Regal Custom Arch Top Acoustic Guitar , c. 1939

Regal  Custom Arch Top Acoustic Guitar ,  c. 1939
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Item # 10298
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Regal Custom Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar, c. 1939, made in Chicago, sunburst top and sides, natural back finish, maple back, sides and neck, spruce top, ebony fingerboard, black gig bag case.

This 18"+ wide guitar is truly a stunner, if only in sheer size and glitz factor! We don't know who Louie Samudio was, but he must have wanted a guitar that would make him stand out from the crowd! This Regal arch top is a very rare creation, a pre-war gold-plated beauty of enormous pulchritude but a charming persona as well. This is a very deluxe carved-top instrument, with "Regal Custom" engraved on the plate on the headstock and Mr. Samudio's name in delicate script on the oddly small pickguard. While it shares many features with the rare top-line 1939-era Regal "Prince" and "Crown" models and the Regal-made B&D "Sultana Grand" this is a unique piece in itself.

Regal-made archtops have a number of unique design and construction traits, exemplified by this example. This carved guitar would have been an expensive item to make, and Regal seems to have sold very few of their top-line own branded examples in comparison to Gibson or Epiphone. No doubt the company was eager to sell any unfinished stock any way they could; we have seen several such instruments that appear to have been finished out for individual customers. An inconspicuous label under the bass side F-hole reads "Regal Custom Built".

The guitar has a fairly subdued sunburst finish on the top and sides of its 18 1/4" body; the carved maple back is finished natural highlighting some lovely maple figuring. The figured maple sides have the carved "violin" insets peculiar to Regal in this period, used only on their highest grade guitars. The top, sides and back are bound with multiple layers of Celluloid, the top is bounded with vivid abalone trim. The proportionally small F-holes are single-ply bound in white. The adjustable bridge is an unusually minimalist two-footed design and the heavy tailpiece is the typical Regal piece for their high-end guitars, not engraved in this case. The oddly small engraved pickguard is screwed directly to the top on its upper edge with a bracket shaped like a musical note on the lower.

The fairly wide and chunky flat-C-profile neck is made of one piece of maple with a scarf jointed headstock and a laminated, multi-piece stacked heel. The heel area is finished in sunburst but the rest is natural. It is topped by a single bound ebony fingerboard with split-block inlay and a 3-point lower tip. The fairly slim headstock is capped with a multi-bound wood facing with the Regal crown and filigree inlaid in pearl. The tuners are more recent Grover Rotomatics. On the face of the headstock is a small plate that would normally appear to be a truss rod cover, but no truss rod lies beneath. The neck is quite chunky and as far as we can tell there is no metal inside.

The big archtop guitar was the "thing" in 1939-40, with Gibson and Epiphone vying for the top of the market. Whatever his playing situation, Louie Samudio got a spectacular unique showpiece of a performance instrument, and a good sounding one as well. While we would not claim this is the tonal equal of a period D'Angelico or Epiphone Emperor it does have a very robust sound with plenty of volume and 'cut' for big band use. If not the subtlest of arch tops, either visually or sonically this big glitzy boomer can still dominate a room with sheer charisma!
 
Overall length is 45 in. (114.3 cm.), 18 1/4 in. (46.4 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 15/16 in. (10 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 1/4 in. (641 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This guitar remains in nicely original condition, showing some wear and minor repair but except for the later tuning machines essentially unaltered from how it came to Louie around 1939-40. The finish has some minor wear with some scrapes, dings and scuffs overall but no large areas of playwear or loss. There are signs of a possible light overspray to the top long ago; the spruce used for the top shows a number of small grain imperfections in the grain that are not later damage. There are two well repaired spruce grain splits on the lower bass bout coming off the back edge above the tailpiece; we can find no other crack repairs.

The back center seam has been resealed near the tailblock; the lower side has a small but deep dink into the wood. The neck has been reset, probably more than once but is quite solid now. There is some old attendant overspray visible around the heel. A later period strap button has been added on the side above the heel.

The personalized pickguard is oddly shaped and eccentrically attached; we can't guarantee Regal fitted it originally but if Mr. Samudio was the original owner it has been there a long time. The exact pedigree on the two-footed adjustable bridge is obscure but we have seen this design on another Regal and in any case it has been on the instrument a long time. The original frets are in very good shape and the guitar plays well, taking into account the substantial neck profile. This is a unique find for sure, a showpiece of high deco guitar design and swing-era sweetheart for the player of collector with a taste for the unusual. It is housed in a modern gig bag that encloses the body but leaves the headstock peering out the top; this is not an easy guitar to fit! Overall Excellent - Condition.