Catch of the Day: Circa 1930 National Style 3 Tricone

Circa 1930 National Style 3 Tricone

A few weeks ago I wrote about a National Style 2 1/2 squareneck, which I feel is one of the most beautiful guitars ever made. In the late 1920s when these guitars were made, America was in the waning days of a Hawaiian music craze that had lasted about a decade. Consequently, most of the guitars National made back then had squarenecks for playing lap steel style, which was extremely popular at the time. But they did make a small number of guitars with round necks, which they called Spanish or regular style models. Original National roundnecks, particularly fancy models like this Style 3, are very scarce but if you are ever lucky enough to get your hands on one, you will discover that they have a very sweet, mellow tone with a wide dynamic range that is actually suitable for a wide range of styles. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for three examples of how versatile these guitars are.) Roundneck tricones sound good for bottleneck but I think they sound great for fingerpicking. This example is engraved with the Lilly-of-the-valley pattern. Production totals are still a little hazy but from what we’ve been able to figure out, fewer than 20 Style 3 roundneck tricones were made between 1928 and 1934, which almost makes its $16,500 price seem a little more reasonable. This guitar is currently for sale at Gruhn Guitars.

Tampa Red was a blues musician who made some wonderful records in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He was famous for playing the only known gold-plated National tricone.

Jim and Bob, the Genial Hawaiians only recorded 12 sides in 1933, but I think they are some of the nicest recordings of Hawaiian music ever made. Jim Holstein was pictured in the 1930 National catalog playing a roundneck Style 3 but I’m not 100% sure he was playing it on this recording with Bob Pauole. But, Bob is definitely playing his National squareneck so I thought I’d post it anyway. Click here for more info on Jim and Bob.

Oscar Aleman was one of the finest jazz guitarists of all time who had the bad luck to turn up in Paris in the 1930s, the exact time and place where Django Reinhardt was holding court. Still, Aleman managed to turn a few heads with his magnificent fingerstyle jazz playing, which he picked out on a roundneck Tricone. Aleman returned to his native Argentina after the German occupied France. Sadly, his metal-bodied National was confiscated at the border to melted down for the Nazi war effort.