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Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits

Steve Latimer 02 Jun 99 - 10:00 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 03 Jun 99 - 08:18 AM
Steve Latimer 03 Jun 99 - 02:47 PM
Roger in Baltimore 03 Jun 99 - 03:41 PM
Steve Latimer 03 Jun 99 - 03:53 PM
Chet W. 03 Jun 99 - 09:00 PM
Mark Roffe 03 Jun 99 - 10:13 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 04 Jun 99 - 08:03 AM
Steve Latimer 04 Jun 99 - 10:01 AM
catspaw49 04 Jun 99 - 10:32 AM
Mark Roffe 04 Jun 99 - 04:25 PM
Chet W. 04 Jun 99 - 06:44 PM
DocJohn 04 Jun 99 - 08:35 PM
Guy Wolff 04 Jun 99 - 09:02 PM
dick greenhaus 05 Jun 99 - 05:57 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 05 Jun 99 - 09:06 PM
Mark Roffe 06 Jun 99 - 03:14 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 06 Jun 99 - 07:48 AM
Mark Roffe 06 Jun 99 - 12:16 PM
DocJohn 06 Jun 99 - 10:37 PM
ddw 19 Sep 01 - 11:40 PM
Les B 20 Sep 01 - 12:29 AM
GUEST,truckerdave 20 Sep 01 - 01:23 AM
GUEST,truckerdave 20 Sep 01 - 01:38 AM
Grab 20 Sep 01 - 07:47 AM
Fortunato 20 Sep 01 - 09:40 AM
GUEST,truckerdave 20 Sep 01 - 02:23 PM
ddw 20 Sep 01 - 06:19 PM
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Subject: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 02 Jun 99 - 10:00 AM

My sister is looking for a steel guitar to play blues on. The collectors have driven Nationals throught the roof. The Twelfth Fret in Toronto have a Johnson Brass body, Nickel plated single cone for about $900 Canadian (approx $600 U.S. and a tricone for about twice this. Is anyone familiar with this brand? Any comments? Any input would be appreciated.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 03 Jun 99 - 08:18 AM

There was some discussion about Johnson Resonators here last year. I can't get the "forum search" to respond, but you can try a forum search for "Johnson Resonator" in the body. There has also been some discussion about them in the newsgroup rec.music.makers.guitars.acoustic. You can try a dejanews search for Johnsons in that group.

They are made in China. The general opinion was that they are a good buy for the money. They are even better if you spend an extra $100 or so and get a new (National?) cone installed.

As far as price is concerned, to get an idea look at Elderly or Mandolin Brothers (sorry, I don't have their website) and see what they charge. They both usually offer the best US price.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 03 Jun 99 - 02:47 PM

Murray,

Thank you for the information, I read that were made in Czechoslakia, not China. I thought they sounded like a pretty good value. I would assume that as the necks are metal they would resist warping. We'll have to go check them out.

Any thoughts on single versus tricone? In fairness, the tricone is probably out of her price range.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 03 Jun 99 - 03:41 PM

Is your sister considering bottle neck or finger picking blues? To my limited knowledge, I think the tri-cone has better sustain and more volume than the single-cone. That is certainly a plus in finger picking. However, when playing slide it seems to me to be too much of good thing. Slide playing seems to enhance sustain enough as it is.

More is not always better.

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 03 Jun 99 - 03:53 PM

Roger,

Thank you for that information. She is playing slide so it would seem that the single would suffice. Given the price difference this is good news.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Chet W.
Date: 03 Jun 99 - 09:00 PM

Found them at Elderly (www.elderly.com) $675 for a single cone brass body, nickel plated. $1100 for a tricone. A picture of one of them says it was made in "Czech", meaning the Republic, I guess. A description of another model says it was made in China, so I don't know which is true, or if both are. I'd love to see one personally, as this is way below the price of the new Nationals ($1700 for a painted single-cone) and a small fraction of an old National in decent shape. I have an ambition of building my own. I've figured out most of the technical problems of construction except for the cone itself, which you can buy from Stewart-McDonald for $22 to upwards of $100. I want to build a National everything; guitar, all the mandos, dulcimer, fiddle and so on. Soon as I finish my kitchen cabinets and a table or two. If anybody buys one of these Johnsons, please give a review, especially if you can compare it to a National.

Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 03 Jun 99 - 10:13 PM

There's them that say that sustain ain't so great for fingerpicking because the notes run together. So if there's not much sustain, the notes decay more quickly so you can hear them separately. I play a 1928 National nickle silver tricone which has miles of sustain, a 1994 National steel single cone which has next to no sustain, and a 1931 National steel tenor single cone which has the opposite of sustain, so you'd think I could speak with authority on this, but in reality I dunno. They all sound good to me in different ways.

BarkWoof


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 04 Jun 99 - 08:03 AM

I would agree that too much sustain muddies up fingerpicking. You can control it to some extent by damping. I think bottleneck needs some sustain; but now as much as Hawaiian style.

I didn't know the necks were metal on the Johnsons! They are wood on Nationals. If she is not dead set on a metal one, Steve, I would suggest looking at the Regal which is a wooden resonator guitar (similar to a round-necked Dobro.). I played one recently in a shop here and it sounded great with a metal slide on my finger. It sells for about the equivalent of 500 US dollars here, so it is probably cheaper in the US. I am told it is made by the same factory that makes Samick guitars.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 04 Jun 99 - 10:01 AM

Murray,

The Twelfth Fret is probably the premier Guitar shop in Toronto. They also have the Regals, so we will check them out too. I am probably wrong about the necks being metal on Johnsons.

Chet, The Twelfth Fret have the single Cone with a case at $995 Canadian, about $665 American. I guess this is a good deal.

Mark,

How long have you had your Nationals and what are your thoughts on the current prices on used ones?


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Jun 99 - 10:32 AM

Murray,

The Regals sell for $325.00 at Elderly and I concur with your advice...like anything else, it's worth looking about a bit.

BTW...Every time I see this thread, I think it says Resonator GUTS...something that many of us have serious knowledge of.

catspaw


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 04 Jun 99 - 04:25 PM

Yeah, but the Regals I've seen are more bluegrass machine (Dobro style - spider bridge, cone points down) than blues box (National style - bisquit bridge, cone points up). Does Regal make any of the National style? I know Dobro company has a "bottleneck special" model that has a bisquit bridge). The Johnson is obviously a National style.
If she's interested in going the bluegrass route instead, and doesn't want to spring for a Dobro or equivalent brand, you'll find that even cheaper than the Regals are the Morrell resonators. I picked up one of their square necks for $275, in shiny black yet. Its only shortcoming is that the cone doesn't seem to be replaceable -- I forget now exactly what I saw when I opened it up, but it was something like the cone is permanently attached to the walls of the soundhole well (where a National's cone just rests on the ledge of the well).

But if she's a blueswoman, she's probably gonna be happier with a National-syled instrument like I described above.

Steve, you asked how long I've had my Nationals, and what I think of the current prices on used ones:
I got my first National in 1970; a 1931 nickle-silver style 1 tenor, for $85. It was stolen from me, and Ginny bought me a 1931 National steel-bodied Triolian tenor to replace it two years ago. Not as nice as the style 1, but its cost was $450. Last week I found an identical Triolian tenor on consignment in a music store, asking price of $1495. I asked the proprietor why it was so expensive, and he showed me where he had looked in his Blue Book of vintage prices -- we noticed that he had accidently written the price for a Triolian Mandolin instead of a tenor. The tenor price in the book was $900, still a big leap in price for such a short amount of time to have gone by. The point is they have gone up way too high for most players; they seem to be mostly purchased by collectors instead.
I bought the 1928 National Style 3 squareneck 2 years ago for $4000. Ouch, but love drives a man to do uncanny things. If it had been a roundneck, it would have probably gone for almost twice the price.

So yeah, the prices have gone through the roof.

But the new ones being made by various manufacturers seem to be fairly priced. I bought a new National-Resophonic steel single-resonator Delphi for $1050 three years ago. That's a lot better than the old ones are going for, and they are very well made. I sure would like an old National brass or nickel single resonator someday...but the longer I wait, the farther away it looks.

Mark Roffe


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Chet W.
Date: 04 Jun 99 - 06:44 PM

I have one of the wood-bodied Regal-Saga roundneck guitars, and I like it very much for fingerstyle and for swing, but not so much for blues. It sure is a good deal, though. Just the other day I played a new Dobro brand that looked identical to my Regal and it didn't sound nearly as good, plus the finish work on the frets and fretboard was frankly very poor. I'd sure like to have a National for blues, but as you say, it's a lot of money. I checked at Gruhn, Elderly, and Mandolin Bros. and they run $2000 to $4000 for a single cone duolian or triolian, to twice that for a tricone. I'll let you know how my building project turns out, probably by Christmas. The first one probably will not be a work of art, but I have high hopes for the second. Planning to spend some money on the cones, though.

Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: DocJohn
Date: 04 Jun 99 - 08:35 PM

Someone on one of the other guitar oriented boards recently bought a Johnson and was thrilled with it.I remember he got a deal on it but Can't remember the price. He said it had a nice old National sound. Another brand is the Continental but I'm not sure they are available on this continent. I only lurk here occasionally so I'm not sure it's acceptable practice to post a web site for more info. There's a couple I can recommend.

As far as the new Dobros...I bought a Dobrolectric 2 years ago and have been fighting to get it working properly. I finally found a tech who knew what to do and had to completely take it apart. This after sending it to Gibson and then also their factory authorized rep. I played some new Gibson Dobros in a store recently and while some of them sounded OK I wasn't enamored with the frets, the fret board or the action. Lowering the action on those things is almost impossible. I play slide and straight fingerpicking and use a fairly low action for slide. I don't think it is necessary for someone who lknows what they are doing to jack the action up beyond playability to play bottleneck., But that's my taste. I guess the point is it would be easier to RAISE the action than to lower it cause when you lower it you lose the downward pressure on the cone and all kinds of buzzes ensue. Wow what a paragraph.

The paint jobs on the Dobros, while pretty, have some sloppy work on them. Would it be too much to ask to block the F hole so the inside of the body isn't all splattered with paint? I know most people don't look in there but to me it's a mark of attention to detail, or lack thereof.

I did play a Johnson last year at a show and liked it very much.

If you're adventurous check the on-line auctions. There are a lot of resophonic guitars aon there and some have reserves as low as $4-500. most from stores have a 24-hour return policy. While many of them are for sale for huge money, I think they can be had.

I play a 70's model dobro single cone and have no trouble with slide or fingerstyle.

Regards

John


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 04 Jun 99 - 09:02 PM

I'm sorry to hear the old Guys are getting so Expensive.I have a 14 fret deolian National that sounds like a 1947 power wagon{Pritty good since it was made in the 30"s}.I have always liked the deep mid-range of the single-coned nationals and also have always stayed with the older smaller cone size{I think thats pritty important}.I've heard old nationals who have sounded pritty sad from having a busted cone so there is alot to listen to when choosing her box} Let us all know how she likes the single cone Johnson if you gett it for her......That makes me think.....Besides of sending pictures of Mudcatters would'nt it be fun to see our faverite Instroments too?.Ah a new thread>>>>>>>>>>


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Jun 99 - 05:57 PM

Just out of curiousity- Is there a standard tuning for slide blues work? I just picked up a round-necked Regal(primarily for finger-picking) and I thought I'd experiment.


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 05 Jun 99 - 09:06 PM

All of the Regals I have seen have the spider arrangement. I experimented with blues playing and it sounded pretty good to me. I think I have seen a Samick with a bisquit once and Epiphone makes a wooden one with a choice of bisquit or spider.

Dick. There is no one standard tuning; but there is a standard philosophy and that is to tune to an open chord. Since your fingers are not as free for fretting with a bottleneck on one of them, you want to minimize fretting. Also it is easy to make a barre with the slide, so if your instrument is tuned to a chord, you can get all the other chords up the line.

The most common open tunings are (going from the bass string to the treble):

Open D: DAF#DAD
Open G: DBGDGD
Open C: ECGCGC
Open E: EBG#EBE

Of those the first two then to produce a lower tension than standard and for slide playing would require heavier strings. The second two are higher tension and you should be carefull with heavy strings.

There are variations. For example Open D6 in which the treble string is tuned to b (one tone above the next string down!) Skip James uses D monor: DADFAD which he calls "cross tuning". Open D is often called "Vestapol tuning" and open G is often called "Spanish tuning". Charlie Patton tended toward open G. From watching a video of Brownie McGhee, I think he used open D.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 03:14 AM

DocJohn, please post those recommended websites, it's quite alright. I don't know what Continent you're on, but the Continental resonator guitars are available in the U.S.

Dick, the Regal you have - does it have a spider bridge arrangement (cone pointing down, like Dobros) or a biscuit bridge (cone pointing up, like Nationals)?

I find spider bridge ones are louder and clearer and more suited for bluegrass than the biscuit bridge ones, which have more of a garbage can clangy blues sound. What do you think?

