Prewar Antique Regal Parlors


I don't know if many of you players out there have searched for prewar blues guitars but the prices are going through the roof. I remember the same thing happening as the supplies of old electric vintage guitars began to dwindle. Collectors start stashing them and before long a guitar that costs 10.00 dollars brand new in the depression era all the sudden costs two grand on EBay. Luckily a large part of the insane collectormania has overlooked the Stella, Kay, Regal guitars of the 1920/30s. They've always been considered inferior my the Martin crowds with their ancient ladder bracing. This has been a great thing for players of blues like myself. I've been buying and playing this style guitar for years without murdering my bank account. Unfortunately all that is now changing because everyone has suddenly become hip to the actual superiority of these type of guitars when playing old time music. Neil Harpe's website and book have done a great deal to raise awareness of these musical treasures but at the same time has helped to accelerate the liquidation of these guitars and raise the prices. So I've been grabbing as many of them as I can afford not only to own and play but also to record and document the specs and tone. The Stellas are almost becoming out of reach. I noticed Schoenberg's store has a 1920s Koa parlor on sale for over 4000.00 dollars. Even the most basic Stellas in good condition cost anywhere from 1500-10,000 dollars now. In this article I want to take a look at a special Regal parlor sized guitar made in the 1930s that might be a huge value. One of these will float ocassionally and offer a nice affordable alternative to an Oscar Schmidt Stella. 

First of all  these Chicago made Regals have some very fancy wooden inlay and other workmanship that stands out above the crowd and presents a huge value. The bass is also quite remarkable for it's size and has a rich meaty tone for finger picking blues and slide. One other thing I really liked about these is the fretboard having the markers on frets 9 and 12 plus the huge black and white pattern makes playing slide and locating your position super easy even in low light conditions. I don't stare at the fretboard while I perform but I need to look down and get my bearing sometimes and the old 1920s Stellas with fretmarkers on #10 and 12 throw me off. This Regal is built light as a feather and with nice balance on my lap. The beefy neck has a nice vintage V shape that fills your hand but comfortable for fingerpicking and slide playing. The overall feel, design and specs are clones of the OS Stella. It does have a 24-1/4" scale which makes playing less tension on your hands but certainly doesn't seem to sacrifice volume or tone.

This one has a peach colored pearloid headstock, ivory pearloid fretboard, gray and brown pearloid pickguard and perfling and rosette made with tiny pieces of stained wood. It even has some wild staining of the solid back and sides to give it an eye-popping Brazilian rosewood faux look. The internal construction has the square kerfing and plain liner like the Stellas and a pretty clean build for this type of guitar. Although I don't feel this model is quite on the same level as the highest priced Oscar Schmidt Stellas it certainly comes close. There is no adjustable truss rod in these models but the neck is still straight after 70+ years and you will rarely have an issue unless the guitar is not cared for properly. 

The fretboard are flat with no radius and the action is a healthy medium height to accommodate slide and aggressive blues style playing. These guitars do not play themselves but they also pull more out of you in many ways. You really don't want to set these up like a new electric guitar and super low action in my opinion. I like a nice medium setup. Luckily this one did not require a neck reset but in many cases you do have to perform some repairs and adjustments. The intonation is not bad at all and it stays in tune really well considering it's age and all other factors. The most valuable feature of these guitars is the tone when recorded. You get a true vintage blues sound that instantly brings your mind back to those old 78 rpm records. This is certainly a nice little gem to consider when shopping for this style guitar and it fits perfectly into a Larrivee Parlor case or gig bag.


UPDATE, REPAIRS DONE - I broke down and had a pro setup done including a fret dressing, new bone nut, new bone compensated saddle, new lower 3/32" action. The guitar plays very nicely and I believe sounds even better. We even filled and reslotted the bridge so the saddle is at an angle giving proper intonation. A minor change to the original specs yet a huge improvement in playability.

Photos and Sound Clips

I also have this guitar featured on my soundclips page if you want to hear it finger picked too.


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