1930s Regal-made Glee Club Tenor Guitar

One more Regal tenor on the pile! I've worked on a lot of these, over time. This model is the most common one -- with its spruce top, birch back and sides, and (poplar?) neck with mystery-wood fretboard (usually stained maple or pearwood, but not sure on this one). After work they've always got a driving, punchy, volume-to-spare sound that's perfect for band/jam use with a pick but also sweet and direct fingerpicked at home.

I did this one up for my friend Kevin of Guitar Sam... who also builds gorgeous ukes under the Kepasa brand. I badgered him about what tuning he wanted it in, but he settled on "standard" CGDA which is, of course, an excellent choice as that's what they're made for and how they always sound best. Work included regluing a myriad of tight hairline cracks on the top, a fret level/dress, side dots, a new nut, new tuner install, and a replacement banjo-style bridge (though the original mandolin-style bridge was still extant).

These are roughly the same size as Martin "size 5" tenors and, like the earlier Martins, have 12-fret necks. If you believe advertising from the early 20s, the Regals were the first tenor guitars available.

The headstock has "Glee Club" in the inlaid circle usually reserved for the Regal brand. This is not surprising as their products are found with what seems like an unlimited amount of random brandings. The nut is new and bone, too.

The dots are pearl and I added side-dots after doing the frets.

I've used tenor banjo bridges on these instruments when setting them up for the last few years. There's no drawback to using the smaller, lighter footprint vs. a mandolin-style bridge save that bass response might be slightly less. What one gains, however, is oodles of volume and a bit more punch and clarity.

The "Bell Brand" tailpiece allows for loop and ball-end strings. I stuffed some muting foam under the cover to kill the afterlength overtones and used ball-end strings gauged 30w, 20w, 14, 9 for CGDA.

The birch back and sides, thankfully, are crack free. The bracing was all good and pat, too, which is a bit rare. The neck angle was also good -- but I will admit that I'm leery about leaving joints "as is" on old Regals. I've seen the inside of enough of them to know how loose they can be...!

I replaced the broken and funk-ified original friction pegs with some cheap, $20 Chinese 4:1 geared banjo pegs. These work a lot better than the friction pegs and cost the same amount as your average set of decent friction pegs -- so why not use them? The only downside is that they come with terrible buttons -- which is why I've installed some funky (but appropriate) buttons from Kay banjo friction pegs of the 40s instead.

Thick celluloid binding is at the top and back edges.


UkuleleKevin said…
Beautiful work! Thanks so much, Jake. It's a pleasure to be on the other side of the counter and be a "customer" once in a while. Can't wait to play it.
Michael Gifford said…
How much is one of these guitars worth? Great write up!
whumblez said…
I was moving furniture for Mayflower back in the early 70's, and an elderly gal had us packing two nice four-strings, on a Gibson, and the other a Regal, much like the one illustrated. I was fascinated, being a bass and trombone man (but not guitar) and elicited the comment that she'd sell the Gibson for a c-note. I sadly told her we had a little one on the way, and I couldn't afford that; she asked why I was interested, and ended up giving me the Regal. My bro, who played lead for our old band visited, and helped me put it in shape: strings, a mandolin bridge, and some slight repairs. He showed me four cords, and said "go crazy!" Now, I think I'll have to be buried with my Regal, as it has been so fun and rewarding to play -- and now I can 'sing', too! It has a good full tone, tho the E buzzes if struck hard, and stays in perfet tune for quite a while, considering it has the original Grover leather pegs. Fragile; yes and no. When I got it, the necks had been repaired by running a bolt through the heel into the box; sad, but durable. On a family trip in '84 (it wanted to go!) I forgot laying on the top of our camper shell, and it blew off onto the freeway in Utah. Only protected by a GI laundry bag, it lost a chip from the corner of the head, and a section of the chevron-inlay from the binding -- but forgave me and kept on playing for all this time. I was dusting it using compressed air 20 years ago, an blew the "Regal" sticker right off the head; sure wish I could find another. Mine has a nifty nickel tail piece (that's what I call it?) that works like a fulcrum; had it replated years ago. I bought others, but none have it's tone and friendliness; to say nothing of elderly panache. "Where'd you get the baritone uke" I hear nowdays, but I can show 'em the original paper label through the sound hole: "Regal Tenor Guitar." Oh, it is the perfect classroom instrument: I used it for class music since I got it running, or another less cherished one -- and my five year olds learned songs like "Puff", "If I Had a Hammer", "Rock around the Clock", "Waltzing Matilda", "One-eyed, One-horned Flying Purple People Eater, and "the Thing" -- to say nothing of holiday and ethnic songs. One size fits all, where kindergartners are concerned. And my poor wife can listen to me try to warble "Unchained Melody", "Love Hurts", and about fifty other blues-riff songs when the lights go out! Easiest instrument to learn in the world, if you have two working hands: I've taught seven-years olds to play and sing. Bless my Regal Four! Wick Humble