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“Eastwood®’s focus is to make top quality replicas – that cost less and play better – so the average musician can experience the excitement of playing one of these beautiful vintage guitars as their every day player.” – Eastwood® Guitars website
Before six-string prodigies Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen or Genesis’ Steve Hackett ever finger tapped on a guitar, there was Roy Smeck. As homage to this “Wizard of the Strings” Eastwood Guitars created the Airline RS-II hollow body. But where are the f-holes?
Who the Heck was Roy Smeck?
Roy Smeck (February 6, 1900 – April 5, 1994) played just about every kind of stringed instrument that was available to him including the guitar, ukulele, and banjo. He frequently played three or four instruments at the same time. And besides being a two-handed finger tap virtuoso, he could imitate the boom of a snare drum or sound like a pair of rapid fire tap-shoes gently banging away on a hardwood floor. There is no doubt Roy Smeck was a skilled musician, to say the least.
According to the pop music site, spaceagepop.com, “In 1926, as movie studios were experimenting with a variety of sound technologies, Warner Brothers shot a short that showed Smeck performing his act at the Manhattan Opera House, using the Vitaphone system. The film allows us to witness Smeck in his prime, and it still blows away people who thought that T. Bone Walker or Chuck Berry invented duck walking and playing behind the back.”
In his day, Smeck performed for American Presidents and European royalty. In 1983, two college students, Alan Edelstein and Peter Friedman, produced an award winning film short about the great Roy Smeck which was appropriately titled, “Wizard of the Strings”.
You can see why Eastwood® Guitars chose to evoke this early great.
The Airline RS-II
Just about everything on the RS-II is unique from its beautifully striated natural flamed maple finish to the chicken head switching knob. Although it’s a vintage hollow body design, there are no f-holes or any other kind of sound holes. But perhaps the most striking feature of the RS-II is its distinctive “Roy Smeck” pick guard, which looks something like a thick black lightning bolt.
Eastwood® has equipped the RS-II with a set, one-piece, “straight-grained” Canadian maple neck that sports a rosewood fingerboard with a 12″ radius. The width at the nut is 1-11/16″ and scale length is 26″.
Pick-ups, Controls, and Hardware
Two “Airline Argyle Diamond” pick-ups turn out what Eastwood® describes as “a unique tone reminiscent from many early electric guitars from the 50s and 60s. The RS-II is capable of producing clean or distorted tones without feedback.”
Sonic blending is done by way of two volume and two tone controls. Hardware includes traditional Kluson style nickel chrome tuners and a “Tune-O-Matic” trapeze tailpiece. The RS-II is outfitted at the factory with D’Addario strings.
Eastwood®’s Airline RS-II has a suggested retail price of $949 US, though prospective buyers will be able to find it online for around $750 US. Generally speaking, the RS-II offers exceptional value and sound at a cost that won’t break the bank.
If he were here today, Roy Smeck would probably be pleased with the Eastwood® RS-II. Bravo!