Bluebird (U.S.A.) / 1940

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Design: The Art Deco imagery of the 1930s has disappeared, the bluebird fading to a ghost of its former self, while Nipper the dog makes a reappearance. Hawaiian music became widely popular in the U.S. in the early 1900s, probably for several reasons: with the popularization of the new sciences of archaeology and ethnology, exotic cultures were being more keenly appreciated; with the growth of wealth, more people were able to take steamship trips to the islands; and for over a century, America had had great influence on the political development of Hawaii which, in 1898, resulted in its being annexed as a protected territory.

The lilting, sensual style of the Hawaiian guitar encapsulated, for many Americans, a vision of a gentle and romantic lifestyle, far from the stresses and strains of modern life. According to lore, the lap steel ('Hawaiian') guitar sound was invented in 1885 by a seven-year old Hawaiian boy named Joseph Kekuku, who while walking along a railroad track, picked up a metal bolt; sliding it along the strings of his guitar, he was intrigued by the sound it produced, and taught himself to play by this method, experimenting with various accessories such as a knife blade, hair-comb, and finally, a steel bar. Kekuku would leave Hawaii in 1904, never to return to the islands, but popularized the 'Hawaiian sound' around the world via highly successful vaudeville shows and radio programs.

Converted into an electric instrument in the late 1920s by Adolph Rickenbacker, the 'fry-pan Hawaiian' became the first electric guitar (and thus may be counted as a primary influence on both country and western and rock and roll music). Usually placed on the player's lap, or on a stool in front of the seated player, the strings are not pressed down on to a fret when sounding a note; rather, the player holds a metal slide called a steel (or tone bar) in the left hand, moving it along the strings to change the instrument's pitch while the right hand plucks or picks the strings (Wikipedia).

History: Launched in 1932, this Victor subsidiary survived until 1950. Alternate label scan of a Canadian release (below) courtesy of collector Georg Richter of Germany.

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