Radio-Tone Hawaiian Guitars

These odd little ( 3/4-scale ) hollownecks were made during the 1920s & 30s
and sold generally as part of a package including instructional material,
bar & picks etc.

This page contains photos of a bunch of different Radio-Tone hollownecks I've spotted on Ebay...
If you're the owner of one of these, feel free to get in touch !

1930s fixed-bridge model & instructional material.

These turn up on Ebay from time to time & as they're not really considered "Vintage Collectable" they're quite cheap to buy.

My Radio-Tone hollowneck

I got one, more out of curiosity more than anything else, and I just love that old thing!

They're quite crudely made & I've heard the sound described as "a can of worms"...
They are not highly regarded to say the least.. but so what?!?
Tone is in the fingers & ears imho.

Many feature a crude "resonator" disc in the soundhole.

The "resonator" ( paint-tin lid?! ) doesn't make it any louder, and when you play it softly doesn't affect the sound at all, but when you "dig in" you get a subtle "buzz" to the tone, which sounds quite like a gently overdriven tube amp, certainly more bluesy than hawaiian sounding.

The short scale isn't a problem with intonation, it's just like playing with a capo'd regular guitar.

"F-hole" version with Knutsen-Style offset peghead

This one's labelled "Hawaiiphone" & originally sold
for $35

There's many variations to be found still in existance, differing body depth, headstock shape, tuner, bridge & tailpiece style.

REALLY strange multi-soundhole version!

Bob Haworth's RadioTone bought new in 1926
by his Great-Grandfather!

"Dovetail" peghead w/geared tuners

It's possible that the friction peg versions were the later 30s ones, the ones with geared tuners were definately from the 1920s.

"Tapered" peghead w/friction-pegs

The reasoning behind this assumption is that the onset of the Great Depression era & economic downturn led to cheaper construction methods/materials etc.
The card used for the "fretboard" got progressively thinner, earlier ones lacked the "Patent applied for" text.

Earliest Surviving Hollowneck is a Radio-Tone?!?!?!'s theory pours cold water on historical research?!?!
( sorry Tom! )


Here's the Luauii "smoking gun" guitar, dated 1907, reportedly the earliest surviving hollowneck guitar.
It appears almost identical to the Radio-Tone guitars with the geared tuners & "dovetail"-shaped headstock
like mine & Bob Haworth's 1926 guitar.

The only difference I can see is the lack of fretboard markings of any kind & the "regular" fold-placement of the stamped tailpiece, making the scale-length even shorter (yikes!)

I think maybe the "smoking gun" guitar is actually a Radio-Tone from the 20s & the "1907" on the label is just a serial number.

The photo of the back of the Luauii on The Knutsen Archives strongly suggests that if the Luauii isn't in fact a Radio-Tone, then it's certainly a short-scale instrument...
( Check the relative size of the tuners. )

Rollover - dead giveaway?

But I guess no-one really knows for sure, these can only be informed guesses at best, as with the history of similar instruments, I think it may have been Mr Brozman himself who once said "like doing archaeology through a backwards telescope"... or something!

(Linked to from History Page)

If you have one of these old Radio-Tone guitars, please feel free to donate any pics &/or info if you like...

Also soundclips/video of these things knocking out blues, hawaiian or country music would be cool!

This is the 1st Radio-Tone I "restored"...
Since then I've done another as a 6-string Anandi for a Sitar-playing friend.