Scott Ainslie demonstrates a pawnshop treasure
by Teja Gerken
July 29, 2019
An in-demand performer and teacher, Vermont-based Scott Ainslie is one of the most respected fingerstyle blues and roots guitarists on the scene today. Scott owns and plays a lot of different instruments, including a couple of Froggy Bottom flattops (check out this demo of his Froggy Bottom Model K), but when a tune calls for a resonator sound, he reaches for the 1931 National Style O he demonstrated during a recent visit to the Peghead Nation studio.
Scott came across the guitar while touring in Columbus, Georgia in the early 90s. “People noticed the 1934 National Duolian I was playing at the time, and they said, ‘you know, there’s a metal guitar at a pawnshop downtown,’” he says. “I walked in there, and there was no tailpiece, but I knew from the flat cut f-holes that it was made before 1932.” The price tag on the guitar was $2,000, but after learning that it had been in the shop for two years and explaining that it was impossible to know how it sounded without being able to play it (the lack of a tailpiece meant it couldn’t be strung up), Scott ended up paying just $682.50 for the guitar. “I then put $1,500 into it to bring it back to life,” he says. Besides the tailpiece, the instrument needed a new fingerboard, tuning machines, and cone (the guitar now has a new National Reso-Phonic cone), as well as some internal reinforcements to keep the fingerboard area of the body from collapsing.
Once the guitar was restored and set up, it quickly became a favorite, and has been part of Scott’s touring rig ever since. “It’s one of the nicest-sounding Nationals I’ve ever heard, I just love the way it sounds.”
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