Troubadour Lap Steel

The origins of Lectrolab, and its parent – Sound Projects Company – are shrouded in the haze of time.  Perhaps it began as a machine shop, or a cabinet-maker.  Or maybe, just maybe, it sprang into life to take advantage of a radically wacky new idea, the Electric Guitar.

The Troubadour brand is a very early entry in the history of the electric guitar and guitar amplification. 

Rickebacker’s “Frying Pan” lap steel is credited as the first electric guitar, introduced in 1931.  The patent was not approved until 1936.  That gave many companies a chance to exploit the new technology with scant legal reprisal.  And many did.  Chicago’s Sound Projects Company was likely one of these copycats.  Certainly they emulated the cast-metal body of the Frying Pan in the design of the Troubadour lap steel.

But the pickup is different than the “horseshoe” pickup of the Frying Pan.  The Troubadour’s pickup is built into the bridge, probably a ceramic-based piezoelectric.  To date, no technical description of its design has been discovered.

The Troubadour’s tail plate says “Sound Projects Company/Chicago, Illinois”. “Troubadour” is inked on the front under the strings. Lap steel collector Robert Lurvey estimates this guitar as “probably mid-thirties, maybe late-thirties” in THIS video.

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4 Responses to Troubadour Lap Steel

  1. Dok Tokhari says:

    I’ve enjoyed browsing through the Lectrolab site! Thank you!

    I have a Sound Projects lap steel with the M200 amp that were found together. Both are in pretty good shape. The amp has what appears to be the original soft cover and has been recapped, but retains the original transformers and Rola field coil speaker. I removed the disintegrated cord from the guitar, it was terminated with a 3 prong cinch plug that mates with the cinch jack on the M200 amp. The purpose of this special jack is to power the electrostatic capacitance pickup on the Troubadour guitar. The inner construction of the pickup is basically a copper strip roughly 1/2″ by 10″ and a similar strip of celluloid placed together and folded into a Z with a lead soldered to each end of the copper strip. Pressure from the strings cause a variance of the capacitance. There is no ceramic piezoelectric in it. You need the M200 amp to play the guitar with the original pickup.

  2. Joshua Diefenbach says:

    I have also found a lap steel guitar and M200 amp together. Are these guitars worth anything?

    • alexage1 says:

      Dok and Joshua – You don’t see many of these, maybe one or two a year on eBay. Because there are so few they are not really known to collectors or musicians, nor is there a statistically valid sample of previous sales to use in determining an average market price. I think the lap steel may be the most desirable item, but a matching guitar/amp combination is very cool. The only suggestion I have is put it on eBay and let the market decide how much it is worth. You can always list it with a the minimum price. I’d keep them, but that’s why I have a storage problem…

      PLEASE SEND PICS! It helps everyone and anyone who wants to learn more about Lectrolab and Sound Projects Co.

      Thank you,

      George

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