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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Imperial Banjos


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Dave Peterson - Posted - 12/23/2011:  04:42:15



I would love to hear comments from Imperial Banjo owners regarding tone.  I am especially interested in the block rim models of the 1970s.  I am in the process of putting the original block rim, tube and plate flange, and heavy tone ring back in the Chaparral.  When I bought it, it had a 20 hole flathead ring on a Tony Pass rim.  What can I expect to hear with the original parts back on?


grm405 - Posted - 12/23/2011:  09:21:35


I had an Imperial Cheyenne, with the 3-ply rim and the TP flange. It sounded pretty bad no matter what I tried. Keep in mind that the "tube" on it was actually a solid rod, not a hollow tube. The combination of the heavy tone ring (over 3.5 lbs on my scale) and the massively heavy flange assembly made it a very, very heavy banjo.

Perhaps the sound was simply a product of the time, but it was painfully bright and "hard". I eventually sold the banjo; I figured it simply wasn't worth the effort, despite some pretty inlay and grain on the maple.

Having tried many Pass rimmed banjos, owning 2, and playing one daily you may find that your effort is a mistake. I certainly greatly prefer the sound of the Pass rim and modern setup.

Gerry

O.D. - Posted - 12/23/2011:  15:34:30



Man!!  I always wanted to see and play one of those Chaparral model Imperials



 they look really nice.



I owned an Imperial Sjhloh for a while. It was walnut with the shiloh inlay, 3 ply rim, 1 piece fl;ange. Probably early 1980's model   It had a distinct tone that people took note of. I liked it very much.



 Mine had a very slim neck, easy to play.



I always had an interest in the early block rimmed Imperials but have  never had the oportunity to try one out.



 I suspect they have a powerful distinct tone of their own.



 Good luck O.D.


Barretone - Posted - 12/23/2011:  19:47:38



I owned a late 70s Imperial with the block rim. It wasn't anything great in the tone department. It did sound "stiff" with a pronounced lack of depth. I think Ty threw a lot of mass into his banjos figuring that improved tone. Didn't work.


 


Randy


 


quote:


Originally posted by Dave Peterson




I would love to hear comments from Imperial Banjo owners regarding tone.  I am especially interested in the block rim models of the 1970s.  I am in the process of putting the original block rim, tube and plate flange, and heavy tone ring back in the Chaparral.  When I bought it, it had a 20 hole flathead ring on a Tony Pass rim.  What can I expect to hear with the original parts back on?






 



Edited by - Barretone on 12/23/2011 19:48:06

steve davis - Posted - 12/24/2011:  07:52:17


I tried out someone's Shiloh at a festival right after I'd purchased a Gold Star and remember thinking,Wow,half again the money and I like my GS better.

brutus1999 - Posted - 03/15/2012:  15:16:46



In the early 1980's I wanted to move up to a "gooder" banjo, and that was also when instrument values were soaring so I figured it was a good time to jump in.  My folks got me a 1920's Bacon and Day tenor for $600, which I quickly sold and bought an Imperial 5-string for a great $600 price (from "Dan's Banjo Shop" in Chicago) based on recommendations from Elderly.  I had played a BEAUTIFUL gold plated, with almost reddish-orange wood Imperial in Ohio.  The one I got was "curly maple stained tobacco brown" -- very, very pretty resonator and an ebony neck with a sort-of "Hearts and Flowers" (spades) design. Perfect neck.  I thought it was a Cheyenne -- might be a Shenendoah?



It was (is...) very, very heavy, about three hundred pounds, it seemed (solid T&P flange, 3 ply rim, -- which has a less harsh, less clunky --old Stelling? -- sound than many block rims).  The weight broke my cradle banjo strap.  The sound was bright and very loud. It came with a 5-Star head, which was a somewhat new design then --  thin and bright sounding. I swapped in a regular Remo frosted and the sound became unbelievably perfect. (Keep in mind that everyone's ears are different!  What might sound too bright for someone else --like my wife! -- might sound too dull to a 60 year old guy, which is why reports of "sound quality" comparisons are often "iffy"). But the sound really was, and continues to be, great (to me...) ... with the snap and pop when necessary, and the warmth and sustain when necessary, a combination sound I mostly associate with Scruggs and Pete Wernick.  



The tailpiece snapped after some years, but replacing it with an identical one was easy.  I don't play it much because it's in its case and it is heavy and it is just easier to pick up one of the open backs or a mandolin for playing around for a few minutes here and there. I made the terrible mistake of humidifying it because there was all this 1980's talk about loose tone rings from dried wood -- dumb, dumb, dumb.  Lots of tarnish on the nickel-plated brass and nothing I used seemed to work, though my daughter had some success with some Simple Green ! !  But tarnish not-withstanding, the wood is still in basically new condition.  I would guess that it is the match for any $2000 plus banjo out there today. And the sound .. well, both sweet and sharp....  


