National Page

August 20, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Here is a fun and informative page on National guitars. To be sure, the Nationals, Dobros, etc. have mainly been popular among blues players. Yet, there is a distant archtop connection, for like the archtop guitar, the National is a product of the 1920s jazz craze and the attempt to compete with banjo players, including trying to combine the loudness of the banjo with the richer melodic and harmonic possibilities offered by the guitar. And of course the incomparable Oscar Aleman played a National.

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3 Responses to “National Page”

  1. Jørgen Larsen Says:

    Hi Nicolai,
    You’re right about the National guitar family mainly being adapted by various blues artists as shown at the linked page. Anyway, Oscar Alemán was just one of several early jazz guitar players, who took advantage of the National steel body guitar (i.e. the 1928 Tricone model), but it must not be forgotten, either, that the National guitar series originally evolved thanks to the Hawaiian music craze during the 1920s. Master musicians like Sol Hoopii brought the National steel guitar to fame early on as documented in Bob Brozman’s excellent work on the story of these instruments.

    Jørgen Larsen

  2. Nicolai Foss Says:

    Jørgen, Thanks for this addendum/corrigendum. Pls, could you enlighten me re the “several early jazz guitar players, who took advantage of the National,” i.e., who were they? (Hoopi is at best a border-line jazzer, right? ´(this does sound rather jazzy, though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4IWX6w54e0))

  3. Jørgen Larsen Says:

    Hi again, Nicolai

    According to the list of musicians mentioned in Bob Brozman’s book, many of these were involved in early jazz. I don’t have the book at hand, unfortunately, but a couple of early, rather unfamous names come to mind: Mike McKendrick and Joe Holiday (- yes, in fact the father of the diva, Billy Holiday). Some of the washboard band of the 20s having a guitar player among the crowd also used National steel guitars, maybe Teddy Bunn was one of them, at least you could argue that some of his solos with Washboard Rhythm Kings and even the three takes with Ellington in 1929 sound like a National steel guitar when plucked with bare fingers! Anyway, it’s just a – clever? – guess.

    Jørgen


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