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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Seeger-Owned Banjo


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/311914

Joe Connor - Posted - 11/30/2015:  16:37:22


There is currently a Vega longneck in the classifieds listed for $8,900. The seller states that it was originally owned by Pete Seeger, who gave it to Bernie Krause (who replaced Frank Hamilton, who replaced Erik Darling, who replaced Pete in the Weavers). banjohangout.org/classified/54499  The authentication seems to be a letter signed by Krause.



In 2014, there was an inquiry about how to authenticate the Krause/Seeger banjo, which I assume is the same one.



banjohangout.org/archive/282571 



There was also a recent thread in the longneck group concerning the Krause/Seeger banjo



 banjohangout.org/group/longnec...blog/8995



I had always heard that Vega gave Pete two PS-5s: one was later given away (amidst some acrimony) in a Sing Out! subscription contest and the other was given away later as a prize in a contest to raise funds for the Clearwater. Where'd this one come from? What does everyone think of the price, which is considerably higher than the recent price for Erik Darling's Vega long-neck? Are there any questions concerning the provenance? I'm not a potential buyer; I'm just curious. 



Edited by - Joe Connor on 11/30/2015 16:45:59

BobLusk - Posted - 11/30/2015:  18:26:51


This is not of course any kind of authentication, but I've known the seller, David Bernz for a long time and he is one of the more honest people in this world - and he grew up living next door to Pete, and he plays Pete in "Work of the Weavers" and he produced albums for Pete and... but you get the idea.



Bob Lusk


BobLusk - Posted - 11/30/2015:  18:30:26


I would also be curious about the leather banjo bag that comes with it. In his How to book, Pete describes making a bag for a long neck banjo - the bag may in fact have been one that he (Pete) had made.

Joe Connor - Posted - 12/01/2015:  05:20:48


Bob, that's an interesting point about the case. The design in Pete's book is pretty distinctive so it would probably be pretty easy to tell if the case might have been one of Pete's home-made cases. As I looked at that design last night, it really reinforced just how clever Pete was. His brain must have always been running full blast 24/7.


Stringsinger - Posted - 12/01/2015:  06:58:33


I don't and didn't know anything about it.  This is the first I've heard.


Stringsinger - Posted - 12/01/2015:  07:01:10


As far as I know, Erik's banjo is in the Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City.


mikehalloran - Posted - 12/01/2015:  17:06:49


>I had always heard that Vega gave Pete two PS-5s: one was later given away (amidst some acrimony) in a Sing Out! subscription contest and the other was given away later as a prize in a contest to raise funds for the Clearwater. Where'd this one come from? What does everyone think of the price, which is considerably higher than the recent price for Erik Darling's Vega long-neck? Are there any questions concerning the provenance? I'm not a potential buyer; I'm just curious. <



As far as I can tell, this wouldn't be either of those two banjos. 



There is an interview with the owner of Vega at the time where he told about giving the two banjos to Pete. It was clear that this was, in part, to correct the fact that they hadn't gin him one earlier – also he had declined a royalty for putting his name (later he called that a mistake). Interviews where Pete talks about the two Vegas exist also. There is no mention of this earlier PS-5 in any of them. 



It's entirely possible that he owned another Vega. If so, it was probably given to him and he likely gave it away. There is no provenance on who may have given it to Pete, however. If it was a prototype given to him contradicts his and Vega's version of the later two banjos. That part of the story is probably not true.



It most certainly isn't this Vega, the heart of the Sing Out! mess:







Edited by - mikehalloran on 12/01/2015 17:12:27

Joe Connor - Posted - 12/02/2015:  08:05:37


It will be very interesting to see how much this banjo eventually sells for. The asking price is more than twice what a Vega long-neck of that vintage usually goes for. The high price is undoubtedly based on its provenance, but does the provenance justify the price?



1. Bernie Krause was with the Weavers only at the end of their career (1963-64). I believe the only two albums he appeared on were the two Reunion at Carnegie Hall albums, and I'm not sure he played banjo at that concert. The album cover shows him playing guitar, and the other three banjo-playing Weavers (Seeger, Erik Darling and BHO member Frank Hamilton) also played at that concert. Thus, I doubt that the Krause connection justifies the price.



2. The Seeger connection is the key. However, that connection is not clear. How did Seeger acquire it? For how long did he own it? Did he tour with it? Did he record with it? Are there any pictures of him playing it? The more that banjo can be tied to Seeger, the more value it will have to collectors. 



3. I'm not questioning anyone's honesty or good faith, but you have to be careful about provenance based on a person's recollection of something that happened 50+ years ago. I seem to recall that a few years ago, someone was selling a baseball mitt that was supposedly a mitt that Joe DiMaggio had used. The authentication was a letter of authenticity signed by DiMaggio himself. A sharp-eyed collector went to the company that made the mitt and found out that that model mitt wasn't made until after DiMaggio had retired. Certainly, acquiring a banjo from Pete Seeger is more memorable than a player acquiring one of dozens of mitts that he may have used during his career, but the point is that memory often fades with the years. 



Edited by - Joe Connor on 12/02/2015 08:08:53

mikehalloran - Posted - 12/03/2015:  08:24:35


Pete Seeger was not the most reliable source of information on the banjos that he played. I'm pretty certain that he didn't consider much of that important enough to get the timeline right in interviews.



Hid did once say that many people had given him banjos over the years and he was known for giving them away now and then. Could he have given that banjo to Krause? Sure. Was it sent to him by Vega for approval? Hard to believe that neither Pete nor Vega would have remembered such a banjo. Where did it come from? We will never know for certain. $8K? Only if someone pays it. 



Bernie Krause along with Paul Beaver was one of the pioneers of the Moog Synthesizer. I'd be more interested in the instrument he played on George Harrison's Wonderwall album. Krause played nearly everything on it and Harrison owned the instrument. 



The only Vega PS-5 that Pete Seeger is known to have toured with is the blonde in the picture, the heart of the Sing Out! Mess. That's the only PS-5 I can think of worth that much. That's the banjo he played in that Australian video and on Sesame Street — I saw him play it in San Francisco in the 1970s. 



Heck, I'd sell my blonde for $8,000. It looks just like Pete's touring banjo. 



Edited by - mikehalloran on 12/03/2015 08:32:30

mikehalloran - Posted - 12/03/2015:  08:41:16


I got my banjo from Marc Silber. Marc had a banjo once owned by Pete and I have played it. Perhaps, someday, I will get these confused and will start 'remembering' that Marc got mine from Pete. After all, Marc sold his sister's Nick Lucas to Bob Dylan and it's the guitar most identified with him.



Ok... I got it. My banjo was given to Bob by Pete and Marc got it in trade for the Nick Lucas... Damn, I'd better be careful or I might remember it that way in 30 years.


Fud - Posted - 12/03/2015:  10:30:59


Excellent riff, Mike. ;-)

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