it. I have yet to find any recordings of them and don't have any clue about the types of music they played.
You should not use steel or silk and steel strings, they won't intonate well with that straight across saddle. I have been using Aquila "Alabastro" strings on my 1917 Washburn parlor and am very happy with those but about any classical guitar strings should be fine. Set up to play, this should be a really nice guitar, regardless of it's origin.
I would be very interested to hear some samples from your grandfathers 78 record when you get it into a digital format. My wife and I play Old Time, I'm rather curious to hear what your grandfather was playing.