Monday, February 1, 2010

More About Amp-In-Case Guitars

In the recent article about the Sears/Danelectro Amp-In-Case, I mentioned that Nat Daniels of Danelectro was not the first to produce a guitar that was sold with an amplifier built into the case.

That distinction goes to the National Guitar Company which was founded in the 1927 by John Dopyera and Paul Beauchamp.

The board of National Guitars included John Dopyera, the inventor of the resonator guitar, his brother Rudy, Paul Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacher.

Rickenbacher and Beauchamp were more interested in building electric guitars, while the Dopyeras' brought the outsiders into the company to fund it and boost sales. National Guitars had a patent on the single cone resonator metal guitar. So John Doperya invented a tri-cone model in a wooden body and called the new company Dobro. Some say this is a combination of Dopyera and Brothers, but most agree that Dobro is a Slovak word meaning Good.

Legal wrangling ensued between Dobro and National. In 1932 Dobro won the rights and took control of National Guitars and renamed the company National Dobro.

WWII halted production.

In 1942 Louis Dopyera joined forces with Victor Smith and Al Frost. The combined first initials of their first names were blended into the acronym VAL Company or VALCO.

Valco manufactured guitars and amplifiers but did not sell them under the Valco brand. They acted as a jobber and sold many of their products through other companies.

They did have two in house brand names. Their more expensive line of guitars and amps were sold under the brand name National. The less expensive models were sold under the Supro brand.

Sears and Roebuck catalog

Prior to teaming up with Danelectro in the 1960's, most of Sears guitar amplifiers were manufactured by Valco.

In the 1940's and 1950's Oahu was a popular brand for Hawaiian guitar players.

These amps and steel guitars were manufactured by Valco, as were Airline, Custom Kraft, Harmony amps, Kay guitars and lapsteels, Penncrest and a slue of others.

During my research for Silvertone amplifiers I ran across an excellent web page called Silvertone World were I discovered the Danelectro Company was not the first company to produced Silvertone's amp-in-case, amp/guitar.

In the 1940's Valco produced an amp-in-case model for Sears/Silvertone. The amp/case came with an Oahu lap steel guitar.

Valco also produced the same amp complete with a Supro brand Spanish style electric guitar.

Both amp/cases were tube amps. It is my opinion the Danelectro is a cleaner, better designed model.

The guitar fit diagonally in the Danelectro case. And the case was lined with felt.

Danelectro guitars were very light due to the hollow body construction.

The case was medium density fiberboard, so it was much lighter than the wooden Valco case.

The Valco produced Supro/Silvertone case was made of solid wood. A wooden plank was placed between the guitar and amplifier to keep the guitar from the glass tubes.

This Valco Guitar and Amp-In-Case appears to be twice as deep as the Danelecto model.

Additionally there was no chassis on the Valco model to cover the amplifier. The speaker was a Jensen 8" model. Despite the slightly larger speaker, the amplifier was not as loud as the Danelectro Amp-In-Case.

Both are very unique and were under appreciated during the time they were offered for sale. They are now sought after antiques.

Here is another model produced under the Airline Brand Name.

Three of the photos were from Silvertone World web page. Check their web site out. It is excellent.



Anonymous said...

regarding the lapsteel and amp-in-case you can see from the paper print ad that the guitar was designed to slide into the space between the amp and the wall of the case rather than fit across it as shown in the photo ... classic gear regardless and

k camp said...

hi mark. i have a question about the dobro pictured above. what year were those made and are they somewhat rare. i think it's stunning.