1941 National New Yorker Electric Spanish
In the 1930s and early 1940s, a handful of American guitar companies almost invented the modern solid-body, standard-neck, electric guitar. It’s true that Rickenbacker, Gibson, Slingerland, National, among a few others, were making solid-body Hawaiian guitars since the early 1930s. And Rickenbacker and Slingerland even made a few guitars where they fitted standard necks to small Hawaiian guitar bodies, but those proved to be too difficult to play and they never caught on with players. Les Paul almost did it with The Log, a solid body guitar with two acoustic wings that he put together in 1941. But it wasn’t until 1948 that Paul Bigsby combined all the ideas that were floating around into a workable electric guitar. (Click here to read more about Paul Bigsby’s story.) Today’s Catch is a 1941 National New Yorker Electric Spanish, one of those guitars that came close to being the first modern solid-body guitar.
At first glance, this looks like a standard electric archtop guitar, much like Gibson’s ES-150. But if you look closely you’ll see that the New Yorker has no soundholes. National made similar guitars with f-holes but I suspect they discovered that those tended to feedback at fairly low volumes. The neck is also attached by a combination of glue and screws. (The screws are under the five pearl dots at the end of the fretboard.) This guitar was built in 1941, the same year America entered World War II, and it wasn’t too long before materials for making guitars got scarce and National stopped production for the duration. Looking at this guitar it’s not hard to imagine that it’s next iteration could have been a true solid-body with a bolt-on neck. It was so close, already. One other interesting point, this is the same model of guitar that the great blues musician Memphis Minnie used to play. The guitar she played had a sunburst finish and a fancier pickguard, but if you’ve heard any of post-1940s recording, you know how good this guitar sounds. If you’d like to add this beauty to your collection, just send $2995 to the good people at Players Vintage Instruments and they will be happy to help you out.
Memphis Minnie with her National New Yorker Electric Spanish.
Page from the 1940 National catalog courtesy of Note Cannons.