The resonator guitar, or Dobro as many musicians call it, might be the most haunting of all musical sounds. An eerie hollow twang that when played with a slide can easily lean on the blues or bluegrass.
Jerry Douglas from Warren, Ohio may be the most accomplished resonator guitar man who ever lived. Dubbed "Dobro's matchless contemporary master," by the New York Times, Jerry has been playing since the the age of eight, after his father—a steelworker who played bluegrass in his spare time—brought him to a Flatt and Scruggs concert, where he was entranced by the sound of Dobro player Josh Graves. After playing with his dad's group the West Virginia Travelers for several years, a 17-year-old Douglas joined the pioneering progressive-bluegrass band the Country Gentlemen in 1973. Two years later, he became a member of the seminal J.D. Crowe and the New South, which also included future solo stars Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice.
The resonator guitar came about through a series of events which happened within the National String Instrument Company, which was formed in 1925 and co-owned by a Slovak immigrant family, the Dopyeras, along with several other investors.
The Dopyera brothers, of whom there were five—John, Robert, Rudolph (Rudy), Louis, and Emil (Ed)—were heavily involved in the National Company, both as inventors and
investors. Because of internal frictions with other parties within the company, John and his younger brother Rudy divested all their interest in National—including patents which they held for National instruments—and left the company in 1928. They had been working for some time outside the company on a new-style resonator assembly, which they were quick to patent upon their departure from National. The result of this new invention is the resonator guitar as we know it today.
The resonator is primarily played within two styles of music, blues and bluegrass. Both of which use a slide to create the sounds that are so haunting.
Bluegrass slide is played on top much like a steel guitar. The strings are raised to accommodate the weight of a heavier slide while the blues guitar is played much like a regular guitar with open tuning. I'm sure this all sounds musically technical so the best way to show you the music is to let you listen to it.
The first video is that of Jerry Douglas. I featured him in the third video as well due to his new album, Traveler, just being released which features Eric Clapton, Marc Cohn, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Keb Mo, Mumford & Sons and Paul Simon. The video features Mumford & Sons with their new release of The Boxer.
The second video is of my favorite blues man himself, Lucky Peterson. It's a grinding slide that will make you pull from a whisky bottle if you're not careful.
And I'm never careful so enjoy the music!