Booker T. Washington White’s 1933 National Duolian “Hard Rock” Resonator guitar, made in USA, serial no. C7094, gifted to his transatlantic friend, Keith Perry, a Newcastle, UK based photographer in May 1976 and played by Dave Stewart has sold at auction for over £90,000.

Booker “Bukka” White (12th November 1906 or 1909 – 26th February 1977) was an influential African-American Delta Blues guitarist from Mississippi, USA, active from the late 1920s until his passing in 1977. He was best known for his slide work on National Resonator guitars and recordings put out by early labels including Victor, Vocalion and Okeh. His musical career started by playing the fiddle at square dances with a change of instrument after his father gifted him a guitar on his ninth birthday. Booker honed his craft in the following years and cites Charlie Patten as a big influence, who he also claimed to have met. Both Booker White and Son House (with his National Style 0) are both considered pioneers of Delta Blues slide guitar and a main inspiration for the fascination with National resonator guitars as we know it today.  Son House himself was likely influenced by the great man if Booker’s word is to be believed, quoted as saying “Son House got that slide from me, he wasn’t using no slide when I run up on him. He wasn’t using even the bottleneck, too. And after, the next time I’d see him, he had a bottleneck. And so he’s been bottlenecking ever since”.

Whilst Keith mourned the loss of a hero and friend, he was keen to not shut the guitar away, but to put the instrument into the hands of musicians that he felt would appreciate its rich history and value. Keith, through his photographic profession, documented many meetings between Hard Rock and famous names such as Mark & David Knopfler, Don McLean, Lonnie Donnegan, Bill Wyman, Brian Johnson, Dave Stewart and Derek Trucks.

Booker’s Hard Rock is a 1933 National Duolian, a unique transitional model which featured the larger body and ‘rolled in’ f-holes that are found on subsequent smaller Nationals made from 1934 onwards. The serial number (C7074) confirms Hard Rock as a 1933 model, even though production of this particular instrument continued well into 1934. This short-lived transitional model, which combines the best of previous and subsequent models makes the ‘33s the most desirable of the Duolian model.

 

 

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