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Said when I die, don't bury me at all. Just pickle my body... up in alcohol - John Byrd, 1930

Author Topic: What guitars did they use??  (Read 3516 times)

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Offline Cambio

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2008, 08:41:32 PM »
I think that the whole ladder braced thing had more to do with the place and time rather than anything else,as that was predominantly what was available at the time, especially  in the south.  Production wise, Gibson didn't even make a flat top guitar until 1926, at least in regular production, and most of the folks that we listen to probably couldn't have afforded a Martin at the time.
I don't buy the volume and playability arguments. The early Martins that I've played had plenty of volume, and were vastly more playable than some of the old ladder braced stuff, much of which had bad neck sets and fret jobs from the day that they left the factory.  One could argue that due to the bad neck sets and higher action they had more volume.  I'd buy that.
Personally, I don't listen to much music after 1929, and the folks that I listen to, both white and black, weren't necessarily professional musicians.  When they did become professionals, they tended to get better instruments.  I also think that, as some of the folks became professional recording artists in the 30's, better instruments became more readily available.
Honeyboy Edwards once told me, "Always buy a Gibson because it'll get more in pawn."  Which reinforces what Chezztone has to say.
By the way, has anyone ever noticed that, in the old photo of H.C. Speir in his furniture store, there are a bunch of guitars hanging up in the background?  I wonder if they were Stellas?

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2008, 02:15:49 AM »
As you probably all realise, I was hoping to stir up some discussion when I made my posts in this thread.  Well, it seems to have worked, as we have some very interesting comments here.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline blueshome

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2008, 03:11:14 AM »
When H.C.Spier was asked which guitars the old guys preferred he was unequivocal - Stella. He both heard them play and sold them guitars.

Offline Cambio

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2008, 07:00:22 AM »
Hi Phil,
I always wondered about that quote from Speir.  Neither Lemon nor Patton are pictured with Stellas.  I wonder about Blake.  I realize that Speir only dealt with Patton, but I think that this quote has given a false impression that they all played Stellas, which is reflected in the vintage guitar market today.  Judging from old photos, which is an important part of the factual record, they didn't all play Stellas.
I think that another important thing to realize was that Oscar Schmidt was one of the first manufacturers of cheap guitars to put their brand names on the headstock.  I think that the brand name "Stella" became the generic word for a cheaper guitar, sort of like the terms Q-tip and Kleenex. 
I think it's also important to note that our heroes probably went through a lot of guitars.  Folks like Willie McTell, who there are several photos of, are pictured with different guitars during the different eras of his life.  In the Lemon photo, he has a tailpiece on a pin bridge guitar, which suggests that the pin bridge was coming unglued and this was the repair of the time.  In the second Lemon photo (which some folks don't think is him) he's playing an entirely different guitar.

Offline blueshome

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2008, 07:13:47 AM »
Todd,

I agree, I think that "Stella" was a generic for any down-market guitar at the time. It is reported somewhere else that Patton preferred "Stella" to Gibson. Tommy Johnson's preferred brand was alleged to be Gibson, but that might have been in the 30's or 40's.
Very few, if any, photos from the 20's show players with up-market guitars (except Tampa Red).

It is fun to speculate on this, but much more fun to pick up any guitar and try to play the music, as I said in a previous post, does it matter what they played?

Phil

bighollowtwang

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #20 on: March 19, 2008, 10:07:12 AM »
I think to a certain degree players were quite "brand-concious" - an expensive guitar was a status symbol, a sign that you were a success. Mermphis Minnie and Joe McCoy apparently made quite a stir when they returned from a Chicago recording session with a pair of National Tricones.

Has anyone positively identified what the guitar in the Blind Lemon Paramount promo shot is?

It's also possible some of the instruments that appear in photographs were studio props...anyone have a time machine they want to sell me for cheap? Straight-up trade for the Brooklyn Bridge.

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2008, 06:10:34 PM »
Nothing new under the sun.  Like today some folks prefer Gibsons some prefer Martins and some prefer whatever they can get their hands on. 
Quote
Gary Davis told me he preferred Gibsons to Martins because" Martin's got the play-ability, but Gibson's got the LAST-ability!"
As Mr. OMuck points out on behalf of the Reverend, there are other factors at play besides bracing style.  After taking delivery of a Gibson J-150, I can attest to the Reverend's observations between the two manufacturer's guitars.  Gibsons have a solid feel that I do not observe in Martins.  Industrial strength comes to mind.  I guess that this factor has over the years played a part in the decision of what kind of guitar to play.  In any event, it's hard to beat a National for lastability all things considered.  A National is what you want if you need to exit a hostile juke joint on moments notice...

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If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Rivers

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Re: What guitars did they use??
« Reply #22 on: March 21, 2008, 07:06:10 PM »
I prefer Gibsons and Martins. And Gretsches. I do need a National, I'm always torn between single- and triple-cone and simply can't make up my mind.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2008, 07:08:31 PM by Rivers »

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