MEMORIES: Gavin Hunter presents Robyn Dixon with her father's 78-year-old guitar, now restored.
MEMORIES: Gavin Hunter presents Robyn Dixon with her father's 78-year-old guitar, now restored. Max Fleet

Rare 78-year-old guitar is one in a Blue Moon

IT WAS 1946. The war was over and after being sent home from Papua New Guinea with malaria, Thomas Frederick Robson decided to treat himself.

His toy of choice? A 1938 National tri-cone resonator guitar, all the way from Chicago, costing a cool 80 pounds - which back then was perhaps half a year's wages.

"He used to sit out the back, tinkling away on it, playing Blue Moon and Hawaiian-style songs," says his daughter Robyn Dixon, who grew up in Imbil and now lives in Bundaberg.

"I remember falling asleep under the table at dances."

Her father died when she was 25 and yesterday she heard his guitar played for the first time in 50 years.

When Ms Dixon wandered into Targo St music shop Bout Time to see if the guitar could be restored, staff members Gavin Hunter and Greg Baxter couldn't believe their luck.

"For a guitar nut, this is about as good as it gets," said Mr Hunter, who owns a four-year-old replica of the same guitar. "Things like this often get sold on and their stories are lost."

MEMORIES: Gavin Hunter plays for Robyn Cox with her father's 78-year-old guitar, now restored. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
MEMORIES: Gavin Hunter plays for Robyn Cox with her father's 78-year-old guitar, now restored. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet

They cleaned out the body, which was cluttered with yellow glue - a hint of a home repair job by Thomas - replaced the cones, reassembled the machine heads and polished it enough to highlight the body's unique 'exploding palms' design.

The design, combined with other rarities such as a French neck - which allow the guitar, traditionally a lapsteel, to be played upright - make it one of only three known to be around in the world today, Mr Hunter said.

One mystery remains: the guitar's whereabouts between its construction in Chicago and its arrival in Mr Robson's hands in Brisbane, eight years later. "Was it brought over by a GI from America? We don't know," Ms Dixon said. "His brother always insisted it was brand new when he bought it."



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