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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: IUCCI Banjos (by Michael Iucci)

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banjotrader - Posted - 10/19/2015:  18:30:08

Aristodemo "Michael" Iucci (b. Dec 3 1884 | d. Feb 6 1968)


In 1892, Gennaro Iucci came to America to establish roots in New York City from his native home Avellino/Naples, Italy.  His family (wife Alfonsina, son Michael and three sisters) would immigrate in 1896.  Michael, his sister Anna and her boyfriend Antonio Silano traveled on the Dalmatia via Naples arriving on May 28th 1896. In the late 1890's Gennaro and his wife had several children, namely Gennaro and Celestino (better known as George and Charles R). [George was known for his temper as is apparent from his 1940s assault charge stemming from knocking five teeth out of Armando Benedetti's head, Benedetti was a Manhattan actor.  Charles was the Secretary of the Local 802 Musicians Union].  By the early 1900's Michael Iucci and his father were operating a small music shop in Little Italy selling instruments and music literature out of 238 Mott St NY. 

After a fire in 1903, the business was moved to 377 Broome St; this would become their home-base for years to come. Sometime between 1905 and 1910 Gennaro's wife Alfonsina passed away. Both Michael and his father worked the lutherie business as Mandolin Makers until Gennaro's death in 1915. They produced & repaired many violins, mandolins, harp-guitars, tenor banjos and mandocellos to name a few, and at various stages on this timeline.  Their instruments carried a 5yr warranty (LINK) as extracted from a 1907 ad.   Given their growing reputation amongst the musical community, they were also able to secure local Neapolitan type orchestras for events and summer bookings - including their own group.  It is also worth mentioning that Iucci was part of a so-called Italian Luthiers Guild, its members were: Antonio Cerrito, Raphael Ciani, Luigi Ricca, Giuseppe Nettuno, Joseph Nettuno, Nicolai Turturro, Michael Iucci, John D'Angelico, A. Galiano

During Michael Iucci's early period, both the Cello Banjo (i.e. Tenor banjo) and Mandolin Banjo sold for $25.00 - $30.00 w/ a case.

Rogers heads $1.75/ea

Belltone Ring $5/ea

In the coming years Michael, George and Charles would establish themselves as prominent musicians, sometimes for Flemish dance. They mainly played the Ormonde restaurant owned by the Boemermann family (Nostrand/Fulton Brooklyn) and played numerous private events; all the while maintaining the business at 377 Broome St.

Michael later began to experiment with musical device creation/invention, composing many of his own songs, and co-working with other musicians:

1) Bell-Tone ring Patent US1233881 - 1916/1917

2) March of the lost battalion - 1920 [Michael Iucci and William A Davies - E 470377]

3) Song from Paradise - 1921 [23739]

4) Banjo Mute (Clothespin Style) (Although never patented, it was developed in 1924 and has since been used as the model for the Gold Tone Mute)

5) Rainbow Mute (swing arm to the bridge).  This mute was later copied given the original was never Patented. US3797355

​6) Eze-Tuner style mechanism tailpiece used on Mandolins & Iucci Broadwave guitars.

Co-Works as backup musician

7) Friedrich Schorr Brunswick Records BR15088/9 - 1924 (Link to MP3)

8) Tito Guizar Victor Records BRC-64890/1 in 1931

9) In the early 1920s, Michael's talent enabled him to play with Harry Reser and the very popular Clicquot Club Eskimos Orchestra c.1927-1928 as part of the National NBC half-hour radio show . (Reference: W.W. Triggs Bio of Reser).  

INSTRUMENTS (Banjo Specific)

Phase 1: Iucci tenors used the Banjophone tone-ring (Pat 1906 - Wm. B Farmer) (~1910-1915)

Phase 2: Iucci tenors used the Bell Tone (Pat 1233881) (1916-1920).  Below is an ad that ran in the NY Tribune Oct 14th 1917:

Phase 3: Iucci Tenor special - Triangular flange cut-outs /w maple neck/resonator (Seen with both the Eze-Tune (PAT.US1296183) and Kerschner style tailpieces) (1921-1924).  

This phase shows signs of Phase 4 type banjos with an evolving peghead coming to be known as the Iucci trademark.

Phase 4:

Starting on Oct 25th 1925 Michael ran an ad in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle mentioning for the first time the "New Tenor Banjos" - Sinfonico

Although it is known that Iucci produced a Mellotone banjo, no ads have ever been uncovered depicting them.

