"YOUR ORCHESTRA WILL BE INCOMPLETE WITHOUT IT"
In the late 1930's, Chicago-based musical instrument company Regal introduced what was surely the oddest instrument ever produced during their long history. The Regal Bassoguitar was best described as a cross between a flat top acoustic guitar and a double bass. Standing over six feet tall with the endpin fully extended, the Bassoguitar was designed to be tuned and played like a standard double bass, although it could not be bowed due to the relatively flat radius of the fingerboard. The hardware was a mixture of guitar and double bass components, including "hat peg" style tuners, an adjustable endpin, and a metal "trapeze" tailpiece. The Bassoguitar was finished in a shaded brown sunburst and there appears to have been two distinct models:
It's possible that the Bassoguitar was inspired in part by the earlier and slightly more common Mandobass, a similarly over-sized instrument designed to fulfill the double bass role in the mandolin orchestras that were popular during the early 1900's. Though fretted and often teardrop shaped, Mandobasses typically featured the same scale length as the Bassoguitar, as well as a similar bridge, tailpiece and type of string. Another trait the two instruments shared was that their manufactures suggested the use of a leather pick. Strings for the Mandobass are still being produced by D'Addario and LaBella and are probably the closest thing around to the original bronze wound Bassoguitar strings. Perhaps the elusive "brilliant tonal quality" can still be had!
The Bassoguitar seems to have been a short-lived item, but somehow Regal managed to get jazz bassist Israel Crosby to endorse it (see photo above). He was photographed playing one during his tenure with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra and it's possible that he recorded with it, but despite the Bassoguitar's "vast depth and resonance" he opted to employ a standard double bass for most of his work, including his notable collaborations with Ahmad Jamal and George Shearing.
Despite it's relative obscurity, the Bassoguitar is often mentioned in books and articles chronicling the development of the modern electric bass where it's cited as an early example of a bass instrument with guitar-like features, a combination that would be blended much more successfully in the 1950's by Leo Fender. It should be noted that the Bassoguitar was not Regal's only unique bass instrument. They were among the first companies to offer an electric upright bass.