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Acoustic Guitar
Great Acoustics -- 1939 Larson Brothers Big Boy

August 1999
by Bianca Soros



Link to Acoustic Guitar Magazine

his gargantuan, pearl-bordered-flattop was built in Chicago in 1934 by the Larson brothers. It was custom-ordered by a 17-year old guitarist named William L. Piel, who was playing in a 14-piece swing band with a four-man rhythm section. He asked for "an elegant big box with a round hole," and the Larsons delivered this one-of-a-kind instrument, which is 19 inches wide at the lower bout. Piel played it in jazz bands throughout the "30s and '40s.

    The Big Boy is one of the largest and loudest guitars of all time, on a par with the Stromberg Master 400 archtop. The appointments are similar to the Larsons' WLS line of guitars (named after the radio station that broadcast the poplar Chicago-based radio show The National Barn dance, which aired from 1924 to 1959). Similar but smaller guitars were seen in the hands of WLS celebrities such as Patsy Montana, Gene Autry, Arkie the Woodchopper, Harty Taylor, the Prarie Sweet-hearts, and the Cumberland Ridge Runners.

   The guitar's back and sides are made of stright-grained Brazilian rosewood. Its top was built under tension out of select red spruce. The big Boy is constructed with double tension rods, which allow the top to vibrate freely. The first rod (or "dowel stick") is made of nickel-plated steel tubing and attached inside the guitar's body, connecting the endpin to the neck block. It keeps the sides straight and prevents the top and back from warping. The second rod (the "straining rod") is made of steel and runs through the neck block and then around the heel. It can be adjusted to fine-tune the tension on the top and thus improve the instruments tone.End

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