Washburn goes back to the future

The George Washburn company made its bones in the late 19th and early 20th century building what were known at the time as parlor guitars, sometimes described as ladies’ guitars. These were smaller body instruments, with a shorter scale, than the larger dreadnaught models that overtook the market fifty years hence.

The company also built mandolins along the European model, and open back banjos, but really hit their stride in the 1920s as their guitars became the favorites of the delta blues music scene centered in Chicago, where the company was located. The Washburn brand name changed hands several times in the 1930s and ’40s, and the company stopped production during and after WWII.

The brand was revived in 1997, again as a Chicago-based company, but with instruments manufactured in Asia. Washburn is today a major player in a wide range of musical instruments, amplification and accessories with its largest focus on the rock and jazz worlds. But they still offer banjos, mandolins and acoustic guitars with the Washburn name under current owners, US Music Corp.

As interest in the parlor-size guitars has been rekindled in recent years, Washburn introduced models based on their earlier designs, and two new  guitars in this line were debuted during the Winter NAMM Show in California last month.

The R315KK is a laminate guitar, using a spruce top and trembesi back and sides. Trembesi is a south American wood that visually resembles rosewood. It carries a retail price of $712.90 with a case.

The R321SWRK is a solid wood model, with a spruce top and rosewood back and sides, plus an elaborate tree of life fingerboard inlay. This one retails for $1,069.90, again with a case.

More details about the Washburn parlor guitars, and their entire line of instruments, can be found online.

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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.