In Oct of 1927, a second ad ran in Hovarth's Bulletin advertising the Baby Grand Banjos and Rainbow Mute.

These banjos appear to be built on spec using Iucci's own designs by highly trained craftsmen/luthiers, as is apparent in most other NY Small shop owners.

Around 1919 many of the small shop NY maker filled patents.  Ciro Dell Russo filed a strikingly close version of Iucci banjo model (US1341199) as well as a close variant by Puntolillo (US1345104).

The following Iucci banjos are extremely rare & collectable, well-built and have incredible tone.  

Valuations of Mint examples as of 2015 USD: 

Early: $500-$1000

Style 1-2: $1000-2500

Style 3: $2500-3500

Style 4: $3500-4500

Style 5 Original: $4500-6500

Style 6: $6500-8000

MODERN: less $500

SINFONICO came in 5 Styles (Flange and archtop rim all-in-one metal design)

1-Nickel Plated w/ Maple Neck

2-Nickel Plated w/ Braz Rswd

3-No.2 w/ Gold plated

4-No.3 + fancy pearl inlayed fretboard (similar to #5)

5-The same setup as No.3, but the resonator is inlayed (back/sides) with pearl + Neck in entirely pearl inlayed + layered/veneered ebony neck

* - The SINFONICO type was also found on Melody banjos (8" Rim w/ 16" SL).  No mention of model number.


Same as SINFONICO system but is a flathead design.  Only maple used.

TYPE E was gold plated

BABY GRAND (Archtop wood rim sit on flange system)

As paraphrased by a prominent US Banjoist Tyler Jackson

"..seriously one of the best banjos (Baby Grand #5 - Bell Style) I've ever my top 3"

Also came in a MODERN style that was top Tensioned

1,2,3,4-same as SINFONICO's outer look.

5-No.3 + but the resonator back is in inlayed with pearl + Neck in entirely pearl inlayed + layered/veneered ebony neck + flange extends as engraved bell/tensionhoop over hooks.

6-No.5 original + additional pearl inlays on resonator + ebony armrest w/ marquetry


Maple Neck w/ custom diamond inlays

Side Ventillated Sinfonico style rim, except has deeper extention into the resonator area.

Has Paramount-style Stanchions to create archtop design.

Maple pie shaped resonator



Rainbow mute-this mute attaches to hooks and dampens bridge using a swing-arm design

Clothespin Mute-mute attaches to bridge

Bell-Tone ring-adjustable ring that lifts off of dowel-designed banjos.  Making an hybrid archtop.

SERIAL NUMBERS (Banjo Specific)

Earliest are unserialized 

Sinfonico & Mellotone 90-199

Baby Grand 200-299

Baby Grand (Modern) 1-30


In 1960 Carl Lunsford and Harry Reser visited with Michael Iucci at his home at 53-75 64th St in  Maspeth NY while on an East coast tour.  At this time Iucci was operating a small shop in his basement and retired as of July 1951.  


Various Pictures:

Other known NY locations of business for Michael Iucci: 27 Prince St, 238 Mott St, 377 Broome, 81 Lexington Ave, 53-75 64th St.

SN List (Banjos)

Sinfonico #1 - 94

Sinfonico #1 - 101

Sinfonico #5 - 109

Sinfonico #3 - 114

Sinfonico #3 - 117

Sinfonico #1 - 119

Sinfonico #1 - 121

Sinfonico #1 - 125

Sinfonico #2 - 167

Sinfonico #2 - 169

Sinfonico #5 - 170

Sinfonico      - 187 (Melody Banjo)

Mellotone Grand - 131

Mellotone Grand - 151

Mellotone Grand - 172

Mellotone Grand E - 175

Mellotone Grand - 178

Mellotone Grand - 17X (is either 171,173,174,176,177,179) - has plain maple heel cap

Mellotone Grand - 181

Baby Grand #2 - 223

Baby Grand #3 - 234

Baby Grand #3 - 236

Baby Grand #4 - 241

Baby Grand #2 - 250

Baby Grand #3 - 253  has a #5 neck

Baby Grand #2 - 256

Baby Grand #2 - 261

Baby Grand #3 - 264

Baby Grand #1 - 270

Baby Grand #1 (Modern) - 6

Baby Grand #2 (Modern) - 7

Baby Grand #5 (Modern) - 23

​Aside from banjos, Iucci continued to produce Tenor guitars, Flattop guitars, Archtop guitars, Mandolins (mando-banjo, bowlback, etc.), Mandollas, Lutes, Harp-Guitars