Dick, the tunings Murray posted are right on. The G tuning is the one most commonly used for slide blues work. The D and E tunings (they have the same string relationships) work for slide, but are also often used for fingerpicking tunes without a slide - Mississippi John Hurt used this a lot (check out "Payday," which is a great creative springboard that will have you noodling around in D or E right away).
Standard Dobro tuning, which is used for bluegrass work is (going from bass string to treble): GBDGBD. This is for regular Dobro playing rather than bottleneck slide, that's with the guitar's face looking at the ceiling, playing with a bar held in your hand (like a "stevens steel") rather than a hollow tube on your finger.

Mark


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 07:48 AM

I though that garbage can sound came from the metal, Mark. I will scour Sydney and see if I can find a wooden resonator with a bisquit.

About what I said about tensions. About what Mark says about D and E tuning. I have light strings on my usual guitar and tend to tune down to D. I have a very lightly built guitar I found in a pawn shop cheap with X-light strings on it. I use E to play the same things with that, because they become too slack when tuned down.

I would like to know if Regals do come with a bisquit arrangement.

I looked up Johnson resonators (called Johnson-Sterling) in a (not entirely up-to-date) Elderly Catalogue. They look like they have wooden necks like the nationals. but they have a solid rather than a slotted tuning head

There is a guitar listed there called the "National Delphi" which sells for $1344.00. For a National that is fairly cheap. Do any of you know anything about them. It does have a bisquit bridge but I can't tell if it has a square or a round neck.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 12:16 PM

Yeah, I have one of those National Resophonic Delphi guitars (I elaborated a little about it earlier in this thread). Anyway, it's modeled loosly after a triolian. The new National Resophonic folks in San Luis Obispo CA are making these in round neck only. Single resonator. Biscuit bridge. The newest ones have adjustable truss rods (mine's a 1994, and truss rod is not adjustable).

I'm off for a few days of camping. Be back later. Take care, all.

Mark


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Subject: those URL's
From: DocJohn
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 10:37 PM

there is a guy in Europe who plays and sells Continentals and knows about Johnsons. I think I have figured out they are by the same people, one's the econmy model. Homesick Mac is a great guy with very informative web site. Poke around and you'll learn something. Listen to his music, it's nice. He's also good to trade e-mail with. http://www.algonet.se/~homesick/instr1.html I'm not sure if that's the opening page but you can get there from here.

As far as reso's go, if you look you can find them. I remember now that the other post indicated the guitar was ~$500.00 US. Myu dobro lectric is growing on me. I played it today and got SO MANY different tones out of it. It's good for finger picking as well as sliding and also wailing with the amp. It sounds ok acoustic and has a wide variety of sounds plugged in.

Regards

John


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: ddw
Date: 19 Sep 01 - 11:40 PM

I'm planning to buy a steel sometime soon and found this thread and one other on the Johnson-Sterlings interesting, but wondered if anyone has had more dealings with them since the threads were new.

I've played a couple of Nationals in the past and loved 'em — both O Styles — but what I'm seeing now are pricey as hell, $1,800 to $2,700 Canadian (about $1,125 to $1,700 US). I've also played a couple of Regals and, more recently, a Dobro steel (actually nickle-plated brass) that the store wants $2,000 Cdn for.

That all said, I went into another music store a few days ago and picked up a Johnson-Sterling that just blew me away. Lots of projection and a mellow sound, about halfway between the National Os and a tri-cone, and a price tag ($795 Cdn asking price) that is very tempting.

Somebody mentioned, either above or in the other thread on Johnsons, that there is trouble with the nickle coming off. Has anyone else encountered that? I'd love to know how common it is. And whether the necks hold up.

Any and all experiences would be helpful.....

david


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Les B
Date: 20 Sep 01 - 12:29 AM

DDW - I ordered a Johnson round-neck from Elderly in June. They were normally $595 US, and this was on sale, because of "overstocking" for $495.

I've been having great fun fingerpicking it in regular guitar tuning. The neck is playable right up to the body, it's loud, and pretty mellow. So far I haven't seen any nickel flaking off, but will be watching, now that I've heard the warning.

The only thing I found a bit frustrating at first was that the dots on the side of the neck aren't comparable to most regular guitars; there's no dot at the third fret, for instance. However, after a little playing, I'm getting used to that. (I know all the classical players out there are smirking, because they get all over the neck with no dots at all, but I'm "dot impaired" !?!)

