From his first records for Victor in 1930, Bukka White—who preferred to be called Booker—played a vigorous style of blues in open tunings that used driving, rhythmic bass lines; a metal slide; and percussive effects, like smacking the strings to the fingerboard with his right hand.
For much of his career, White played this 1933 National Duolian, serial number C7094, which he called “Hard Rock.” At a price of $32.50 ($639.14 in today’s money) when new, the single-cone Duolian was National’s bottom-end model. It featured a thin-gauge steel body, a 12th-fret neck junction, and rolled f-holes. Hard Rock originally left the National factory in Frosted Duco, a unique and delicate crystalline finish that flaked off during decades of White’s intensely physical playing. Eventually, White wanted the guitar to shine like new, so in 1972 he had it re-plated to the chrome finish seen here.
Four years later, White gave the well-worn guitar (and a case that had a slide, tone bar, and leather strap in its accessory compartment) to Keith Perry, a friend and photographer in the UK, and acquired a National Style 0 that he used until his death, on February 26, 1977. For his part, Perry kept Hard Rock for decades, showing it off to guitar luminaries like B.B. King (a cousin of White’s, who remembered the guitar), Mark Knopfler, Lonnie Donegan, and Derek Trucks.
After popping up in the press several times in the last few years, Hard Rock was sold by the UK-based auction house Gardiner-Houlgate in March 2019 for £93,000 (approx. $120,000), including buyer’s fees.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
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