He is estimated to have produced 500+ high-end instruments in total.  Although, not high volumes, most later instruments by Iucci all are of extremely high quality. The collectability of these instruments is also very high as most reside in private collections, and are purchased immediately upon entry into the market. IUCCI instruments are featured in Akira Tsumura's collection, Tsumura playing cards, The Musical Collector (Willcut), International Banjo 1982, Amendt Collection. Also his instruments have been played by the likes of lead soloist for the Long Island Banjo Society - Charlie Gardella, as his life long banjo; Carl Lunsford (Turk Murphy Band), Harry Reser, William Carlino, Harry M. Monty, Bill Brisotti, Mike Amato and of course Iucci himself, etc...

He lived as a widow (wife Margaret d. May 19th 1939) in relative obscurity until his death c. 1968  ​


A very big thank you to Vinnie Mondello, Guenter Amendt, George Gruhn, Akira Tsumura, Mike Amato, Jim Bollman, Carl Lunsford, John Hoft, Tony Marcus, Paul Hostetter, Bill Brisotti and many other contributors for you help piecing the Iucci history.



Edited by - banjotrader on 03/03/2016 07:42:04

beegee - Posted - 10/19/2015:  19:30:42

The Iucci was a pretty good banjo. I played a Baby Grand years ago in a banjo shop, but can't remember what it sounded like

HeartsHomeAcoustics - Posted - 10/19/2015:  20:59:32

The "Bell"style (like the number 6 and 5 on Guenter's site) Baby Grand is one of the best sounding banjos I've ever played. I have only played this style, and not the arch top style.

To me the sound was very warm and sweet, but not lacking in volume. I remember being amazed at the evenness in tone between strings and the total absence of "wolf tones".


banjotrader - Posted - 10/20/2015:  03:16:53

Thanks Tyler, from what I gather the #3 has the same internal design as the 5, of course with the absence of the bell-like skirt. Something worth trying I take.

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 10/20/2015:  04:04:39

The "Baby Grand" name is interesting, as A. A. Farland also used that name on a ladies/childs sized five string banjo that he marketed.


banjotrader - Posted - 10/29/2015:  08:53:08

Does anyone have informations about Mr. Iucci himself? Im accumulating a list of SNs if someone is willing to share as well..

Edited by - banjotrader on 10/29/2015 08:53:39

BobTheGambler - Posted - 10/29/2015:  09:17:58

I don't know a lot about Iucci's banjos, but there is some interesting information out there about the Iucci/Dewick mandolins that are built sort of like wood-topped banjos. I played one years back that was beautifully made and very loud.

beezaboy - Posted - 10/29/2015:  10:21:51

Iucci is another of the mysterious New York City banjo people.

I've got him on Broome St. as early as 1917 but don't remember how.

Attached is the stuff I have from my meagre file.

The Sinfinico was an all metal shell.

The patent for the ring is 1,233,881 under name Michael Iucci.

Brooklyn Eagle 10/25/25

Music Trades July 27, 1918

Unknown Source

Unknown Source

banjotrader - Posted - 10/29/2015:  10:35:50

Hi John, yes have these files as well.  The "Unknown" source however places them at this location as early as 1907.  I have found a 1905 view that has the family at 377 Broome, and an even earlier photo c. 1902 on Mott St, just around the corner from Broome St.

in a 1900 Census they are working away on Mott St as well.. The father (Gennaro) was a mandolin maker, as is Michael.  Just trying to accumulate as much info as possible before releasing the entire picture.  I do think this Oct 1925 date has a relevance to the story...

Remember Epiphone, buying the farovan factory??  This period indicated a very "Lange-ish" appearance to the banjos, as is the case with Iucci "new" line of banjos.  He had no factory, but rather a little shop. This is actually where they lived (i.e. 377 Broome St).

Edited by - banjotrader on 10/29/2015 10:37:23

raharris - Posted - 10/29/2015:  10:41:27

See this on the Mandolin Cafe -- this person is (or claims to be) related to Iucci

​Cheers -- 

banjotrader - Posted - 10/29/2015:  11:02:48

Yes the two eldest men in the picture are George and Michael (wearing the hat).  George was from what I gather a pianist, the other brother Charles was head of Local 802 (Musician's Union in NY).  In the 1930's they were all musicians at a little restaurant in NY.

