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Author Topic:   Magnatone Lap Steel
Danny Hullihen

From: Harrison, Michigan

posted 23 April 2001 12:51 AM     profile   send email     edit
Has anyone ever heard of a Magnatone lap steel? These were allegedly made by Gibson, or at least that's what I've been told. I would like to find more information on this.
Ian McLatchie

From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

posted 23 April 2001 03:42 AM     profile   send email     edit
Danny: There are many different Magnatone models and styles, with Dickerson the most common manufacturer. Can you give a description of the instrument?
marley hay

From: Bailey,Co. USA

posted 23 April 2001 05:57 AM     profile   send email     edit
Danny,I have a Magnatone lap steel.It's Mother of toilet seat blue,6-stringed,has real nice tone,very clean.Actually,one of the not so wonderful aspects of it is it's almost too clean.Made in the 40's but is still in great shape.I like it.It's also for sale.
Blake Hawkins

From: Land O'Lakes, Florida

posted 23 April 2001 07:25 AM     profile   send email     edit
Danny, I also have a Magnatone lap steel. Mine is blonde, heavy wood. I like the sound although it is quite different from a Gibson or Fender.
They also made some double neck guitars and the old radio program "Hawaii Calls" used to mention that their steel guitar players were using Magnatones.
Brad Bechtel

From: San Francisco, CA

posted 23 April 2001 10:57 AM     profile   send email     edit
Magnatone was founded by Delbert J. Dickerson around 1937 in Los Angeles, California. They made lap steels, amplifiers, phonographs, and electric guitars (both hollowbody and solidbody). Dickerson also made steel guitars under the brand names Oahu, Varsity, Souther California Music Co., Bronson, and Roland Ball (father of Ernie Ball).
Dickerson sold the company to Gaston Fator in 1944. Mr. Fator later sold the company to Magna Electronics, who turned out guitars under the Magnatone label.
In 1966 the company relocated to Pennsylvania, and in 1971 the company was bought out by a toy company who discontinued instrument production.
Most Magnatone lap steels I see are student model six string guitars with basic electronics. Some of the higher end multi-neck steels are quite good.

Brad's Page of Steel
A web site devoted to acoustic & electric lap steel guitars

Danny Hullihen

From: Harrison, Michigan

posted 23 April 2001 03:43 PM     profile   send email     edit
Hey guys, thanks for all the information on this guitar. It was really a great help, and I sincerely appreciate all the input from you guys in the know about these things.

From: St.Louis, MO USA

posted 25 April 2001 10:45 AM     profile   send email     edit
Hi Danny, I've seen many Magnatone lap steels, moslty six strings and many different pickup styles. I have a Magnatone Maestro triple neck 8 string. All wood, necks are the same thickness unlike my other multi-neck steels. The table they're mounted to are routed to different depths to make each neck higher than the next one. Beautiful tone ! I have seen a single neck like the Maestro, you can always tell by the "Gumby" shaped headstock. Only draw back are the tuner buttons are trapizoid shaped and are really close to each other. Enjoy your guitar. Bobby Leach

[This message was edited by Guitar_Bobby_Leach on 25 April 2001 at 10:54 AM.]

George Keoki Lake

From: Edmonton, AB., Canada

posted 30 April 2001 09:55 PM     profile     edit
In it's "hay-day" Magnatone turned out single, double, triple and four neck steel guitars made from wood. I owned a 4 neck and foolishly got rid of it because it weighed a ton. Wish I still had it if only as a collector's item. Each neck had its own volume and tone control. It had the appearance of being 4 single necks all attached to form the 4 neck model...not the greatest of designs, but it had a nice sound in its own fashion. (The late)Barney Isaacs played a double neck Magnatone during most of his 20 years on "Hawai'i Calls" as did (the late) Jules Ah See. I think Alan Akaka still has Jules Magnatone double neck as a keepsake.
New Member

From: Eveleth, MN, USA

posted 04 May 2001 02:24 AM     profile   send email     edit

I'll vouch for the quality of Magnatone's higher-end steel guitars. My Waikiki workhorse is the longscale D-8 Keoki mentioned above. The story I heard was that Magnatone gave away a bunch of these instruments to the more prominent players in an attempt to cut into Fender and Rickenbacker's stranglehold on the Hawaiian steel market here. In some respects they look like cheap Fender copies, but many of them have a beautiful throaty, hollow tone that's super hard to get on a Fender.

