Monday, January 25, 2010

The Corrs: Little Wing

As it’s Covers Monday I am featuring a cover that I posted on Facebook in August 2009 before starting this blog in mid September. Today’s feature is Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” as covered by the Celtic influenced pop band the Corrs. These Irish siblings are ultra talented.

I found the Corrs rendition of "Little Wing" while looking for Eric Clapton's version of this song because I owned the Derek and the Dominoes release of this song before ever hearing Jimi Hendrix’s original. “Little Wing” was the flip side of the “Bell Bottom Blues” single that was released in 1973.

The only bad thing about this video is that Caroline Corr, who plays the bodhran (the hand drum), looks bored out of her mind. She does not, however, appear like this on any of the other songs that come from this MTV Unplugged performance.

Jimi Hendrix Original

The Dobro®

Besides Andrea Corr’s fantastic vocals on the Corrs’ recording, the most interesting musical aspect is the lead/slide guitar parts. Guitarist Anthony Drennan is playing a chrome plated, round neck Dobro® made from bell-brass. My brother had one of these and the tone is just as sweet in person.

Original Music Instrument Company, the owner of the Dobro® trademark in the 70s and 80s, began making the bell-brass models in the early 1970s. Gibson, who currently owns Dobro®, no long makes bell-brass models. Since this song is in Em, the slide is played in standard tuning. – note – he only uses it on the G, B, & E strings.

The term Dobro® is often referred to two things: the brand name of the instruments and to a particular style of playing these instruments. The Dobro® brand was developed by the Dopyera brothers when they left the National String Instrument Company. John Dopyera designed and developed the first resonator guitars for National. As National owned the two resonator guitar patents, the Dopyera Brothers had to develop a new design.

Besides National's triple resonator instruments (Tri-Cones), the National single resonator design uses a cone attached to the bridge piece called a biscuit or cookie. The Dobro© patent was based on an inverted cone and an aluminum “spider” and bridge that sits above the cone on eight legs – hence the name “spider.”

Biscuit Bridge (top) & Spider Bridge (bottom)

Both National and Dobro© guitars were/are available with a round (Spanish) neck for playing as a standard guitar or with a square (Hawaiian) neck with a raised nut for playing Hawaiian steel guitar music. When country musicians began using the square neck model, the name Dobro® became synonymous with this style of playing.

My Regal Dobro® from circa 1937 (round neck with raised bridge attachment)
While the brand has been genericized by the public, the trademark owners over the years have fiercely protected the brand. When the Dopyera’s regained the trademark for their Original Musical Instrument Company in 1970, they protested use of the trademark for anything but official Dobro® instruments.

Under OMI, the company used the brand name for both biscuit and spider bridge models; however, Gibson (the owner since 1993) only uses the Dobro© brand for models using the traditional Dobro® spider bridge. All other Gibson marketed resonators are sold under the Hound Dog or Epiphone brand names. Hound Dog was the brand name used by OMI until they could secure the Dobro® brand back from Moserite, which owned it during the 1960s.

I hope you enjoyed this excellent rendition of a classic featuring a bell-brass Dobro©.

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