Brent Burke, reso-guitar man with Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, had spent part of this summer researching vintage Dobros. He’s thinking about doing a solo album later this year, and wanted to record a couple of older reso classics to pay tribute to Josh Graves, whose music he has studied intently since he was just 7 years old. And in order to capture the vibe of Josh’s older recordings, Brent knew that he would need to use a vintage guitar.
While looking into acquiring one, his boss lady (and mother-in-law) received a phone call from Robert Cline, Jr., a name that resonated from her childhood. Rhonda had recalled Robert’s father, Robert Cline, Sr., as the reso-guitarist with Umy & The Goodtimers, a popular bluegrass band from Oklahoma in the 1970s and beyond.
Robert had contacted Rhonda to say that he would like to donate his father’s old guitars to Brent, and this past weekend he met up with the band at a Bob Evans event in Ohio. On the bus between sets Cline presented the two guitars to Burke, who says he was mighty proud to receive them.
“I was more than grateful to accept them; they were exactly what I was looking for. One is a Regal which looks to be from between 1933 and 1941. The other is a Dobro brand, but not quite so old – perhaps a ’60s model. They are in really good shape and sound great.
These older ones carry a whole other life about them than the newer instruments, a different tone. They haven’t been played much the past ten years, so I’ll have to break them in again.”
Brent said that he hadn’t been aware of Cline’s Sr.’s music until recently.
“I had heard of him through Rhonda, who spoke of him often. But now I’m newly familiar with Robert and his band.”
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time someone has showed up bearing dobros for Brent.
“When I was 9 years old I had someone give me an instrument, a newer Regal guitar. This guy saw me jamming with my family and he came up and said, ‘Brent… I want to give this to you.’ He had started trying to learn and decided to give it up. I still have that one which I saved as a keepsake. I had been playing one that my uncle had made for me in ’97. It was my first ‘real dobro.’ “
Burke’s current plans are to spend much of December, when Rhonda and the boys take the month off from touring, to get songs and tunes together for this first solo project. The only tune he knows for sure he wants to include is Bashful Brother Oswald’s Dobro Chimes, which Burke performs occasionally on stage with Rhonda.
Here he is playing it at Dumplin Valley in 2012 in a video captured by Ted Lehmann.
So the lesson to everyone is to start looking for your dream vintage instruments, and someone will show up and give you one. If you are a top pro player with one of the biggest touring acts in bluegrass, that is!