July 2016

1930's Vega C-20 Archtop Guitar



The Vega Company was founded in in 1881 in Boston, Massachuetts and is 

best known for its banjos. They also produced mandolins, brass instruments and

high quality guitars until the end of the 1930's.  In the 1940's and 1950's the quality of Vega instruments declined.


This Vega C-20 archtop  guitar  is a high quality instrument and it is in original and crackfree condition. It is most probably from the mid 1930's (1935-1937). It has a serial number on the headstock but unfortunately there is no known clear list for Vega guitar serial numbers. 


It is similar in size  to a Gibson L-30.The lower bout measures 37,2cm (14,65''), 26,9cm (10,6'') upper bout, body  is 49,7cm (19,6'') long and the scale length is 63,5 cm (25"). Body is  8,5 cm (3,35") deep at the lower bout


This has a carved spruce top, solid mahagoni  sides and an arched mahagoni  back. The neck is  one piece mahagoni with an ebony fretboard.


Sunburst finished, carved spruce top. Top edge is bound with celluloide.

Solid mahagoni sides.

Sunburst finish on back and neck

Arched mahagoni back is bound in celluloide

Pearl inlaid headstock.

Ebony fretboard with 14 frets to the body. Original bone nut, wide is 42mm (1,65"). 

Original tailpiece and adjustable ebony bridge.

Original Grover tuners.

The Sound

A loud, focused Jazz guitar.  Great for playing f.e. Gypsy Jazz a la Django Reinhardt. A very good instrument for soloing, good projection.

But it is great for slide playing too. Ideal for Fred McDowell style.

I chose McDowells "Freight Train Blues" for the soundexample. It is played in open D-tuning.

Mississippi Fred McDowell was a giant slide guitar player. He played  a lot of different guitars (including Martins and electric Gibsons) after his discovery in the late 1950's. But it looks like his predominant instruments were archtop guitars.

Fred McDowell was born in Rossville, Tennessee on January 12, 1904. He started playing guitar in 1918. He played continuously from  the 1920's and was

discovered and recorded in 1959 by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins. He got popular, recorded albums and performed often at  clubs and festivals.



Fred McDowell died on July 26, 1972 in Memphis, Tennessee.


"Freight Train Blues" was recorded on September 21, 1959 by Allan Lomax during the first recording session.