Ferrell Stowe and Red Line Resophonics

Ferrell Stowe has been a hero in the resophonic guitar community for some time. Top current players credit him as an influence, and his long list of credits as both a sideman and a solo recording artist have added mightily to the catalog of dobro music in bluegrass.

Recordings featuring his slide work go back to the mid-’70s when we was with The Shady Grove Ramblers, and have continued to the present day with a more recent project with Cedar Hill, and a series of solo projects under his own name in the past 15 years.

Ferrell Stowe

As a senior statesman in the reso-community, his thoughts on design are taken seriously by players and builders alike, and Ferrell is proud to now announce that he is working closely with Steve Smith of Cumberland Acoustics in Nashville for a new line of guitars for their Redline Resophonics company. Steve says that Stowe describes their collaboration as working “with an eye to the past, and an ear to the future.”

Smith says that it’s something of a long story, so let’s let him tell the tale.

“This little adventure started close to 20 years ago when Ferrell Stowe and I became acquainted with one another. Through the years he would visit our RedLine Resophonics shop from time to time. We would also meet up occasionally at bluegrass events, as well as keeping in touch via e-mail and social media. Over the years we had talked about how fun it might be to do a project together, but we both had other commitments and agreements, that sort of thing. Meanwhile a decade or two passed by…

Jump ahead to late 2016/early 2017: Ferrell had been experimenting with some ideas, relatively simple (but ingenious) modifications to the inside of the resophonic guitar. He was stone cold sold on the idea that these modifications truly did make a difference on his own mid-1930’s Model 27 Dobro. Of course, that guitar is decades old, and Ferrell has throttled it mercilessly over the years, which made it a tough guitar to match! However, Ferrell had great confidence in the way we build our resophonic guitars, and we both thought that if we put our collective designs together that we might really have something, and we both feel that we do!

What we have done here is to incorporate Ferrell’s design of a unique baffling system inside our resophonic guitar design. We moved some braces and sound posts around a bit to accommodate these baffles. In designing this baffle system, Ferrell looked at how the sound waves react inside the guitar. These baffles are there to take what might have otherwise been ‘wasted sound waves,’ which are now sort of corralled and directed up and out of the two sound rings in the upper bout of the guitar. A recent quote from Ferrell goes something like this, ‘We’re just treating sound waves as the movement of air at our desired frequency.’ The result, I must say, is pretty astounding! Even though this guitar is the classic R-Body size and shape, it can over-power many large body resophonic guitars out there, even some that we have built! Ferrell even laughs at the fact that his ‘The Stowe’ can keep up with, or even exceed the volume level of the banjos he has run across since he got this guitar!

After several months of tweaking his design ideas, Ferrell felt confident that it was time to try these ideas in one of our RedLine Resophonic Guitars. To take it a step further, we collectively agreed to make an all new model, which we call ‘The Stowe.’ We used Ferrell’s circa 1930’s Model 27 Dobro as sort of a visual guide when designing this model. We did our best to match the sunburst on his guitar, and all of the other specs were pretty much in place. Further, Ferrell had some specific ideas as to what woods we should use, so we wound up using western red cedar for the top, book-matched east Indian rosewood for the back and sides, and walnut for the neck. The fretboard and headstock overlay are also east Indian rosewood. The top of the body and fretboard are bound in ivoroid celluloid. The finish is a gloss nitrocellulose lacquer. Fretboard dots are mother-of-pearl, as is the handsome ‘The Stowe’ engraved name-block on the fretboard.

Getting deeper into the specifications, we use our own special alloy cast aluminum RLR spider, coupled with a U.S. made Replogle cone. Ferrell requested an all maple bridge insert, so that is what we use. We tried an ebony capped bridge insert, but the aged maple seems to be the best fit for these guitars. Since Ferrell has his own Black Diamond Strings, we string each and every ‘The Stowe’ with a set of Black Diamond Ferrell Stowe Resonator Signature Set strings.

To date we have built but a few of this model, but we have several more in process as of this writing. It is our hope that the demand for these high performance resophonic guitars will allow us to build many, many more.”

Steve also shared these informal photos of the guitar they sent Ferrell. If you want more information on these guitars, contact RedLine through their web site or call them at 877-857-4896.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.