Up for sale, a 1968 National Bobbie Thomas model in exceptional, collector-grade condition and in perfect working order. Easily one of the rarest guitars ever produced by the Valco company out of Chicago (which also produced the Supro, Airline and Oahu instruments), the Bobbie Thomas model was offered under Valco's flagship National brand. This is an extremely well-crafted instrument with upscale features not seen on other Valco models, including stock Grover Rotomatic tuners, a B7 Bigsby vibrato, and an ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge. Designed in conjunction with Bobbie Thomas, a budding guitar pickin' television star from Chicago who performed with his father on Barn Dance as the duo Bob and Bobbie Thomas, this guitar has the same beloved oversized ceramic magnet single coils seen across National's electric line.
Now here's where things get interesting: As the Valco company wasn't setup to produce hollowbody and acoustic instruments, bodies for National guitars were outsourced, and this particular body was produced by Kay before being joined with a National neck and electronics. Thus the guitar bears more than a passing resemblance to the Custom Kraft hollowbody instruments also produced at the Kay factory which garnered more than a little notoriety in recent years in the hands of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.
In terms of tone and playability, the Bobbie Thomas is truly a standout model amongst the National and Supro crowd. The neck is very straight and unlike the vast majority of Valco instruments, the Bobbie Thomas model has an adjustable truss rod. The action is comfortable and consistently low, playing easily all the way to the last fret. The original overwound single coil pickups are powerful and punchy, with plenty of twang on tap and a rich growl when you dig in hard, while also cleaning up nicely with a sweet bloom thanks to the hollowbody construction. The guitar weighs 7lbs 13oz, professionally setup here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar and dialed in with fresh 10-46 strings, low action, and spot-on intonation.
The neck has a very soft V profile carve at the nut, with a fuller, rounder feel as you travel up the fretboard and plenty of substance in every register, measuring .865" deep at the 1st fret and .970" at the 12th. The Brazilian rosewood fretboard is an extremely dark and tight-grained cut, featuring pearl block inlays bisected by abalone diamonds. The original slender frets are nigh flawless, playing cleanly up the 24 3/4" scale. The neck is straight, and the truss rod (accessible via the neck heel) is responsive and optimally adjusted. Just forward of the stock nylon nut, the zero fret measures 1 3/4" in width. The headstock retains the classic "Gumby" shape usually seen on Supro models, with a pearl inlaid National logo and crown on the two-ply headstock veneer, which also shows light wear adjacent to the tuner posts. The original Pat. Pending Grover Rotomatic tuners turn extremely smoothly and hold pitch well.
On the body, all of the electronics function as intended, with a three-way pickup selector toggle on the upper horn, Master Volume control on the treble side horn, and individual Volume and Tone knobs for each pickup, all with original silver barrel knobs. The factory Bigsby B7 vibrato works very well for quick warbles and moderately deep dives, jumping back to the original pitch with ease and working in concert with a modern ABR-1 bridge which sits on the original floating rosewood base. The unique lucite Bobbie Thomas signature pickguard is in fantastic shape, and the silkscreened graphics on the chrome pickup covers show only a touch of wear on the treble side corners.
The Red Sunburst gloss finish is 100% original with no touchup or overspray, highlighting light ripples of curly flame figuring across the maple body. Cosmetic wear is limited to a bit of requisite pick scuffing across the guard, a few minor scuffs and finish scratches on the back, and a few isolated spots of finish checking on the body as a whole. The neck profile is flawless.
A modern form-fit black tolex hardshell case is included.