Edited by - banjotrader on 10/29/2015 11:04:06

vintagetenor - Posted - 10/30/2015:  07:49:02

I'm very pleased to see that there are some who have been researching Michael Iucci and his instruments. My first tenor banjo was a Iucci Mellotone Grand (sn 175), which I owned from 1975-1990. It had a metal rim with an integral flange. The workmanship was very good but it was not one of his very ornate models.

When I tried to get information about Iucci and his banjos back in the '70s, I think it was Charlie Gardella who informed me that Michael Iucci's brother was in the NY Musician's Union Local 802 office quite often. I attempted to reach him there once or twice, but was unsuccessful.

I also once owned a Iucci 8-string openback tenor which I sold to David Grisman in 2004.

banjotrader - Posted - 11/10/2015:  18:56:56

Updated findings refreshed in the original post.

beezaboy - Posted - 11/11/2015:  05:55:30

Peter - Very nice work on the mysterious Michael Iucci.

May I add pics one of my favorite banjos - An Iucci 17 fret tenor banjo outfitted with a Banjofone ring.

The head is 12" and the scale is 19 3/4".

Do we have an estimate of when this banjo was made?

I would guess 1920 but really don't know.

Iucci 17 Fret Tenor with Banjofone Ring

Iucci 17 Fret Tenor with Banjofone Ring

Iucci 17 Fret Tenor with Banjofone Ring

Iucci 17 Fret Tenor with Banjofone Ring

Wm. B. Farmer Banjofone Patent 1906


banjotrader - Posted - 11/11/2015:  06:24:02

John, I would have guessed pre-1917. As Iucci would likely have used his own design in the banjo post 1917 (Bell-Tone ring).

vintagetenor - Posted - 11/11/2015:  11:35:27

John, the 8-string tenor I once had was nearly identical to yours, but with the strings doubled.

Here are a few photos of my Iucci melody banjo.  It has an 8" rim and a 16" scale.  When I locate a matching tuner it'll be finished. 

Edited by - vintagetenor on 11/11/2015 11:45:40

beezaboy - Posted - 11/11/2015:  12:07:37

Mike - Very interesting Iucci Melody Banjo.  According to an email I received recently the Paramount Melody Banjo had a scale of approximately 15 1/4" and Lange advertised that his Melody scale lengths were a little longer than the usual.

The Iucci 16" scale is eye opening.

Most of the Melody Banjos I've encountered have 13" to 14" scale lengths.

Most of the 13" scale Melody's seem to be the older ones from about 1915 but Vega stuck with the 13" scale throughout.

The 14" scale seems to have been used 1918ish up to Lange's Melody Banjo in 1923.

I also have the impression that the Melody Banjo was dying out about the time Lange introduced his models 1923-1925.

Does the Iucci Melody Banjo have an all metal pot like the Sinfinico tenor banjos?

vintagetenor - Posted - 11/11/2015:  12:45:54

Yes, it has a metal rim with an integral flange.  (Just like my Mellotone Grand that I sold in 1990.)  It has 19 frets.  To my eye, it has the same proportions as a full size tenor, just in miniature, with the exception of the peghead, which is full sized.

Edited by - vintagetenor on 11/11/2015 12:47:17

Banjohaven - Posted - 11/12/2015:  12:53:36

Thanks for posting all the good info Peter!

posted it up on my FB


Edited by - Banjohaven on 11/12/2015 12:54:13

NYCJazz - Posted - 11/13/2015:  07:10:43

That building on Broome St is still much the way it was in Iucci's day:

banjotrader - Posted - 11/13/2015:  07:41:29

Thanks Nathan, if you googlestreetview 238 Mott St, the details on the building are still exactly the same as:

NYCJazz - Posted - 11/13/2015:  09:40:02

You can get a nice 2 bedroom apartment in that building on Mott St for about 1.8 million dollars today!


G Edward Porgie - Posted - 11/24/2015:  13:55:54

So I guess Iucci shouldn't be pronounced "Yucky!"

banjotrader - Posted - 11/24/2015:  13:58:46

LOL! Likely not. Having had a conversation with a Iucci fellow lately, it is pronounced "you-chee".

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