Archive for metropolitan tanglewood custom


Posted in electric guitar, GUITARS, music, retro guitar, Uncategorized, vintage reproduction guitars with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2011 by Joseph Allen Popp's Cellular Multiverse

I remember going into Subway Guitars in Berkeley California for the first time, back around 1982.  It was like walking into a used bicycle shop, junk everywhere, guys working on countertops, customers looking at and touching everything like kids in a toy makers shop…only everything there was guitar.  They had lots of old stuff.  You could smell the vintage wafting off of the wood and metal parts, mildew from troves of lost-in-the-basement-age.  Cheapo non-collectables brought up to players standards by the loving hands of wacko pickers digging their work.  Everything was priced the way it should be.  Fatdog, the proprietor, was doing this because he loved it, not because he wanted to get rich from it.  Very usable instruments built and rebuilt from salvaged and scavenged old parts, put together way better than the original instruments from which they fell.  Looking at the carpet padded racks filled with pawn-shop prizes made me want to move in and never leave the place.  Paging through the Kays, Silvertones, Harmonys, Teiscos, Baldwins…I thought I was in heaven.  And, then…there they were.  My first encounter with the most beautiful guitars I had ever seen, the National Glenwood 95…also known, due to its shape, as the National Map guitar!

National Glenwood 95

The Res-O-Glass (National’s trade mark name for the fiberglass body) art deco beauty was created in the 1960s.  So cool, this map-of-the-united-states shaped two piece sea-foam green bodied, two pickup, multi-switch, mother-of-toilet-seat inlay clad splendiferous temptress.  I was in love.  National was well-known and highly regarded for their resophonic acoustic guitars, but these electrics were not of the same quality.  They were more “lookers” than “players”, but I loved them anyways.  I’m the kind of guitarist that can see the special qualities in any instrument and put it to good use.  Now, these guitars (he had a few in various colors and configurations, the green having the most appeal to my eyes) were selling for around $300 or so, depending on the model.  Despite the low price tag, being a young starving musician, and barely getting by, paycheck to paycheck, they were out of my reach.  All I could do was dream… Over the years I have always kept my eyes open for one, and it came to my attention during the 1990s that a company called Metropolitan was remaking these babies, only they were boutique quality, high-end, expensive instruments.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only guitar player who saw the beauty in the original Nationals.  The Metropolitan Tanglewood Custom, as they called it,  was a set-neck guitar with dual humbucking pickups + a piezo pickup in the bridge to give an acoustic-like amplified sound, and has stereo outputs to boot.  A stunning guitar, visually as well as functionally!  But, the going price on a new Metropolitan was around $3500.  Again, more than I was willing to muster up for another guitar, even though I wasn’t young and starving any more.  I have several nice guitars, and adding to the fold would be a luxury, to say the least, especially in this price range.  Then, over the past few years, a THIRD company called Eastwood Guitars started making the Airline Map model, their version of my coveted Res-O-Glass wonder.  Theirs, however, was more in line with a mid-priced Fender, price-wise, selling for under $800.  The quality, too, compares to a Fender.  The neck is a bolt-on style, and it has two humbucking pickups.  The one thing I don’t like about it is the way they did away with the cutout on the Southern California corner of the body!  Why would they want to lose that killer detail?

Eastwood Airline Map

Earlier this year I decided to bite the bullet and spend the money on an Eastwood and finally realize my dream, despite the design change.  Their prices were right enough to make me willing to compromise.  The search was on for the right model, the right color, and the right price.  Ebay is the place to start these days, so I began looking.  The search led me through a few original Nationals in various states of repair, or, more often, disrepair.  And, yeah, there were some new Eastwoods in assorted colors, both right and left-handed.  I was feeling good about it, and then…there it was!  A one-owner, sea-foam green Metropolitan Tanglewood bought by a guy who never played it, had the original case and had kept all the hang tags!  DAMN!  He paid $3500 for it and had bought it brand new back in ’95.  Now he wanted to get rid of it, why, I don’t know.  I put it on my watch list.  I drooled on my keyboard for a few days as I eyed the bids coming in on it…$700…$800…$900… I thought it was sure to go well over $2500.  Mint condition, collectible, killer player, the works.  I have only bought from eBay on a few occasions, but I know that if you really want to not get outbid, you wait until the last minute and bid the highest amount you’re willing to pay then.  Well, I pooled all my resources, sold a couple of pedals, and came up with enough money that I felt I could at least try.  I was ready to be disappointed when my maximum bid was minimized by some cabinet collector with nothing better to do than indulge their guitar fetish while killing mine.  Down to the last 15 seconds with my bid armed to drop the enemy, I let go and hit the PLACE BID button… YES!  I WON IT! Snagged my dream for far less than I was ready to pay!  It’s everything I had dreamed of and more.  The originals, like I said before, are not great instruments…well, let me qualify that statement…they ARE GREAT instruments, but, really, not in the way that you think of when you think of a really nicely built Gibson, or top-of-the-line Fender.  The Metropolitan, however, is possibly the nicest guitar I have ever owned.  Just look at the specs!

Metropolitan Tanglewood Custom

  • Fakimba body with “setneck” construction
  • One piece Mahogany neck with Rosewood fingerboard
  • Fingerboard bound & inlaid with Abalone & Mother of Pearl “Butterfly” pattern
  • Front & back of body “scooped” at edges creating a “raised” top & back
  • Polished chrome, nickel & stainless hardware and body edge molding
  • Custom Art Deco hardware including Tailpiece, Truss Cover & Pickguard
  • One Rio Grande Barbeque Bucker at Bridge & one Genuine Texas Humbucker at Neck
  • One Volume & Tone Control each for the two pickups
  • Three-way selector switch for the Rio Grande Humbuckings, plus coil-splitting for both pickups via push/pull volume knobs.