This week we’re featuring two great guitars – both with distinctive styles: the flashy Gretsch White Falcon and the metallic National Style O.
Gretsch White Falcon
Founded by Friedrich Gretsch in New York in 1883, Gretsch Guitars is best known for its instruments of the 1950s and 1960s. By far the flashiest was the White Falcon.
Originally a promotional item, the White Falcon was so spectacular that it was demanded as a production model. In 1955, the ultra- expensive ($600) White Falcon was commercially introduced; this mono guitar featured a hollow, single-cutaway 17-in (43-cm) wide body, twin DeArmond pickups, Cadillac-inspired tailpiece and a falcon-emblazoned pickguard. Lacquered in white and trimmed in gold, complemented by 24-K hardware, this was a showpiece.
While maintaining its opulent appearance, there were a number of variations: in 1959, a stereo version; the 1963 model was a double-cutaway; and in 1965, a number of knobs and switches were added, affording access to new tonal variations.
Controls: Three-way selector, volume for each pickup, master volume, master tone
Characteristics: Flashiness, classic Gretsch twang
Played by: Stephen Stills, John Frusciante, Neil Young
Image of Gretsch White Falcon courtesy gretschguitars.com
National Style O
In the mid-1920s, the guitarist George Beauchamp had an idea for an ‘ampliphonic system’, which he took to John Dopyera and his brother Rudy, Czechoslovakian immigrants known for their sonic improvement of banjos. From this meeting came the National Triple Resonator – a guitar amplified by three metal cones and enhanced by a metal body – which debuted in 1927, followed several years later by a single-cone version, the Style O.
On a tri-cone guitar, three thin, 6-in (15-cm) aluminium speaker cones are arranged in a triangle. A T-shaped bridge connects the centre of each cone. The strings’ vibrations excite the saddle and the bridge and cones vibrate, creating a sweet, sustaining tone well suited to Hawaiian-style slide guitar.
Single-resonator models feature a 91⁄2-in (24-cm) cone topped with a maple ‘biscuit’; the strings pass over a wooden saddle attached to the biscuit. The design makes a single-resonator guitar a louder instrument than the tri-cone version.
Construction: Brass alloy body, mahogany neck, cone resonator
Characteristics: Loud, aggressive tone
Played by: Son House, Tampa Red, Bukka White
Image of Style O courtesy nationalguitars.com
If the White Gretsch Falcon is your favourite make, we have a fantastic foiled notebook featuring one on its cover, available in two different sizes: standard journal and pocket journal. If you love all things guitar, we also have a book called Rock Guitar Heroes – jam-packed with fascinating text and photos of guitar-playing legends – available here.