Danny Hullihen

From: Harrison, Michigan

posted 04 May 2001 05:17 AM     profile   send email     edit
I've also recently acquired an old "Mastertone Special" lap steel. Does anyone have any experience with these? The person I got it from claims it was made by Gibson. It seems like that would be the case, but I don't really know that? This lap steel has a brown "crinkle" type of finish, with the pickup and cover plate being a sort of a yellowish crinkle.
Brian Zahl

From: Santa Rosa, California

posted 06 May 2001 11:41 AM     profile   send email     edit
I've got a Magnatone triple 8
Great Hawaiian sound. I had one of the pickups redone by Michael Dolan here in Santa Rosa - basically a P90 type. I'ms still trying different tunings - now g6, c13 with a monster low C, and Bobbys modified c6.
Brian Beebe

From: Atlanta, Ga. 30214

posted 11 May 2001 08:27 PM     profile     edit
I once saw a Magnatone lapsteel that belonged to my guitar teacher. It had push buttons that operated solenoids to change the tunings. Has anybody else heard of this?
Andy Alford

From: Alabama

posted 12 May 2001 04:59 AM     profile   send email     edit
I have a nice sounding student model that was made by Dickerson.It is very simple but it sounds alot like one of my Fenders.They were very good guitars.Magatone also built many nice amps.I hope this helps.
Danny Hullihen

From: Harrison, Michigan

posted 12 May 2001 05:40 AM     profile   send email     edit
Thanks for all your replies. They were very helpful.

Have any of heard of a "Mastertone Special"? I also have one of these. The guy I bought it from says it was made by Gibson? I'm assuming that it was. The one I have has a crackle brown finish.

Ian McLatchie

From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

posted 12 May 2001 06:11 AM     profile   send email     edit
Mastertone was one of several Gibson budget brands. The Mastertone lap steel was made for just a couple of years (sorry, I don't have my Gruhn guide handy to check the dates), and is essentially a Gibson EH-125, but with a crinkle-painted body and hardware, rather than the 125's sunburst and chrome.
George Keoki Lake

From: Edmonton, AB., Canada

posted 17 May 2001 10:27 PM     profile     edit
That solenoid model was rather unique. The idea was good except for the noise factor. Margie Mays has one of those guitars and she is a darned nice player. I wonder why noone has improved on this idea in these modern days of advanced electronics? ...or maybe someone has!
Jim Mathis

From: Missouri, USA

posted 21 May 2001 07:31 PM     profile   send email     edit
I have a Mastertone Special. It was made by Gibson about 1939 to 1941. It has a wrinkle paint finish instead of Gibson's sunburst. It sounds great to me. This was actually my first steel. I got it in 1954 along with a Fender Princeton amp which I also still have.
Joe Law

From: Leslie ,GA

posted 21 May 2001 07:56 PM     profile   send email     edit
I have a Magnatone Lyric double neck 8. How does it rate with you fellows? It sure has a mellow tone to me but I have never played anything else to compare it to. The pickups are kind of crude wound and encased in a wood bracket, maybe not as hot as they could be but they have a good tone to me.
posted 22 May 2001 10:36 AM           edit
I too have a Lyric. Other than the shoddy design and construction ( which typifies almost everything of that era )and problems like poor intonation and the non-adjustability of it all ( like that soft aluminum bridge- who thought that would stand up to steel strings?)it does in fact sound nice. If anyone is interested in buying a magnatone, let me know here on the forum.
Al Marcus

From: Cedar Springs,MI USA

posted 27 May 2001 03:20 PM     profile   send email     edit
Brian Beebe- I played one of those Magnatone steels with the solonoid buttons to change the tunings. It was at the NAMM show in Chicago in 1953. It had about 6 buttons and as George says, was noisy when you hit the button, CLANG! Good idea though at that time, too bad no more research was done on it. Theroetically, you could play 7 tunings on your 6 string lap steel.Pretty good, eh?.

But I already had my 6 pedal Gibson Electra-Harp since 1946 so I could already play 7

[This message was edited by Al Marcus on 27 May 2001 at 03:22 PM.]

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