The Bluesbox Collection

Mid 1930's Washburn Deluxe round hole arch top (by Regal)

This guitar is unique in several aspects. First of all it is an arch top with a round hole. That is not, of course, unheard of - both Gibson and Martin have created such instruments at different times. But this is a an arch top with a round hole, with a slotted head! And it is X-braced! And the neck joins the body at the middle of the 13th fret!!

The carved top is solid spruce and has a nice figure. It is also exceedingly thin, so much so that I was forced to put light guage strings on it to reduce the tendency of the top to flatten under pressure. The bridge and fretboard are ebony (I believe the bridge is not original). The tailpiece is a pre-war variety (someone painted it in gold leaf), and is one of the clues to the dating, along with the brass tuning gears. The pickguard is also typical for the period, transparent cellulose tortoise shell, screwed to the body. The back is birdseye maple, while the solid sides and neck are also maple, though not of the birdseye variety. The ebony faced slotted headstock sports an inlaid mother-of-pearl 5 pointed star.

I originally assumed that this guitar was a Vega (because of the star on the headstock), but after showing a photo to George Gruhn, he pointed me toward Regal. Using that clue I then found several Regal models that closely resembled this instrument. The Regal Style 10 was exactly like this except that it had a mahogany body. I recently found a Washburn of the same era (which was made by Regal after the Tonk Brothers bought the Washburn brand) which was the same shape and had a maple back and sides. So my guess is that this guitar was made at the Regal factory for sale under the Washburn brand.

As is obvious from the photos, this guitar has been expertly refinished. I would guess from the slight finish checking on the back that it was done sometime in the last 20 years. My suspicion is that this instrument has been kept in a case in a closet for many years because at first glance it looks brand new.

Here is an interesting photo I happened across. That fellow on the right is Big Bill Broonzy, author of such blues classics as "Keys to the Highway" and "Outskirts of Town". Next to him is legendary blues pianist, Memphis Slim, and to the left is a little known guitar player named Honey Hill, who happens to be playing a mid-thirties Regal round hole archtop exactly like the one described here!

(My thanks to George Gruhn for helping me to identify this guitar.)

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