Supro lap steel dating
Out of the frying pan National Dobro’s involvement with electrics began, indirectly, with experiments conducted by George Beauchamp, who designed his first “electro” guitar in 1931, while actually still with the National company (not yet merged with Dobro).
This was a wood-bodied “frying pan” with a pickup probably designed in conjunction with Paul Barth and Harry Watson, another National employee.
Beauchamp applied for a patent on his “frying pan” on June 8, 1933, and again on June 2, 1934, eventually receiving the patent on August 10, 1937.
While National blithely ignored Beauchamp’s electric experiments, their competition – Dobro – was next to enter the electric arena as early as 1933, with the introduction of the Dobro All-Electric.
In mid-’29, John Dopyera left the National company to start the Dobro Manufacturing Company along with his brothers Rudy and Ed, and Vic Smith. Dobro was, during this period, a competitor of National’s, although in this somewhat incestuous world, both got their resonator cones, plate covers and other parts, like tailpieces, from Adolph Rickenbacker.The amp was produced before the development of preamp tubes, and was undoubtedly very primitive (there is no mention of even volume controls), and probably not particularly loud (though, of course, listeners had nothing to compare).Apparently, the reality didn’t live up to the hype, because Kuhrmeyer later suggested than only a few hundred of these guitars were actually made, and mention of them evaporates after 1928, likely done in by a combination of lack of performance and the upcoming Great Depression, which descended in 1929.Well, with a little help from our friends (in particular, catalogs and invaluable information supplied by Mike Newton, Jim Dulfer, and Michael Lee Allen), let’s set the record straight.
Supro was basically the “budget” brand of the National Dobro, and later, the Valco company, best known for National and Dobro brand instruments, and to a lesser degree, the Supros.
Indeed, for some unknown reason, George Beauchamp and Paul Barth left National in 1931 and started Ro-Pat-In, with Rickenbacker, for the purpose of making electric guitars based on a Beauchamp design (developed while he was at National) for which he would eventually receive a patent.