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By 1935, he [Charles Seeger] was writing for a small Marxist journal called Music Vanguard that "fine art" music was the property of the dominant classes, for which it was made. Pop music was a bastardization of the "fine art" tradition; it was "crumbs from the table of the rich and powerful . . . combined with various story elements". But folk music was the music of the proletariat and, therefore, inherently progressive - from Woody Guthrie - A Life, by Joe Klein

Author Topic: Why did so many players go for dreadnaughts after their "re-discovery"?  (Read 3074 times)

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Offline Cartouche

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I know this link has been posted before,
http://www.earlyblues.com/blues_singers.htm

but I was looking over it again and I started wondering why so many of the blues musicians that reappeared during the folk boom choose to go with larger-bodied guitars. Since I started playing this type of music 18 months ago, I was under the assumption that a parlor size was the preferred weapon of choice by many/most of the masters.

So why, when they later had access to a wider choice of guitars than the Sears & Roebuck catalog did they go for J-45, D-18, D-28, B-25, etc.?

Was it just a lack of availability or financial resources to buy a dread back in the day? Would that have been preferred over the parlors?

Or maybe during the 50s-60s parlors were not in production or had fallen out of favor?

It makes me wonder, if Blind Blake or B.L. Jefferson made it to the 60s, would they have gone for a J-45?  :-\

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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I can't answer your question, but I can tell you what Rev. Gary Davis said about why he would only use a Gibson guitar (approximately; it's been a lot of years): "You can sing on a street corner with it in the rain, and it won't fall apart."

It's possible that street singers, who needed more volume, would have chosen larger guitars if they could have afforded it.


Lyle

Offline Mr.OMuck

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The answer is sort of obvious, when they could they did. Also the quality of smaller guitars had fallen off precipitously during the fifties-sixties. Mostly they were considered beginner's guitars not to be taken seriously. If you found yourself with some money and a choice for the first time in your life and could have had any car you wanted at the time it would not likely have been a VW Beetle.
Also Dreadnaughts are pretty great all around guitars. My D-18 tells me so.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Mr.OMuck

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The Martin "New Yorker" was the only high quality "Parlor" guitar being produced during most of that period (50-60's-70's). The resurgence of interest in old Stella's and such is a relatively recent phenomenon.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 08:40:55 PM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline blueshome

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 A large numbers of the guitars these guys used were either loaned to them or bought for them by their "re-discoverers". In most cases they would have been unlikely to have been able to afford a Martin or Gibson, but may well have aspired to them. Pre-war they used Stellas and similar because they were cheap and loud and easy to replace.
Another example is Son House, where there are plenty of photos of him with various Nationals, nearly all on loan to him.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Of course there were the wonderful smaller body , larger upper bout Gibsons LG-1 through 3 (I have a 3..X braced as opposed to ladder bracing in the 1 & 2 and the later B-25 such as Furry Lewis played all of which could be superb...or not.
But for playing Gary Davis, there is nothing like a J-200.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Cartouche

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And here I am about to dump my Martin D-1 for an Art & Lutherie Ami...

Thanks for the useful info, fellas.

Offline onewent

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Most of what I read above makes sense and is what I've heard and read over the years, too.  But keep in mind not all players used Stellas.  The scant photos of players, pre-WWII, show some guitars identified as Stellas, and there is some oral history gathered post-WWII of the preference for Stellas, but in some photos, like Blind Lemon Jefferson's, I don't believe there is enough hard evidence to name the guitar brand, other than it's a smallish, slot-head pre-WWII guitar.  Maybe someone with a sharper eye and more knowledge can clue me in, though.  Also, it can't be confirmed in some cases if, indeed, the player actually owned the guitar in his/her publicity photo, or was it loaned as a prop?  Que the RJ guitar discussions...

One point not brought up above, I think, is the availability of these cheap guitars.  Most small towns had a general store or furniture store that sold goods, including guitars, as did the mail catalogs, such as Sears, which had already been familiar to rural folk since the last quarter of the 19th century.

One more thought on this, we're also approaching the concept of 'moving up' to better quality from our 21st century point of view.  It's likely that folks back in the day were content with what was available at the local store, and what their peers were playing.  Moving 'up' to a Martin wasn't even in their thoughts..which is why I'm still driving an '87 Saab  ::)

Quote
Or maybe during the 50s-60s parlors were not in production or had fallen out of favor?
Just for the sake of clarification, the 'parlor' era music had fallen way out of favor by the 50s, and even in the 20s and 30s when so much of the so-called 'country blues' music was recorded.  To my knowledge, no one ever marketed a 'parlor' guitar per se, it's a relatively recent nomenclature.
Guitars like Stellas are most accurately described by their size, as they were in the catalogs of the period:  Standard, Concert (the smaller bodied examples ~ 13" across the lower bout); Grand Concert (14.5" across); Auditorium, sometimes referred to as Jumbos (~ 15" across).

