1930s Regal-made Orpheum Imperator Style A Archtop Guitar

I think we can agree that this one's a looker. I love that curious horizontal sunburst. Who wouldn't? It also helps that it sounds good and handles nicely, too. The shocker? It's all-ply in the body. "Ohhhhhh noooo," you say! Hardly.

I'm a big fan of the all-ply Gibson L-48s from the '50s. They're well-made, well-designed, tough as heck, and they also boast good tone that's surprisingly-similar to the voice of the '30s and '40s incarnations of the same design -- at least in the lower/mids register.

This guitar is like an L-48 put through a Regal or Epiphone filter. The scale length is a little longer and while it has the same, chunky, chord-savvy, velvety-crunch in the lower mids, it also has a lot more pop and snap in the high-end. That's something I think of as an "Epiphone archtop" trait. It doesn't come-off the same as a carved-top guitar, mind you, but it's a successful sound and it carries.

A customer sent this in for consignment and after some light-ish work, it plays bang-on and is ready to go. I think in the past it had a neck reset, though it was left with a slightly-shallow neck angle. The neck is straight, though, and it's stable and ready for digging into some trad-jazz choppity-chop.

The owner researched the model a bit and found that it was introduced in '39. That would only really give it two or three years' production at maximum due to the war effort and all that steel in the hardware, so I'm guessing this one is a '39 model. Regal built these for the Orpheum brand and I can confirm that in the fact that I have owned very similar guitars but with Regal livery at the headstock in the past. Mine had the same body shape, same birch-backed ply, same f-hole cutouts, same neck and heel cut, and same headstock shape, too. The bridge design is pure Regal, too. They always used a really thin bridge saddle/topper for whatever reason and have a distinctive cut to the bridge base and top that no one else really used.

Repairs included: fret level dress, minor adjustments to bridge, setup.

Made by: Regal
Model: Orpheum Imperator Style A
Made in: Chicago, IL, USA
Serial number: 1167

Top wood: ply spruce
Back & sides wood: ply flamed maple
Bracing type: tonebar
Bridge: rosewood
Fretboard: rosewood
Neck wood: mahogany
Tone: chunky, midsy, good snap/bite

Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 54w-12 lights
Neck shape: medium-big C/soft-V
Board radius: ~12"
Truss rod: non-adjustable steel
Neck relief: straight
Fret style: medium-wider

Scale length: 25 1/4"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2 3/16"
Body length: 19 3/4"
Body width: 15 5/8"
Body depth: 3 1/4" + arching
Weight: 4 lb 8 oz

Condition notes: it's pretty clean throughout, though it does show typical weather-checking in the finish. The pickguard, pickguard bracket, and endpin are replacements. Otherwise the guitar is all-original. I added side dots, as I recall, though. It has some rarer and nicer-quality Grover tuners (original) at the headstock, too. There's almost no adjustment room left at the bridge to come down, though considering the construction, it's unlikely to need any adjustment in the future as it's such a stable build.

It comes with: a nice, recent, TKL hard case.


Rob Gardner said…
Boy, that is a handsome old dog. You're right about that odd sunburst too. Good looking...
Gregg Collins said…
I really dig those old Regals. This is no exception. Great playing too. Can you identify one of my guitars? there is no serial number, interior label or headstock label. I can pretty clearly say it's a Regal by the headstock shape and body style. I'd like a model number and year. Thank you