When you think of guitar history the words
Montgomery Ward don’t necessarily come
to mind right off the bat. But in the period
between the first and second World Wars,
Gibson manufactured guitars for the venerable retail chain that were sold under the
Recording King brand. The early Recording
Kings were great guitars that sold at a
fraction of the cost of the more expensive
Gibsons. Given that most average blues
musician couldn’t afford a Gibson—even if
Robert Johnson was pictured with one in
that infamous photo—and the fact that the
Montgomery Ward catalogue was a fixture
throughout the South you realize that these
instruments probably produced a lot of
Fast forward to the present and the
Recording King name is again adorning
guitars with a pre-war vibe—from dreadnoughts to 000s, Gibson-esque L series
and resos like the RR- 50. This Recording
King substitutes screened sound holes for
f-holes, which gives it a “buggy-eye” look.
And when combined with the spider cone
resonator and saddle cover it looks a bit
like a robot face staring back at you. The
deep tobacco-burst lends a subtle touch of
class, as does the crown atop its headstock
and the Grover butter bean tuners. In general, the craftsmanship is very solid.
The RR- 50 comes set up with slightly
higher action than the other guitars, which
is better for slide playing but still really
comfortable for normal fretting, strumming, and single string runs. The narrow ( 1
11/16") nut width made it a little bit tight
for my hands. And since the neck joins the
body at the 12th fret and the heel of the
The RR- 50 projects
warmth and attitude.
It shows a strong and
balanced volume between
bass and treble strings, and
the clarity you hear when
you strum hard is as pro-
nounced as when you attack
it like a fingerpicker.
neck block projects out slightly more and
makes it a challenge to navigate around the
The RR- 50 projects warmth and attitude. It shows a strong and balanced volume between bass and treble strings, and
the clarity you hear when you strum hard is
as pronounced as when you attack it like a
fingerpicker. Needless to say, it has the same
spider cone honk as the other guitars. But
it’s less muddy than most resos in the price
range, and you get a cool, bossy growl from
slide runs on the bass strings, and nice bell-like tones on the treble side. Together, the
blend works best in the lower registers of D
and G tuning.
The RR- 50 is really suited to serious
slide action. The feel and response lends
themselves to slackened open tunings. But
this would be equally at home for a strum-mer/songwriter who wants a punchy tone.
Recording King has done an outstanding job of making this sound like a more
Pros: Great, balanced sound for a budget price.
Recording King RR-50-VS, $450 street, recordingking.com
Cons: Neck a bit small for big hands.