Listen to Pan's recent youtube video and tell me that old Stella doesn't sound sweet! >:D
Tom

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Hold onto that Martin AND buy the Ami...thats my advice. Sometimes you need that deeper bass...but I am a big fan of the Ami.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Prof Scratchy

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@onewent: let's start a thread on '87Saabs...

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Why did so many players go for dreadnaughts after their "re-discovery"?
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 11:16:21 AM »
Quote
It's likely that folks back in the day were content with what was available at the local store, and what their peers were playing.  Moving 'up' to a Martin wasn't even in their thoughts..which is why I'm still driving an '87 Saab 


Lets not forget that Big Bill seemingly always played either Gibsons or his final Martin 000-28 Brazilian Rosewood herringbone guitar, and many of the more successful players did the same, Scrapper Blackwell comes to mind, Lonnie Johnson, Memphis Minnie's Gibson made National archtop. I would say that all evidence indicates that Blues players were not only aware of better alternatives to cheap Stella's but grabbed 'em first chance they had.
Galliano, Lyon & Healy, Martin, Ditson, Bay State, Larson Bros., Mauer, all made small guitars of better quality than Stellas imho. I find the faddish preoccupation with cheap student guitars from an earlier time, just because they appeared in promotional photos, a little ridiculous to tell you the truth. They also have nothing to do with the mass produced forties- fifties plywood and metal tailpiece guitars of the kind I first learned on and which have magically become sought after "Parlour guitars". Give me a fuggin' break! As for Mr. Pan, I would argue that its his playing and not his guitar that deserves credit for the sound, in fact I'd love to hear him do his stuff on a good guitar. Most of those plywood birch guitars were crap then, crap now, crap forever...just my opinion. Fun to play sometimes though. I've heard tell that Blind lemon's guitar was actually a small mahogany body Martin, don't know for certain however.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline onewent

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Re: Why did so many players go for dreadnaughts after their "re-discovery"?
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2013, 11:20:24 AM »
@scratchy:  '87 TC 206K mi!

@O'Muck:
Quote
plywood birch guitars were crap then, crap now, crap forever
Pre-wwII were solid birch, nuttin' but the best.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Why did so many players go for dreadnaughts after their "re-discovery"?
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2013, 11:26:29 AM »
Yeah, so people claim, but I've seen them busted up and they're plywood sure as shit. Like cross grains glued together? Actually though depending on the guitar plywood can sometimes sound pretty good. The plywood Blueridges are amazingly good.

My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline onewent

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Re: Why did so many players go for dreadnaughts after their "re-discovery"?
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2013, 11:45:58 AM »
Quote
I've seen them busted up and they're plywood sure as shit
For the purpose of clarification to those reading the thread, Oscar Schmidt guitars (like Pan's)  made pre-wwII were always solid wood.  If you saw busted up guitars made from plywood, they were not OS guitars, but some other maker. 
BTW, plywood does not always infer lower quality, some very nice Gibsons pre-wwII were made with plywood back and sides.  Tom

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Why did so many players go for dreadnaughts after their "re-discovery"?
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2013, 12:01:36 PM »
Ok Tom we agree that plywood can sound pretty good sometimes. But going forward I would urge people to try and de-sentimentalize the choice of a guitar and use sound and playability as the criteria for their choice. I see younger players getting saddled with a lot of overpriced guitar shaped detritus because it fits some romantic profile they've concocted and usually it involves an instrument that never had had anything to do with this music. There are more good cheap guitars out there now than ever in my lifetime. Guitars that would have been inconceivable at their price points when I was starting out. Of course, some like the Blueridges, involve supporting Chinese labor practices which is a concern no doubt, but were I buying a primary use guitar now the solid spruce top, solid Indian rosewood 000-28 shaped Blueridge for $650. would top my list. If the Chinese labor issue is too disturbing to you and I must admit it is becoming increasingly so for me, the $270. Canadian made, solid wood Ami will beat the shit out of any 60's metal tailpiece skinny fretwire piece of crap, in every parameter of sound, playability, and craftsmanship. Gotta take the stupid rubber rossette off from around the sound hole though.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 12:03:12 PM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

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