If D’Angelico guitars are the Stradivarius of the guitar world, Stromberg is the Guarneri.
Stromberg’s top model guitars, with huge nineteen-inch-wide bodies, provided the tremendous volume and projection needed for a rhythm guitarist to be heard in the large jazz orchestras of the 1940s.
Charle's oldest son, Harry worked in the shop for a few years, but moved on to a different career. Elmer joined the shop and the changes he made provided a 15 year golden era for the business.
The Stromberg's top of the line guitar was the Master 400 featuring stylish engraving on the headstock veneer. The body was 19" across the lower bout. In fact their guitars were either 18" or 19" and designed to compete with horns and brass in the big bands of that era.
Guitarist Freddie Green, of the Count Basie Orchestra, used Strombergs exclusively, playing both the Master 400 and the Master 300. Irving Ashby played a Stromberg. He was Nat King Cole's guitarist before Oscar Moore. A banjo wizard of the 40's Jame's Buster Modello endorsed Stromberg banjos and guitars. Jazz player Barry Galbraith played a G-5 model.
Currently "Ranger" Doug Green from Riders in the Sky and The Time Jumpers plays and collects Strombergs. In fact he is THE authority on Strombergs. Little known fact is Doug worked at Gruhn's Guitars in Nashville many years ago.
The Stromberg Master 400 is very scarce and if you find one, expect it to cost around $40,000.
The Stromberg Master 400 is considered to be the ultimate orchestral rhythm guitar beating out Gibson's top of the archtop line 400 model. It is said these instrument are not as sweet sounding as D'Angelicos, but have better projection. In the days when electronic amplification was not the norm, a loud acoustic was necessary.
The Stromberg's produced only 636 guitars, which accounts for their value due to scarcity.
The models they offered were a limited selection. The G-1, G-2 and G-3 were 17 3/8th" across the lower bout with the G-2 and G-3 being fancier with an upgraded tailpiece. The G-3 had a cutaway
Cutaway Master 400's are extremely rare.
The final Stromberg model was the G-5. It was not as fancy as the 300 or 400. It was a 17" guitar and it had a short scale neck of only 23 1/2". The price new for this model in 1952 was a mere $315 or if you wanted a cutaway it was $404. There were likely only a dozen of these instruments built.
The earlier Stromberg's featured laminated pressed tops. And even so, they are still in demand by collectors although the tonal quality is inferior to the latter instruments with carved tops. Most other manufacturers at the time used an X bracing system on their archtops. The Strombergs came up with a guitar that had just one diagonal brace across the top. This resulted in a more percussive sound just right for comping for rhythm in swing bands. The latter Strombergs had adjustable truss rods in the neck that could be accessed by removing the bone nut. Although the top of Stromberg guitars made from the 1940's on is carved and solid, the back and sides on some are laminated. Their are some cosmetic flaws in Strombergs which may have earned them only 3 stars in Guitar Player (if it had been around), but these guitars were designed as working instruments.
Interestingly, some of the wood the Strombergs used was scavenged from old Boston buildings that were being demolished.
One of the drawbacks of Stromberg guitars that had headstock veneer is the veneer was made of nitrocellulous and is subject to deterioration.
Charles and Elmer both died in 1955 within months of each other. Elmer was in an automobile crash. This ended Stromberg Guitars.
There is a Florida based company that has acquired the trademark to the Stromberg brand name. The new guitars, I understand have received excellent reviews, are Asian manufactured and other than the name are not related to any instruments The Stromberg Family produced.