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National Glenwood 99

Fourteen reasons to own a Glenwood 99

1) Something old. Instruments began appearing with the National moniker in the mid 1920s, several years before the company was chartered. By 1930, the Dopyera brothers' operation was offering a catalog that included some of history's most timeless guitar designs. Every introduction from the L.A.-based concern rivaled the previous and each incorporated some unorthodox (and patentable) material or construction. The National name was soon synonymous with innovation and first-rate quality.

2) Something new. By the mid/late '30s, however, creative vision was as confusing as the corporate waters were muddy. Half of the partners had marched off to Chicago and formed Dobro, to compete with National. But they re-merged (as the National-Dobro company) to survive the throes of the Depression. In 1942, they reorganized once more with additional players including, a huge Chicago manufacturer that subcontracted gajillions of electric and acoustic guitars, amps, and related stuff through the late '60s under a variety of names. But they saved their best instruments for the name they retained – National.

3) Something borrowed. In 1963, Studebaker introduced the smartly styled Avanti, then went belly-up. After decades of contorting vehicle metal into the ever more ridiculous demands of outlandish fins, dashboards, and fenders, producing a sleek Raymond Loewy design should have been a cakewalk. It wasn't.

The tantalizing (and seemingly profitable) technology that enticed Studebaker off the beaten path was a new class of plastics called resins. The story sounded too good to be true; mix gooey liquid A with gooey liquid B and pour the result into a mold with some glass threads, and it came out looking beeootiful. With limited finishing (you could add color to the resin) and a little assembly, you were on your way to the bank. But it wasn't half as easy as it looked, and various bugs weren't worked out until a few years later.

Valco fell for the same pitch when they unveiled their Res-O-Glas lines for both National and Supro at just about the same time as Studebaker presented the Avanti.

4) Something Seafoam Green. Valco's guitars consisted of two thin halves of hollow fiberglass shell enveloping a narrow, solid wooden core. A more-traditional painted wooden neck, as well as pickups, controls, and tailpiece were all anchored to the center block. Finally, a continuous bead of flexible vinyl neatly connected the rough glass fiber edges of front and rear sections.

The most endearing (and enduring) quality resulting from the Res-O-Glas construction was the color. The depth of the pigmented resin produced an almost iridescent quality unattainable by painting mere wood. Valco's limited palette clearly derived from Leo Fender's custom Duco colors, yet the plastic saved them from the rigors of age that dull and yellow most paint finishes.

The guitar's shape, meanwhile, was inspired by a map of the good old U.S. of A., with a upper-bass bout horn that resembles Maine, a treble-cutaway horn that is Florida, and extra lower bout cutout like the Mexican border. The tuners, however, are in Portugal.

6) Win bets. Say buddy, how many pickups are on this guitar? Care to wager? Another patented feature common to some Valco-made instruments was a miniature extra pickup mounted down inside the guitar's otherwise normal rosewood bridge. Dubbed "Silver Sound" in company literature, it complements the more ordinary Vista-Power units, is almost invisible to the naked eye, and could spell big bucks for you.

7) A swanky floating pickguard. Cross the best elements of floating side-mounted scratch plates (a la Gibson and Gretsch archtops) with pickguard technology from Fender and Rickenbacker solidbodies, add multi-color rear-side applied and engraved decoration of an old-style National shield, and leave clear areas in between silkscreened vertical stripes to let the stunning resin color shine through, and you've got yourself a Glenwood pickguard.

8) Creative lutherie. An inexplicable, yet not entirely unattractive, feature of virtually all bound-fingerboard Valco instruments is a fret-slotted binding. Normally, manufactured fingerboards are slotted, then fretted unbound, with plastic added last to obscure the fret slots. Valco saw it (and sawed) it differently, with fret slots cut right through the pretty white celluloid.

9) Magnesium reinforced neck. Absolutely guaranteed by National not to warp for five full years. Unfortunately, those years were up during the Lyndon Johnson administration. This leaves you pretty much out of luck if you have a Glenwood with a curvy neck, since the bolt-on affair includes no easy method of adjustment. Happily, most have stayed pretty straight.

10) Knobs-a-poppin! National's three Glenwood choices were all equipped with a full complement of controls, including a pickup selector, three Tone controls, three Volume controls, and an oversized Master Volume adjustment (right there in southwestern Nevada).

11) Flashy fingerboards. While the majority of Valco instruments include fairly lackluster necks, the Glenwood had a full complement of dazzling ornamental designs in a plastic and pearl combination, topped with an intonation-improving zero fret.

12) Nothing but the best. With its genuine Bigsby tailpiece, Grover Rotomatic tuners, three pickups, seven knobs, Seafoam Green Res-O-Glas body, and gleaming gold-plated metal parts, the 99 is clearly the leader of the Glenwood pack. The plainer red Glenwood 95, and the mid-line white Glenwood 98, both offer considerable appeal, but neither can match the panache of the 99.

13) Lose friends... make new ones. Few guitars have such a polarizing effect on guitar collectors; people either love them or hate them – no middle ground. But if you count yourself among the believers, you won't walk alone.

14) They float.

– R.J. Klimpert


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Price Guide Now Available at the Amazon Kindle Store

Price Guide Now Available at the Amazon Kindle Store

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