For the price, I think the Johnsons are a good deal.


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: GUEST,truckerdave
Date: 20 Sep 01 - 01:23 AM

I've had two Johnson single cone steel bodies. They both were junk. Lay one of those babies up beside a real National and you quickly realize they don't sound nowhere close. Beware of on line reviews. Some of them are put up by people selling them. Quality on them is hit or miss since they are made in China but has improved some. Most all the cheapies can be improved by installing a quarterman cone, though. National cones don't sound as good as a quarterman in single cone. I have Johnson tricone also and it sounds great but i've modified it some and changed cones to Nationals. They are made by AMISTAR in Checzoslovakia and i would say they are worth the money($1100 US). May i suggest a cheaper Dean or Regal steel body? I have a Dean and it's the one i grab most of the time. With a quarterman and maple/ebony bridge it has a vintage sound that rivals a real 1930's National. Sounds like about halfway between a Duolian and Style O. The Regal is the exact same guitar(korean made in same plant)and sounds the exact same as a Dean, except with a different headstock and they go really cheap on ebay. The quality, playability, and finish is 10 times better than a Johnson. My opinion anyway, and i've played all of them(slide).


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: GUEST,truckerdave
Date: 20 Sep 01 - 01:38 AM

Someone asked about the chrome holding up. I've had no problems on either the Johnson Tricone or the single cone. It tarnishes but no flakes so far. I've had both a couple years. No, the necks don't hold up. I've heard of several broke and had one that broke at the heel. It's too flimsy for a guitar of this weight. Look at the heel on a Dean or Regal steel body and it's a lot thicker. A Dean or Regal weighs 12 pounds!, about the same as a les paul. They've got to have a pretty robust neck. I wish i could make a link thingy(how you do 'dat?) but i put some stuff about steel bodies on my webpage. www.geocities.com/truckerdave10/johnsonguitars


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Grab
Date: 20 Sep 01 - 07:47 AM

TruckerDave, do you reckon adding a Quarterman cone to a Regal would improve the sound significantly? How much would that set me back?

When I tried a Johnson (single-cone) in the shop, it didn't sound at all clear - quite a vague, muddy sound. I'd guess that Johnson-Sterling and Johnson may be two different brands though, Dave?

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: Fortunato
Date: 20 Sep 01 - 09:40 AM

I played a Regal the other day with a single cone, round neck and chrome body with no decoration. I was just hanging around the store waiting for someone. I was into my third finger-picking piece when I noticed people had stopped to listen. Some of them were 15 feet away and I was playing with my fingers, no picks. This is in a store where all kinds of intruments, electric and otherwise were being noodled on nearby. The neck was quite playable. I quite liked it. Regards, Chance


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: GUEST,truckerdave
Date: 20 Sep 01 - 02:23 PM

Johnson and Johnson/Sterling are the same. Mine has Sterling on the headstock. The other one i had that broke had Johnson. Regal and Dean are identical in looks, sound, and construction. Both nickel plated steel, not brass. I've played a couple of both in local music store. They sound pretty good out of box but adding a quarterman cone and maple/ebony bridge makes them come alive and mellows out the sound. You get much more sustain and it still has quite a bit of attack. Costs about $50 for cone and another $20 for new maple/ebony bridge biscuit which has to be custom fitted cause quarterman is a bit lower than stock cone. Resophonic Outfitters has both. I looked on ebay today and the regals are going incredibly cheap, around $339 US, i think. I paid $550 for the Dean and they are virtually identical(both made in Samick factory). THAT JUST MAKES ME SICK. I am a pretty loud vocalist(i holler a lot) and sometimes without any amplification the guitar overpowers my voice. They are damned LOUD and feel like a cement block strapped around your neck. As far as i can figure you'd have to spend a whole bunch more money to find something better for slide type blues than the Regal. I just wish i had saw the Regals before i bought the Dean.


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Subject: RE: Anyone familiar with Johnson Resonator Guits
From: ddw
Date: 20 Sep 01 - 06:19 PM

Truckerdave,

Thanks for all that input. That's exactly what I was looking for — good comparison with not vested interest in selling anything....

I played Grab's Regal a little and liked it a lot, tho' I remember it as much heavier than the Nationals, Dobros and Johnson's I've played more recently. I think what I really need to do is trek over to Elderly and spend a day comparing.

I went to the music store today to play that Johnson again and was very, very close to buying. Glad now I didn't.

Thanks again,

david


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