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Old 11-06-2020, 10:13 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Staten Island, NY - for now
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Originally Posted by DCCougar View Post
Wow! Pretty amazing! Looks like Guild copied those fret markers.
A little bit of New York guitar history, lore, and general gossip - all true in this case and stated as briefly as possible - is that Guild was in fact formed as a result of the gradual disintegration of the original Epiphone operation in the early 1950's, in the wake of Frixo Stathopoulo's acrimonious departure and Orphie's unwillingness to acquiesce to employee demands for unionization; when Alfred Dronge founded the Guild operation in lower Manhattan in 1952 he took many of the local Italian craftsmen with him (several others jumped ship to Gretsch and Favilla), adopting the brand name as much an evocation of the European roots of his workers as a not-too-thinly veiled social statement. Inasmuch as they specialized in jazzboxes (acoustic and electric) for the first few years of production, it's no surprise the earliest Guild instruments bore a strong resemblance to their Epiphone forbears - in a later day their use of the center-dip headstock, aforementioned inlay, and body profiles (especially on their early 17" archtops) would have been considered lawsuit-worthy...

Originally Posted by mc1 View Post
Looks big!

Bit of a bittersweet ending to that story:

I'm intrigued by what you refer to as the "classical archtop" school. Who were members of that academy?
That's an 18-3/8" body, the largest factory archtop ever produced (Elmer and Charles Stromberg's small-shop operation produced the 19" Master 400, acknowledged by many Big-Band players as the loudest acoustic guitar in creation, and the preferred instrument of the legendary Freddie Green), but with some subtle body-contour modifications (suggested by Johnny Smith) that distinguish it immediately from its standard f-hole contemporary in a side-by-side comparison. I played my share of New York Emperors back in the early-70's, when nobody wanted them and good examples could be had for $500 (I was in college then and couldn't float the cash...) - big, full, powerful, with a velvety richness to the bass and midrange not commonly found in the smaller sizes - and if they're any example I suspect this one is really special: comparable volume, but more sustain and sweetness to the treble register; as I stated, a true virtuoso instrument for those with the technique to bring out its best - shame none of us will ever get the chance to hear it...

In answer to your question, most contemporary players are unaware that there was an entire school of "classical archtop" guitar that flourished from about 1925-1940, and upon which Mel Bay based his well-known method; when I was learning in the early-60's the method books bore a statement that they were in fact designed and intended "to place the plectrum guitar in the same class as the violin, piano, and other 'legitimate' instruments" (and if you've never hung around in certain so-called "serious" music circles it's difficult to imagine the pejorative attitude directed toward the guitar, even in its "classical" incarnation)...

By way of background, in its original form the classical-archtop movement drew from the earlier American school of (fingerstyle) classical guitar exemplified by the likes of William Foden, Vahdah Olcott-Bickford, et al. (rather than that of Segovia and his Spanish contemporaries, which would become the accepted concert style and instrument), as well as the parlor, "light classical," and vaudeville music of late-19th/early 20th century America. In addition to transcriptions of well-known classical repertoire, a number of guitarists of the day produced original compositions in a late-Romantic style - music which, while largely out of fashion today, still retains its technical and artistic merit nine decades later. Bear in mind that the original L-5 archtop guitar was in fact envisioned as a "classical" instrument both tonally and visually, intended as a part of the mandolin orchestras of the late-vaudeville era and designed for hall-filling acoustic projection in the days before electronic amplification; were it not for Segovia's sensational American debut in 1928, the plectrum-style archtop guitar - with its violin-family looks and construction - may well have become the accepted "classical" guitar...

If you're interested there are a number of recordings of these period pieces on YouTube, either in the original (by the likes of Harry Volpe, Al Hendrickson, et al.) or re-recorded by contemporary revivalists; in addition, you might also want to check out some of the work of Eddie Lang (both solo and with Joe Venuti on violin), Carl Kress and Dick McDonough, Tony Mottola (when he was a teenage whiz kid), and George Van Eps, among others. Finally, there's an excellent collection published by Mel Bay, entitled Masters of the Plectrum Guitar which, should you be intrigued enough to investigate this style further, will definitely keep you busy for a while - and give you a taste of what might have been...
"Mistaking silence for weakness and contempt for fear is the final, fatal error of a fool"
- Sicilian proverb (paraphrased)

Last edited by Steve DeRosa; 11-08-2020 at 09:57 AM.
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