©1999 By Ric Nelson
The ShoBro, a resonated guitar eventually available in both Spanish and Hawaiian models, was first manufactured by Shot Jackson beginning in the 1950s. The guitars have a larger body and an arched back producing a mellower sound than other resonator guitars, even though the ShoBros have a Dobro® resonator. Over time, they were available in 5, 6 and 7 string models.
CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO SEE THE GRETSCH CATALOG PAGE FOR THE SHO BRO RESONATORS
In 1955, Shot, an avid tinkerer with a passion for building guitars, using Jack Anglin's garage as a workshop, built a 7-string petal dobro which he called a petal ShoBro (a play on Shot and dobro). It was featured on several Johnnie and Jack recordings in 1955-56, on his Starday album (SLP-230) and on at least one Melba Montgomery release. Having to be played on a stand, it proved cumbersome for road work and was restricted to sessions. Normally, Shot played a 6-string Norwood Chime (manufactured for and sold by Montgomery Ward) and later one of his own 7-string ShoBros.
Shot and Buddy Emmons formed the ShoBud company (SHOt-BUDdy) in early 1957 to manufacture the ShoBud steel guitar. Also produced were several custom made ShoBros. First located in Shot's garage, they moved to a building on Nesbitt Lane in Madison. In 1967, the Jackson-Emmons partnership was dissolved, with Shot continuing the business at a new location, 416 Broadway in Nashville. Shot sold the ShoBud name and pedal steel guitar line to Baldwin-Gretsch in 1980, continuing a repair business until retirement in June, 1983.
When Dobro® guitars began to be manufactured again in 1969, Shot interested Baldwin-Gretsch in manufacturing and marketing a resonator guitar of his design under the name ShoBro. The Gretsch models were #6030 for the round-neck Spanish version, with a cut-away body, and #6031 for the Hawaiian square neck instrument. Prior to 1969, these model numbers were assigned to other designs of Gretsch guitars. After 1971, new models numbers were assigned: #7705 Hawaiian 6-string; #7710 Hawaiian 7-string; and #7715 Spanish.
|The first models had a long neck, attached at the body at the 14th fret (as some Dobros®). This put excessive pressure on the resonator, causing problems, and was later re-designed attaching at the 12th fret. This later model is preferred. During this time, Shot continued to make hand-crafted guitars, which he labeled ShoBud. At the Gretsch plant, ShoBros were done on an "assembly line", much to Shot's chagrin since Shot's method was to have one person work on an instrument until completion.
CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO SEE THE AD FOR THE SHO BRO RESONATORS
Gretsch was not impressed by the slow ShoBro sales and they dropped the line in 1973. The relatively mellow-sounding ShoBro was not in the same demand as the Dobro® with a brighter tone, sought after by Bluegrass musicians. Gretsch-made ShoBros have sound wells, as do Dobros®, whereas ShoBuds and Shot produced ShoBros do not, giving the latter two a still mellower sound yet; the body is the sound well. They contain sound posts for support.
After 1973, Shot continued to hand-craft guitars, usually with the ShoBro trade mark. The initials of the purchaser on the face of the pegboard or body can identify most of those instruments. It was an extra charge to the customer as was any mother-of-pearl or abalone trim. Shot purchased neck stock and bodies from Gretsch, both usually already having serial numbers and assembled the ShoBros at his shop. He also purchased tail pieces from them which carry the "Gretsch" name. The Gretsch manufactured ShoBros do not have the same quality/sound as those made by Shot.
He suffered a sever stroke on August 17, 1983, and another in 1990, and died of a heart attack on January 25, 1991. He was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1986. One of his personal 7-string ShoBros was donated for permanent display to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville on July 23, 1999.
Gretsch Serial Numbers (1965-1973)
Number on top of peg board. After June 1967, on back, with Made in USA added (later dropped).
First digit or first two digits = month ( 1-12)
Next digit is later digit of year = (1969-73: 9,0,1,2,3)
Remaining digits = rank of individuals instrument (not just ShoBros but all Gretsch models)
Example: 8 3124 = August, 1973, instrument 124 made a Gretsch
©1999 Ric Nelson