Recording King: Spirit of the South

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Recording King: Spirit of the South

recording king
Words by Peter Hodgson

Uncovering all of the latest and greatest arrivals down under!

You may have seen Recording King acoustic guitars and resonator guitars out there in the wild (if you go to acoustic blues gigs it’s literally only a matter of time) but what a lot of people don’t know is that the brand has quite the legacy. 

The brand was originally created in the 1930s as a house brand for Montgomery Ward, the American mail-order retailer. Now owned by The Music Link Corporation in Hayward, California, Recording King guitars are distributed in Australia by EGM Distribution, who are currently wading through a massive pile of new arrivals and new models.

The new Recording King instruments are crammed with top-end vintage and modern appointments including solid rosewood and solid mahogany woods, Adirondack spruce tops, herringbone, tortoise-shell binding, Fishman electronics, hand-spun European resonator cones, and distressed authentic Bell Brass bodies. 

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

First, for those who are new to the wonderfully weird world of guitar, a resonator guitar features a spun metal cone in the centre of the body towards which the bridge directs the string energy and this is what amplifies the sound, compared to a traditional acoustic guitar with a sound hole where the string energy is directed to making the top vibrate. 

The original idea was to create a guitar that punched through the brash blast of a band back in the pre-amplification days, and it’s a sound that evokes a certain rustic vibe, a rattly, brash, slightly honky voice that works great for slide guitar and finger-picked patterns. It’s also a sound that still has its place today, and while you’ll hear a lot of resonators in country and blues, there’s no rule that says you can’t use a resonator for whatever you want. It may even help you stand out in a unique way.

So now that we’ve got that little crash-course out of the way for the beginners, let’s look at Recording King’s resonator models: these vintage-vibed, classic-toned instruments are best exemplified by the Swamp Dog, an eye-catching style-0 instrument with a heavily distressed Bell Brass body that looks like it’s been dragged out of the mud, cleaned up, and taught to sing. The weathered, oxidised patina gives you the vibe of a well-loved old instrument from the second you pick it up, but it’s all cosmetic: this is still a finely crafted guitar, even if it looks like it’s seen some stuff. 

The other resonator guitars in the lineup don’t look like they’ve seen decades in a boggy marsh before being cleaned up to entertain boozed-up blues crowds. In fact some of them, like the Phil Leadbetter Signature Squareneck Resonator look downright elegant. This bespoke model for the multiple IBMA Dobro Player of the Year is a wood body squareneck resonator made of highly flamed maple with an interior bracing pattern specifically guided and chosen by Phil himself, featuring Recording King’s European hand-spun spider cone and a sandcast spider bridge.

The Rattlesnake Small Body Resonator has an all-mahogany body, a thin “C” neck shape, padauk fretboard, and the option of a Fishman Nashville pickup. The Round Neck Maxwell Series Mahogany Resonator Guitar is a relatively straightforward but very characterful instrument with mahogany top, back and sides, and parallelogram soundwell, specifically designed to give the instrument a crisp attack with minimal overtones, perfect for cutting through a band mix.

There are two more Bell Brass models: the 993 with Nickel Plated Bell Brass Parlor Resonator, and the larger and very eye-catching 991 with Tricone bell. These are the metal-bodied, shiny-lookin’ resonators everyone who ever looked at the cover of Brothers In Arms will feel an immediate pang of recognition for. 

Recording King also makes plenty of traditional, soundhole-sporting acoustic guitars across the G6 Series, the Series 11, and Tonewood Reserve series. The G6 series is the most affordable, with the styling veering towards the crisp and modern without getting all uppity about it. These are simplified but not simple instruments. 

The small-bodied G6 Single 0 covers your parlour-guitar, bright-midrange needs, while the larger 000 allows you to get more intricate and detailed with your phrasing and tone. There are also pickup-equipped dreadnought and auditorium guitars in the series, each with cutaways for upper fret access, and a Fishman Presys preamp. 

Series 11 covers two models, both in a gloriously earthy Tobacco Sunburst finish: a Size 0 and a Size 000, each with a solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides and with an ultra thin Zero-VOC satin finish, which is more environmentally friendly than traditional polyurethane and can be sprayed much thinner. These guitars feature Fishman Sonitone electronics. 

Finally the Tonewood Reserve Series features four instruments which incorporate beautiful aged Adirondack tops across two shapes (dreadnought and 000) with the option of select mahogany back and sides (these models are denoted with the code 318) or select solid rosewood (328). 

These are the real fancypants, luxury-appointed models with herringbone purfling, triple-ring rosette, and elegantly understated fretboard dots (double dots on both the 12th and 7th fret positions for that vintage vibe). 

Head to Recording King for more information. For local enquiries, reach out to EGM Distribution.