Dobro is an American brand of resonator guitars, currently owned by Gibson and manufactured by its subsidiary Epiphone. The term "dobro" is also used as a generic term for any wood-bodied, single-cone resonator guitar.

Dobro Manufacturing Company
Private (1929–37)
Brand (1940–present)
IndustryMusical instruments
FateMerged with National to form "National Dobro Co." in 1935,[1] brand then used by Valco and other manufacturers
FounderJohn Dopyera
United States
ProductsResonator guitars
OwnerGibson (1993–present)

The Dobro was originally a guitar manufacturing company founded by the Dopyera brothers with the name "Dobro Manufacturing Company". Their guitars designs, with a single outward-facing resonator cone, was introduced to compete with the patented inward-facing tricone and biscuit designs produced by the National String Instrument Corporation. The Dobro name appeared on other instruments, notably electric lap steel guitars and solid body electric guitars and on other resonator instruments such as Safari resonator mandolins.


Dobro–style tenor guitar, 1934

The roots of Dobro story can be traced to the 1920s when Slovak immigrant and instrument repairman/inventor John Dopyera and musician George Beauchamp were searching for more volume for his guitars. Dopyera built an ampliphonic (or "resonator") for Beauchamp, which was patented in December 1929.[1] In mid-1929, Dopyera left the National company to start the "Dobro Manufacturing Company" along with his brothers Rudy and Ed, and Vic Smith. National continued operating under Beauchamp, Barth et al.[1] Dobro is both a contraction of "Dopyera brothers" and a word meaning 'good' in their native Slovak. An early company motto was "Dobro means good in any language." In 1930, the Dobro company name was changed to the "Dobro Corporation, Ltd.", with additional capital provided by Louis and Robert Dopyera. Dobro was, during this period, a competitor of National.[1]

The Dobro was the third resonator guitar design by John Dopyera, the inventor of the resonator guitar, but the second to enter production. Unlike his earlier tricone design, which had three ganged inward-facing resonator cones, the Dobro had a single outward-facing cone, with its concave surface facing up. The Dobro company described this as a bowl shaped resonator.

The Dobro was louder than the tricone and cheaper to produce. In Dopyera's opinion, the cost of manufacture had priced the resonator guitar beyond the reach of many players. His failure to convince his fellow directors at the National String Instrument Corporation to produce a single-cone version was a motivating factor for leaving.

Since National had applied for a patent on an inward-facing single cone (U.S. Patent 1,808,756 ), Dopyera developed a design that reversed its direction: Rather than having the guitar's bridge rest on the apex of the cone as the National design did, it rested on an eight legged cast aluminum spider sitting on the perimeter of the cone (U.S. Patent 1,896,484 ).

"Spider"-shape resonator detail

In the following years both Dobro and National built a wide variety of metal- and wood-bodied single-cone guitars, while National also continued with the Tricone for a time. Both companies sourced many components from National director Adolph Rickenbacher, and John Dopyera remained a major shareholder in National. By 1932 the Dopyera brothers had gained control of both National and Dobro, which they merged to form the "National-Dobro Company". By the 1940s, National-Dobro had been purchased by Valco.[2] Valco ceased production of Dobro-branded guitars after World War II; however, the Dopyera brothers continued to manufacture resonator guitars under various other brand names.[3]

In 1964, the Dopyera brothers revived the Dobro brand name. They sold the name to Semie Moseley in 1966. In 1970, the Dopyeras' Original Musical Instrument Company (OMI) yet again reacquired the Dobro name.[3]

The Gibson Guitar Corporation acquired OMI in 1993, along with the Dobro name.[4] The company became Gibson's Original Acoustic Instruments division, and production was moved to Nashville in 2000.[3] Dobros are currently manufactured by Gibson subsidiary Epiphone.[5]

The Dobro was first introduced to country music by Bashful Brother Oswald, who played dobro with Roy Acuff starting in January 1939.[6]

The first and second prototypes of the Dobro created by the brothers reside at the invention's birthplace of Taft, California, in a museum about the town's oil production history.

Generic usageEdit

The term "dobro" (lower case) is widely used as a form of generic trademark to describe resonator guitars.

Gibson, however, owns the registered trademark Dobro (upper case), and uses it for its own product line.[7]

Epiphone DobrosEdit

Current and past models of resonator guitars manufactured by the Gibson Company are:[5]

  • Hound Dog
    • Round neck
    • Deluxe round neck
    • Deluxe square neck
    • M-14 metal body
  • Gibson's Phil Leadbetter resonator series


  1. ^ a b c d Supro guitars and amplifiers By Michael Wright on Vintage Guitar
  2. ^ The guitars that Chicago built by Chris McMahon on Premier Guitar, 17 Oct 2013
  3. ^ a b c "Gibson brands". 5 July 2014. Archived from the original on 5 July 2014.
  4. ^ US Trademark Registration Number 0950801, January 16, 1973
  5. ^ a b Bluegrass instruments on Epiphone website, 28 Oct 2019
  6. ^ Complete Dobro Player by Stacy Phillips, p. 213 – Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (2015) – ISBN 978-0786692026
  7. ^ "DOBRO Trademark of DOPERA, EDGAR E. - Registration Number 0950801 - Serial Number 72394267 :: Justia Trademarks".

External linksEdit