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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Five String Paramount

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frankabr. - Posted - 06/20/2010:  18:58:48

Hi. I'm purchasing A Five String Paramount Style A - Coversion Neck. Paramounts are reputed to be great banjos for both clawhammer and 3 finger style. Any opinions.

Would cowhide head be best for clawhammer style?

BanjarBilly - Posted - 06/20/2010:  19:18:31

calfskin yes, cow I have never played or installed one on a banjo. I have experience with goat. I like it to be thin myself. You can always loosen the head or stuff it to get it even more plunky..

Bill Rogers - Posted - 06/20/2010:  19:28:51

Given where you live, you might think about a Renaissance head. It can be a real pain tightening and loosening a skin head in that climate. Parmounts are a lot like Gibson ball-bearings. A nice tone, if different from the usual Mastertone sound, and definitely somewhat quieter. I'd talk with some of the local musicians who have skin heads. They can give you a good idea of how they behave in that area.

mainejohn - Posted - 06/21/2010:  05:26:18

Removing the resonator on a Paramount is quick and easy, so head adjustment is somewhat simplified. I think Bill's suggestion of a Renaissance head is a good one, but I'd be tempted to try a Bill Miller vellum head. Please post some photos...I love Paramounts.

frankabr. - Posted - 06/21/2010:  05:49:25

Don't have the banjo yet, but will post pictures when it arrives, F.A.

BobTheGambler - Posted - 06/21/2010:  09:40:55

Anybody seen this? Gryphon says its an original 5-string Paramount neck, but I thought they all came with Page tuners originally, which I see no evidence of on the headstock. Nice looking banjo either way:

I just thought it was interesting as I've only seen pictures of one original Paramount 5-string, and there isn't a single one in the Tsumura book if I remember correctly.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 06/21/2010:  09:54:05

You've run into one of the subtleties of banjo description. "Original 5-string" simply means the neck is original. "All-original" would mean tuners, head, etc. too. Page tuners were notorious for disintegrating, and that's probably why they aren't still on this banjo. When they get around to a write-up, I expect there'll be a comment on the pegs.

BobTheGambler - Posted - 06/21/2010:  10:21:30

I'm right there with you Bill, but I've seen several Paramount banjos with the Page tuners removed, and they always show the characteristic holes from the attachment screws, or at least where they were filled in. That was the line of thinking that led me to question the neck. You'd think with the small foot diameter of the Planets, you'd see evidence of the original Page tuners. Note the extra screw holes here:
But I suppose there were many different tuners in use, and its not as simple as what I was thinking.

Mike Casey - Posted - 06/21/2010:  10:28:37

In my opinion and experience, Paramounts lack the cutting power of a Mastertone, but will do in a pinch. I have owned one all original five string and one Paramount Jr. with a conversion neck. I've recently heard one with a calf skin head being played in a Bluegrass band situation and it definately lacked the authority and presence of a Mastertone style banjo. This experience supported my own personal observations of the ones I owned. They are well constructed and vey nice looking banjos. I believe they are better suited for styles other than Bluegrass.

geezr - Posted - 06/21/2010:  10:33:41

According to the Gryphon ad it is a 1922 Style A, and that's the year that Rettberg and Lange split up, so the banjo is a very early one. I would guess that the Style A evolved from the Orpheum #1 and the banjo that Gryphon is selling originally had friction tuners like the Orpheums had.


BobTheGambler - Posted - 06/21/2010:  12:21:05

Interesting. I've never heard any clawhammer on an Paramount pot. Anyone have any experience with that or an audio example?

mikeyes - Posted - 06/21/2010:  12:30:17

Will Keys played a Paramount.

While not a clawhammer stylist, he played a similar two finger style that is wonderful to hear. Here ( is an article about him and a picture.


beegee - Posted - 06/21/2010:  17:12:16

Didn't Andy Boarman play a Paramount on occasion?

frankabr. - Posted - 06/21/2010:  18:06:12

Will Keys Sounds Wonderful. I also play a two finger style that people seem to like. They say I sound like a 90 years old mountain woman. No a bad complement. Maybe I found the right banjo for my style.

mps.bob - Posted - 06/22/2010:  00:58:00

Will Keyes played a plectrum banjo with five strings crammed on and a screw on the fifth string at the fifth fret. Loved his playing

millwheel - Posted - 06/22/2010:  08:28:38

I have a Paramount style A with a conversion 5-string neck that used the inlays from the original tenor neck, hence it, like the one in the Gryphon photo, lacks the Paige tuner holes on the back of the peghead. Also, the "skunk stripes" on the Gryphon neck don't match up with ditto on the "acousticon," as Paramount called the resonator. Paramount did make a few 5-string banjos, but very, very few. I'm not saying that the banjo at Gryphon is not an original 5-string, but ........

