WUMB February Program Guide

What the heck is a Dobro?!


George Knight here.  I host the late night show on WUMB, and you can join me Monday through Thursday, 10pm-Midnight.  I’ve been really digging deep into the new Jerry Douglas album Traveler, which I’ve been enjoying because it happents to have great songs on it & an eclectic cast of guest artists ranging from Paul Simon and Eric Clapton, to Keb Mo and Mumford & Sons.  It really has some lovely vocal work on it, along with wonderful Dobro guitar playing-which is Jerry Douglas’s specialty.  As I’ve been enjoying the music, the mind has wandered (or is that wobbled) and I started thinking about what a cool instrument the Dobro is.  Then I think a bit deeper about the fact that “Dobro” is used as a generic term for a resonator guitar, much as we use “Kleenex” or “Coke” when we mean tissue or cola.  I call it that mainly because that’s what my Dad called it, but if you want to get technical, Dobro is a brand name (at last check owned by Gibson), but there are other companies that have made resonator guitars under other names.  I realize this isn’t information that will right all the wrongs of the world, but for a guitar geek like myself, it’s fun to think about.

So what is a resonator guitar?  It’s basically a guitar that uses a metal cone to amplify the sounds of the strings rather than a traditional wooden soundboard like on a standard acoustic guitar.  The design came about from a need for the guitar to be loud enough to compete with other instruments in dance bands, and has stayed around because – for lack of a deeper explanation –  it’s got a cool sound that’s different from your run of the mill acoustic guitar.  It’s typically played like a lap steel guitar (with a slide), although there have also been designs that were played in a “traditional” stance.  I strongly recommend you check out the new Jerry Douglas album Traveler, and in the meantime I’ll be thinking of more geeky tidbits of musical instrument information to pass along.


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