Dave Peterson - Posted - 03/16/2012:  05:12:13


Brutus 1999, Thanks for your comments. I took the Imperial to Robin Smith and he put the original pot back on the beautiful curly maple neck. We needed a tube and plate flange, and he ordered one from Jimmy Cox. It fit perfectly. He also put on one of his Heartland frosted heads and a maple bridge with rosewood on the top of it. After tightening the head to a G sharp, the banjo came alive. It is bright but also sweet when you pick away from the bridge. It has tons of "pop" and volume especially way up the neck. The intonation is perfect. I was not looking a banjo with pre-war flathead sound. I already own a Huber Lexington and that more than fulfills that need. I love this Imperial. If you want to hear how good Imperials sound, listen to Bob Black's CD from about 1979 called "Ladies on the Steamboat". There is a beautiful Imperial banjo for sale at Turtle Hill Banjo, but it is a 1980's model; probably a one piece flange and three ply rim. Ty Piper stopped using the block rims on the 1980 models. I'm not sure if he also changed the tone ring. I will post more pictures of the Chaparral on my homepage soon. Thanks for your interest. Dave P.

Tonecaster - Posted - 03/16/2012:  05:23:35



There is a nice one here as well.



oklahomacity.craigslist.org/ms...0438.html


yumagah - Posted - 03/16/2012:  08:03:08



Never heard of "Dan's Banjo Shop" in Chicago area back then.   What can you tell us about it?


  I bought an Iida in 1980 in the Chicago area.


 


quote:


Originally posted by brutus1999




In the early 1980's I wanted to move up to a "gooder" banjo, and that was also when instrument values were soaring so I figured it was a good time to jump in.  My folks got me a 1920's Bacon and Day tenor for $600, which I quickly sold and bought an Imperial 5-string for a great $600 price (from "Dan's Banjo Shop" in Chicago) based on recommendations from Elderly.  I had played a BEAUTIFUL gold plated,



Dave Peterson - Posted - 03/16/2012:  10:31:03


The inlay pattern on my Imperial is exactly the same as the one in Oklahoma. What a beautiful banjo. I'm not surprised its located in Oklahoma since that's where Ty used to build them.

Tonecaster - Posted - 03/16/2012:  12:06:05



Looks like a nice imperial here too.



ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Imperial-...974070843


brutus1999 - Posted - 04/02/2012:  14:54:39



I've been away a while.  My Imperial has the three ply rim.  I think it is capable of a pre-war sound or a more modern sound, depending on how it set up.  "Dan's Banjo Shop" was in the basement of Dan R's house (I'll let him have his privacy...even after 25 years.....) in the Mt. Greenwood area around 118th and Kedzie or thereabout.  I would have to agree with the comment that the banjo rings with sweet sustain all the way up the neck on all five strings -- many good sounding banjos get a little "thuddy", without the sustain when you go up the neck, especially on the wound D string.  This one sings and sings and sings.



 



But BOY IS IT HEAVY!


banjo1 - Posted - 04/02/2012:  19:01:24


A friend of mine played an Imperial in the 70's and 80's. Got it from Ty and very young age and could really make it walk and talk.He learned a lot from Alan Munde as well as others.

He played for Bill Monroe, twice and had a three year stint with Ricky Skaggs.

Can anyone tell us this famous Oklahoma picker/songwriter is?

bluegrassbrant - Posted - 04/05/2012:  07:45:25


Maybe Billy Joe Foster... I think?

banjoez - Posted - 04/06/2012:  18:20:50



quote:


Originally posted by banjo1




A friend of mine played an Imperial in the 70's and 80's. Got it from Ty and very young age and could really make it walk and talk.He learned a lot from Alan Munde as well as others.



He played for Bill Monroe, twice and had a three year stint with Ricky Skaggs.



Can anyone tell us this famous Oklahoma picker/songwriter is?






Well, I was going to say Bob Black but he is from Iowa.


banjo1 - Posted - 04/06/2012:  21:51:40


Billy Joe it is.Started pickin with he and cousin Craig Fletcher at 13 years old while I lived in Oklahoma.
Good....I think......................bluegrassbrant.

bluegrassbrant - Posted - 04/07/2012:  07:19:50


Thanks... I spent a lot of years listening to Billy Joe at Bill Grants in Hugo. He can play just about anything he wants and he's as great a guy that you could ever meet.

Back to the banjos. I have a friend who has an imperial. 3 ply rim, one piece flange, walnut, but have no idea what model it is and cannot find any info. It's got the same peg head as the one that was on eBay but the inlay is different. The inlay looks like flowers. Anybody got an idea what model it is or what year model it might be?



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