Martin Mikulas - Posted - 06/23/2010:  01:03:07

Hi everybody,

I happen to own the early Paramount style C original fivestring (cca 1921). Being hooked on the prewar flathead sound I was very pleasantly surprised by the tone this baby projects. Archtop sound, lot of punch, short sustain but, gee, very sweet. Historically very interesting, Gibson clearly coppied many features on their post 1925 banjos. Check it out at

Best regards,


frankabr. - Posted - 06/23/2010:  04:52:57

Great looking banjo. From what I gather, Paramount offered five string necks with their Model A and Model C banjos (though these versions they are very rare). Has anyone heard of or seen original five string necks on any other Paramount models?

Also, What about Ludwig and Leedy. Did either of these companies make banjos with five string necks?

I have a Ludwig Wendell Hall Banjo Uke, and think it a fine instrument.

John Field - Posted - 06/23/2010:  10:31:00

I've never seen an original Paramount 5 str.banjo for real, but the 1920's Paramount catalogue reprinted by Mugwumps states that five stringers were available in all styles A through F.

mikeyes - Posted - 06/23/2010:  11:24:36

Ludwig did not make a five string, at least according to their catalogs. I have a plectrum converted to a five string and that sort of thing was done in the 1960s during the folk music era. It sounds pretty good now that I straightened the neck and re-positioned the fifth string nut.

I've seen an ad that claimed to be an original Leedy five string, but I suspect that the same thing happened to that banjo too and that the Leedy is a converted plectrum.

pgroff - Posted - 06/23/2010:  16:11:29

This is interesting:

2many5s - Posted - 06/27/2010:  19:14:20

I sold one of these to Lowell Levinger (The one that's NOT for sale (w/the white 5th string tuner knob):

Edited by - 2many5s on 06/27/2010 19:16:11

rupickin5 - Posted - 06/28/2010:  06:02:47

As a much younger banjo picker (1970?) living on Potrero Hill above the Mission District in SF, I received a phone call from a guitar-playing buddy. He was at a music store down on Mission and there was a guy there trying to sell a banjo he had acquired. He wanted $100 & they would only go $75. I asked my friend to describe it. When he mentioned that it was a 5-stringer, gold-plated, I asked him what "letter" was up on the peghead. When he said "F"...I quickly rummaged through my brain & remembered the Paramount model hierarchy...2nd from the top-of-the-line "Artist Supreme" (my knowledge of tenors came from a wonderful older Italian man Sam Donatelli from Amherst NY). I said "send him up". It was all original, but had clearly been used as a plectrum. Good news, the gold-plated friction 5th string tuner w/ real pearl button was in the case boot.
I purchased it and did a little set-up on her (keeping the original skin head). It never had "the sound" I was seeking...I wanted an original pre-war Gibson flathead! I thought "this could be my "chip" in the game to acquire an old Gibson". I called George Gruhn and asked about selling, trading, etc. He told me...the person most likely to purchase this banjo was living "out there" where I was. He gave me Lowell Levinger's contact number. Lowell was in the process of having Gryphon String Instruments, in Palo Alto make a 5-string neck for a Paramount Style F tenor pot (these babies are solid When I sold him this banjo (see link below for Lowell's Museum) I think that project ended. Enjoy


Edited by - rupickin5 on 06/28/2010 11:38:45

USELESSWALI - Posted - 06/28/2010:  07:21:02

i noticed the neck does not fit tight against the body but this is a work of art

The Old Timer - Posted - 06/28/2010:  20:04:48

HOOOOF-FAAAA! Rupickin5 that is SOME GORGEOUS BANJO! And yet, it's not "over the top". That Brazilian rosewood, pearl and engraved gold would bring tears to a glass eye. Would make a bishop kick out a stained glass window...

rupickin5 - Posted - 06/28/2010:  20:12:37

In some ways I wish I could've kept her...but, really...that' just "bas" thinking.

John Field - Posted - 06/28/2010:  22:13:55

Never heard or played an old Paramount 5str. I've got a somewhat battered spare Style A Paramount pot. If I made a 5str. neck for it....what could I expect in terms of sound, tone, pop, volume? How do they compare with a Gibson Ball Bearing, or Vega tubaphone or W.Laydie......?

BobTheGambler - Posted - 08/20/2010:  09:04:49

Wanted to show someone a picture of the one on Gryphon, and it is already sold.

frankabr. - Posted - 08/20/2010:  09:41:54

To me mine sounds similar to a Gibson Archtop. Maybe a little more old timey. Not as much punch, but a great sound. F.A.

diarmaid - Posted - 08/20/2010:  11:08:52

John if youre ever round Ilford, give me a shout Ive got 2 paramounts (an a and a c) theyre strung up as eadg tenors, but you'll get the general impression about the tone, i prefer the tone of them to any of the gibsons (prewar and postwar) that ive ever heard and played.

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