June News

Grimshaw Revelation Guitar

SIX-STRING EXPERIMENTATION AND innovation in the early 20th century mostly centered on the idea of making the guitar louder, so that it could compete in bands with horns, pianos, drums, and banjos—the loudest of acoustic string instruments. In the United States, the Paramount banjo company enlisted C.F. Martin to help build a few double-bodied resonator guitars, the rarely seen Paramount Style “L” from 1933. The company created a sought-after instrument for future Martin collectors, but the design did little to help in the volume wars. It sure looked like it would work, but the results were debatable.


A year later, in 1934, across the pond in Great Britain, a banjo player and music book publisher named Emile Grimshaw began manufacturing guitars and other plectrum instruments. The Grimshaw brand, while rarely seen on these shores, was a respectable name in the U.K. until the early 1980s. They had a limited production, never reaching the levels of U.K. brands like Vox or Burns, but Grimshaw instruments were treasured, and found their way into the hands of pre-Beatles British rockers and English jazz cats.

In addition to fairly standard archtops and flat-tops, Grimshaw began making the Revelation model in the mid-1930s, which was strikingly similar to the Paramount Style “L” in many ways. Utilizing the double-bodied resonator guitar concept, the Revelation is basically a standard archtop guitar sporting a modest 16q” width at the lower bout, with a large hole cut into the back to allow sound reflections to hit the “resonator” backplate. The backplate was essentially the back half of a larger-bodied archtop (measuring a manly 18q” at the lower bout) with braces to mount the assembly to the guitar in front. Early versions had two screws holding the back on, but due to rattling problems, later models were glued on. The double-bodied resonator guitar was available in both archtop and flat-top versions, though both are extremely rare now.

While the double-bodied resonator guitar may have been louder than a regular archtop, in the late 1940s Grimshaw began making electric models of the Grimshaw Revelation, with their patented pickup hidden in the end of the fretboard. The guitar shown here is either from that era or an earlier guitar with an added pickup (there appears to be a pencil marking that says “1939” on the printed inside label, however the Grimshaw website points to this being a postwar guitar).

About the time this evolutionary dead-end was made, solidbody electrics were taking over California, and were about to dominate the world. Grimshaw would soon join the fray, and the era of the double-bodied resonator guitar would disappear into the London fog.

American Magazine article by Deke Dickerson

 Just listed photos of rare Grimshaw 4 string tenor guitar with resonator back, see guitar gallery.

Grimshaw feature in May issue of Guitar & Bass magazine.   Featuring my collection of guitars

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