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Jun 17, 2024 - 3:47:03 PM
9 posts since 9/17/2013

Ran across this squareneck online..thinking about checking it out tomorrow. Seller claims it's from the 20s...seriously doubt that. Love the lightning bolts and funky reso cover...fair condition, asking $400. Thoughts? Opinions? Snide comments?


Jun 17, 2024 - 5:33:57 PM



171 posts since 8/12/2010

Make sure there’s a resonator under that cover. Some like it had just plywood, which does not work to great acoustic effect.

Jun 17, 2024 - 6:27:12 PM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

This is a Radio Tone Dobro. These were inexpensive student models. The photo  is kind of fuzzy when I try to expand it on my phone. 

Most likely made by Regal of Chicago when they partnered with Dobro, it is from the early to mid 1930s. It appears to have a cone and spider underneath the coverplate, but  more photos would help because it isn't obvious.  

The tuners are pointing up which was often done by lap style players. Does it have a squareneck? Is there a serial number stamped on the tip of the headstock? 

Ken mentioned about making sure there is in fact a cone underneath the coverplate. There were imitation reso guitars made in the '30s we like to refer to as "faux bros" that did not have a cone and a spider bridge, but Dobro and Regal didn't make those. 

if it's in decent shape overall then $400 is a very good deal. 

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 06/17/2024 18:28:39

Jun 17, 2024 - 7:00:59 PM

9 posts since 9/17/2013

Thanks for the replies. It is a squareneck and in the other pics I saw it looks to have a cone. I don't know why the fretboard is so rough looking. I hope to see it in person soon.

Jun 18, 2024 - 8:02:34 AM



1486 posts since 9/28/2010

I have one. Mine has a Schireson* cone, which is sort of a biscuit/spider hybrid, and it indeed sounds like a hybrid. Mine has a decal on the fretboard with all the notes, in low bass A tuning. It's 3/4 size (good for travel), and has its own quirky tone. It may not be the best main instrument, but it's good to give a different flavor for a song or two, or a different tuning. I've had fun with A11 (a step down from B11) on mine, and it has a nice bluesy growl in E.

PS- I paid $325 about 15 years ago; adjusted for inflation, today's equivalent would be about $450.

*Schireson received a patent, but was then successfully sued by National /Dobro and had to stop making them.


Jun 18, 2024 - 1:08:24 PM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

Since Wayne reminded us of his Radio Tone with the Schireson Bros. cone, I'm wondering if the guitar in question does in fact have that cone, because I'm having a difficult time  seeing if there are in fact spider legs under the coverplate. 

This Schireson business came up awhile back in one of the dobro groups on Facebook, and I went down an interweb rabbit hole on a research project. 

I'm thinking the fretboard is messed up looking because it might have had the decal naming the notes from a steel guitar teaching school, and someone attempted to remove it  but didn't do a very good job.  

The condensed version of the Schireson story is the Dopyera Brothers brought a lawsuit against them for making guitars with this cone as being too close to what they were doing at The National Dobro Cotporation  - and the Dopyeras won. Schireson was ordered to cease and desist. 

It's not clear about the guitar bodies. Many Radio Tone guitars were made by Regal, which was licensed by  Dobro - and it would seem odd that they would sell the bodies to a company that Dobro would sue because of the cones. 

There were also stories about bodies being "farmed out" to the likes of Kay and Harmony, which were also headquartered around Chicago.

Yet another chapter in the convoluted history of the Dobro guitar. 

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 06/18/2024 13:09:43

Jun 19, 2024 - 6:16:54 AM

9 posts since 9/17/2013

Thanks for the insight into this guitar. I hope to get over to see it tomorrow after work (if it's still available). In the other pics I saw it definitely looked to have a cone of some kind. And I think you're right about the fret board. I was wondering how it got so messed up...probably just whats left of the paper fret markers...Sounds like $400 isn't out of line , but I hope to get it for less as that is the asking price. I will post more about it after I see it.

Jun 19, 2024 - 6:30:26 AM

9 posts since 9/17/2013

Jun 19, 2024 - 10:02:24 AM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

Yeah, it looks like it may have the "lawsuit" Schireson Brothers cone. I don't see any real evidence of spider "legs" through the holes. 

Jun 19, 2024 - 10:09:21 AM

9 posts since 9/17/2013

So it's just a wood biscuit on the cone then, right?

Jun 19, 2024 - 10:45:53 AM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

A picture is worth a thousand words...

And you can learn more from Jake Wildwood in Vermont:


Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 06/19/2024 10:47:18

Jun 28, 2024 - 7:11:37 AM
like this

9 posts since 9/17/2013

Alrighty! I got it. Paid $375. It's solid, but has wear & tear you would expect for an instrument 90+ years old. When I got it home I played it a bit then took it apart for closer inspection. Included in the original case was a receipt from 1931? For Hawaiian guitar lessons. It appears the deal was you signed a contract, made 30 payments of $2 week, $5 for the guitar and $7.50 for delivery, for a total of $72.50. All that is recorded on the back of the receipt. The student on the receipt is Leroy Harrison. The Instructor was Herbert St Jahn, on Evans St in Greenville NC. There's also a handwritten paper in the case that say 'Original Dobro 1929 $75 Harry Harrison'. Maybe son or grandson of Leroy? Pretty cool stuff.

And by the way- it sounds awesome! I have a new Gold Tone/Beard Dobro that rings like a bell. This Radio Tone sounds darker and funkier which I love. I did remove the remaining paper on the fretboard..a tough decision but most of it was gone and what was there didn't line up with the actual frets...and surprise, under the paper are real fret markers! Other than that and new strings I may need to replace the tuners soon. They are a b**ch to turn. But it does stay in tune pretty well. Also the neck has a small amount of warp, maybe 1/8". I'm tuning it to DGDGBD.


Jun 28, 2024 - 8:31:13 AM

824 posts since 8/8/2008

Wow, getting all the info on the guitar is awesome. Enjoy!

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