The masterpiece of National Style O guitar

The masterpiece of National Style O guitar

National Style O

This iconic and historical guitar – National O-14 Style Fret model was used by Mark Knopfler during his Dire Straits and The Notting Hillbillies career.

Guitar debuting had on the cover of the “Brothers in Arms” album released on May 13th, 1985 by Dire Straits.  After that, this guitar was so popular and this brass bodied instrument with distinctive Hawaiian pal tree design looks complete like a timeless classic.

The name itself makes one patriotic and timeless classic guitar. At the beginning of 20-century, there were so many musical instruments and more or less Banjo was king in orchestral settings. Hawaiian music became very popular and while traditional wood-bodied guitars were adapted to Hawaiian-style playing, there was a need for something different.

As they said: “bigger is better or louder” – Gibson’s L-5 guitar and the volume of a banjo were reasoned musicians to started with searching and experimentation with new materials and mechanisms for different sounds. And then the idea to build metal guitar came.

Left to right – A 1936 National Style O (14-fret) with a solid headstock. A 1932 National Style O (12-fret) with a slotted headstock. Photos: Michael Tamborrino.

Obviously, wood designs were experimented with and National used wood bodies on some resonators. They not searched for better tone or volume, they searched for a reinvention of the guitar as an instrument, with new materials, designs, and manufacturing methods.

Metal and its use in manufacturing were a product of the industrial age and certain metal products offered lasting durability, beauty, and functionality. This includes the National Style O.

Introduced in 1930 the Style O was the first in a series of single-resonator designs by National. Initially produced in a 12-fret style the model received a facelift in 1934 with a tighter body that gave access to 14 frets clear of the body.

This version of the Style O was immortalized on the cover of the Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” album. The Style O was adorned with sandblasted designs, a strong Hawaiian motif captures some of the romance of the period, the swaying palm trees and gentle surf evoke of a tropical paradise. The Style O remained popular through the ’30s.

By the dawn of the ’40s, changing musical tastes slowed National production, the rise of electronically amplified instruments further reduced demand for resonator guitars, then the intervention of World War II and attendant materials shortages meant an end.

A sad end, but the legacy of the Dopyera brothers remains with fine instruments such as the well-preserved Style O. An masterpiece guitar with a tone that can’t be unmatched by any guitar before or since. The National Style O is truly a piece of history.

Source: Vintage Guitar magazine – December 1998 issue

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