Man alive! The first time we encountered this guitar we knew we just had to buy it. It was passed to us by its original owner who bought it new while in the Merchant Marines. While we counted out twenties, he regaled us with tales of its storied history—how he entertained his shipmates on this very instrument, assembling a small shipboard group to play Hank Snow and Lefty Frizell songs for homesick Midwestern boys away from Oklahoma and North Dakota for the first time. And how he used to sit on his back porch and entertain his wife and kids at family gatherings.
But, as they say, all things must pass, and so he has passed this historic instrument on to us. But that’s not all. According to Andy Babiuk’s excellent history The Story of Paul Bigsby: Father of the Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar, the renowned Paul Bigsby designed the early Magnatone guitars under contract to Magna Electronics of Inglewood, California. The earliest models sported a neck-through design, but they were replaced by about 1957 with a standard glued-in neck. This is the neck-through model, meaning it is an exceptionally rare and early example, with an incredible-sounding Bigsby-designed pickup. The body is made from lightweight, resonant ash and the neck, though boasting some girth, is easy to play and invites everything from shuffles to swing.