1933 Dobro Model 27


Resonator guitars were big business in the early 1930s. They were louder than other acoustic guitars, and they had a mid-range punch that enabled them to cut through the mix of a string band. National and Dobro were barely able to keep up with demand for their products in those lean Depression years, eventually resulting in a licensing arrangement that allowed Regal to mass-produce spider-bridge instruments under a few different names.

Even with high demand, Dobro was still eager to cut manufacturing costs where possible. Around 1933, they introduced a new cost-cutting design feature: instead of two round soundholes, they would cut only one. This involved marginally less labor to build, and the cost of only one screen cover. As a side effect, it also altered the sound of the instruments: a single, central soundhole slightly increased the bass projection of the guitars. Either the designers or the players apparently did not favor the change, and Dobro reverted to two soundholes within about a year.

Collectors have since termed these single-hole Dobros “cyclopses”; some, with two small central soundholes in a single metal cover, are referred to as “double cyclopses”. These terms are modern in origin and were never officially used by Dobro in the 1930s. A large number of cyclops models were sold through Montgomery Ward stores under the Magno-Tone brand (no relation to Magnatone electrics, which came later). Others, including this guitar, appear never to have sported a logo at all. They were mostly variations on the models 27 and 45, with birch bodies finished either in dark brown or a faux wood grain, though occasionally a model 60 cyclops turns up. They were built with round and square necks, some with actual frets but some – like this guitar – sporting celluloid markers instead. Inlaid or painted fret lines would become popular later in the decade on electric steels, but they were a novel innovation when this guitar was built in 1933.

Despite its considerable finish wear, this guitar is all original and sounds excellent.