National resonators are some of the most heralded and collected vintage instruments on the market, with their finest pre-war models featuring unique and ornate designs that showcase the companies Hawaiian guitar influence, and the more general influence of Pacific island culture and imagery on the west coast of the USA during the pre and post war periods. This 1937 National Style 97 'Surfer Girl' is one such instruments, and is simply one of the rarest and most beautiful resonator guitars ever produced by National.
Produced in extremely limited quantities between 1936 & 1940, the National Style 97 was the first brass body model to feature the Tri-Cone design, and was actually considered a more budget friendly Tri-Cone guitar, retailing for $97.50 when first released compared to the $125 'German Silver' bodied resonators. The brass body is nickel plated like other 'Style' models, and features the T shaped bridge cover and grid pattern sound holes on the top. This guitar is sold with two necks, both of which are fantastic to play. The original Maple square neck is in great condition and is 12 frets to the body with the white stencilled National logo variation on the headstock. The round neck is currently fitted to the guitar, and was built by master resonator luthier Mike Lewis of Fine Resophonic in Paris, and made to the exact specifications of a National round neck from the same period. Both offer exceptional playability and are true to the quality of the instrument.
As with other National resonators, the real defining feature of this Style 97 is the vibrant 'Surfer Girl' design. The body features enamelled palm tree and cresting wave designs on the front and around the sides, while the back features a large, multi coloured enamelled design with a palm tree, setting sun and '30s 'Surfer Girl,' a fitting snap shot of the budding surfing culture that arrived in the USA from Hawaiian during the 1930s.
By the late 1930s, resonator instruments began to decline in popularity with players of the time as electric lapsteels began more readily available. As such, National production numbers during this period begin to drop, making later models like this Style 97 particularly rare. We believe this guitar to be one of only 19 original Style 97 resonators produced, with 8 round necks and 11 square necks having been cataloged by collectors over the years. This 1937 National Style 97 is a particularly rare instrument, and a wonderful example of one of National's most sought after models. It would certainly be the cornerstone of any collection of pre war National instruments.
This 1937 National Style 97 is in excellent condition with barely any signs of play wear to speak of. It is striking to see how much of the enamelled design has stayed intact, with the colours remaining so vibrant. The instrument is completely original, with the original Tri-Cone still sounding excellent. It is currently fitted with the Mike Lewis made round neck, but can be fitted with the original square neck if required.
As with all our instruments, this guitar has been given a full service and appraisal by our luthiers at the Vintage Instrument Workshop, and includes a 3 year warranty. The original case is included.