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Things have been pretty quite around here, so I guess I will climb out on another old guitars limb again and saw it off.  This time I am going to talk about two guitars: 1936 Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe and a 1935 Roy Smeck Radio Grande.  These were really the first modern slope-shoulder  x- braces Jumbo -- the HG-20 (mahogany), HG-22 (maple) and HG-24 (rosewood) Hawaiians preceded it with the same body shape, but they had extra f-holes and internal baffles and they were rarely converted for Spanish style playing.  .  The Roy Smecks were basically 12-fret Js -- with the same body and (sometimes) bracing as the JUMBOs (34-36) and Trojans(36) but with the large necks and flush frets of a side guitar. 

Here is my 1936 Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe (RSSD)  Technically it is a collector grade guitar -- original finish, etc. -- but it does have playing ware and repaired cracks.


Because of their wide necks, there are three was to convert them:(1) leave it alone; (2) cut it down; and (3) replace the neck.  Both 1 and 3 potentially does not damage the originality of the instrument.  If done right, a new neck can later be replaced with the old neck with no more impact than a neck set.

This one used option (1) -- which made it 2.25" at the nut.  My wife loved it because she had big hands and I could still play it -- so that is the way he stayed.

Bar none, the is the loudest and rawest guitar I have eve played.  If you used it for bluegrass rhythm, it was almost too loud and too raw -- but you could hear it better than any guitar I had ever played.  I could actually do alternating thumb style leads in an acoustic bluegrass situation and be heard!  But I had trouble with the quality of my rhythm, which is critical for bluegrass.

Here is an example of it being fingerpicked with a flatpicker.

RSSD Fingerstyle



This guitar taught me a lot when David Dugas played it.  Where I had heard raw power, he heard incredible dynamic range.




I bought the guitar on ebay, and after I had bought it,  the seller told me he had bought it from Garnet Rogers -- the brother of Stan Rogers.  Later I talked to Garnet about it, and when he heard David play he said "those notes were not on it when I had it."

Now for the Roy Smeck Radio Grande

This is the rosewood (EIRW) version, and its neck was way to big to play.  So we had Randy Wood build a new neck.



I came to be interested in the Radio Grande when I got to play one across from my 36 AJ.  To me, it seemed the equal of the AJ -- and thus IMO the equal of the old herringbone.  Obviously, this is an EXC + instrument.

David Dugas

Pairwise comparison 35 RSRG 35 D-28


Folk Song
Let's pick,
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44 minutes ago, Dave F said:


the newer versions have a deeper body than a std Jumbo. What are your guitars?

They all did.  The deep bodies were on the HG-20,22,24, both Smecks, the JUMBO, and the Trojans (early J-35s).  The AJ was the first of the "modern advanced" bodies -- later J-35s, J-45s, J-55s, SJs, CWs, ... all have that that body.

Trojan (1936) - SJ (1943) -- AJ (1936)




Edited by tpbiii
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9 hours ago, zombywoof said:

Perfect timing as I am awaiting the arrival of a recent take on the  Smeck.   So I do thank your for placing the model in the context of Gibson history as well as for the finger picking video.  

 I hope to hear it.

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Tom, thankyou so much for these posts. Really fascinating stuff, and lovely to hear these gorgeous and historically significant guitars in action. Both are stellar, but the Radio Grande is immense...I've never heard a guitar sound quite that way before. Four dimensional! Wonderful to hear and see.

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