That One Guitar - Michael Goldman

Your Name: Michael Goldman

City: Atlanta, GA

Instrument: 1937 National “O” Model

When I first began to play guitar around 12 yrs old, I was most obsessed with slide playing. Back then, slide wasn’t as accessible as it is now - there weren’t pre-fabbed slides that were commercially available, no one really taught slide and no one was building guitars dedicated to that purpose. The ‘30’s Nationals seemed to be the weapon of choice of the great slide masters and from looking at the record sleeves and few pictures that I could find, they took on a mythic quality for me. Problem was, if I could’ve found one, I couldn’t have afforded it and in Jacksonville, FL, in the late seventies no one had even seen one. I walked into a record store in 1982 and this guitar was behind the counter and it was for sale for $350.00 — an actual National in all of it’s brass and nickel plated glory. At the time for a college kid, an astronomical sum but there was no choice in the matter and somehow, I scrapped the money together and have owned this guitar ever since.

There is an indescribable magic to old Nationals. I’ve had a few but this guitar remains the “One.” Looking back on my trajectory as a guitarist, it was the few years after I bought this guitar, that what and how I wanted to play and how to have a voice of my own sort of coalesced. This National was crucial in that process. Everyone who has owned it has scratched their initials on the back, no way to treat a nice vintage instrument for sure, but this, to me, represents a river of American song going upstream through player to player all the way back to 1937. And eventually, it’ll pass from me into the hands of future players.

Nationals are back in production and many companies are building something similar and they are wonderful instruments and players can have severe option anxiety over the number of slides available on the market. Slide guitar seems to be everywhere nowadays. Despite all that, this guitar on the other hand, will always remind me that the process of making music remains a sacred mystery and ghosts are hiding in unlikely places like old metal guitars.

Bands: The Indicators, Stovall, Auction House Letters, Starr*Hustler, The Wheelknockers, The Belvederes, Schwartzkommando, The Skylarks