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Shining Like A National Guitar

  • Fourth Floor, Mike Curb Gallery
  • Permanent
  • M-F: 10:30AM - 6:30PM
    S-S: 10:00AM - 6:30PM

The 1920s were an exciting time for breakthroughs in entertainment technology, with the prominence of radio and talking movies. However, electric amplification of musical instruments was still rare and unreliable. Guitarists struggled to play a melody over the sound of other instruments. This was the challenge that George Beauchamp, a vaudeville Hawaiian guitarist, presented to John Dopyera, a musical instrument designer and repairman in Los Angeles. Following a few failed attempts, Dopyera developed a unique acoustic resonator instrument using a spun aluminum cone instead of a wooden top to amplify the vibrating strings, resulting in a louder, sweeter sounding instrument. Dopyera, his brother Rudy and Beauchamp would ultimately join forces to start the National String Instrument Corporation. 

The National company went on to build an amazingly varied and creative line of acoustic resonator instruments. However, World War II forced the company to effectively cease production. The folk revival of the 1960s saw a renewed interest in the resonator guitar and since that time the original instruments have been highly sought after by discerning players.  Blues artists such as Tampa Red, Son House, Bukka White, and, more recently, Taj Mahal, Johnny Winter, and Mark Knopfler have all used National instruments extensively in recording and performance. The examples seen in Shining Like a National Guitar demonstrate the remarkable design and creative beauty of these instruments.  

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