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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Kay Banjo Ukulele — K5


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/382811

mikehalloran - Posted - 04/24/2022:  17:32:14


Look what I found in a throw-away box at a friend's house.



I've owned enough Kay instruments over the years that when I saw one fret marker in the pile of old clothes and junk, I didn't know what it was but I know who made it. Old Kay dot markers are an unnatural shade of white that can't be mistaken for anything else.



Anyway, except for the Grover Non-Tip bridge and strings, this is all original. The brackets, shoes and tailpiece are identical to my other Kay banjos while the screws that attach the neck to the pot and finish are identical to a solid body electric in my basement. In that same basement is a parts box with a plain maple 4 string Kay banjo bridge. The cap over the bottom of the pot appears to be the same type of rosewood that Kay used for fretboards.



It is 22.5" long with an 8" pot and a 14 1/8" nominal scale. The right soprano or concert ukulele gig bag should fit perfectly. I'll dress the tailpiece to remove any burrs or sharp edges and string it with a set of Aquila 23U strings—my go-to for these.



The only other one I can find online is this one with its rusty tailpiece, replaced tuners and neck hardware. He's guessing '40s – '50s.



Jake Wildwood — Kay Banjo Uke



I have no idea how old this is. Time to dig through catalogs to see if I can find it. Here are some pictures:


Edited by - mikehalloran on 04/26/2022 11:36:21







 

Dan Gellert - Posted - 04/24/2022:  18:23:21


Those keystone tuner buttons strike me as 50's style, but I don't know. Could be older.

mikehalloran - Posted - 04/26/2022:  10:57:29


quote:

Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Those keystone tuner buttons strike me as 50's style, but I don't know. Could be older.






Perhaps. Same tuners were on my '60s Harmony baritone ukulele so could also be newer.



The peghead shape first appears in the mid 1950s. Not sure when Kay stopped using flesh heads —"professional plastic head" first shows up in the 1966 catalog while "calfskin" is mentioned in '65 but no one can rely on that. 



Ukes didn't show up in the Kay guitar catalogs till 1966, unfortunately. A number of Kay instruments came and went from those catalogs including the upright bass and cello, both mainstays of school programs till the bankruptcy sale to Engelhardt-Link in 1968. Banjos don't show up in post War catalogs till 1952 but I'm not certain this means that none were produced between '44–'51.



My solid body electric with the same neck screws first shows uo in 1962 while my late '60s pressboard rim banjos have the same tailpiece and shoe/bracket sets.



Anyhow, I'm figuring that 1955–'65 for this ukulele is as good a guess as any. There are two banjo-ukuleles in this list, 1925–26 for Montgomery Ward and 1957 for the K5:



kayvintagereissue.com/pdf/kayhistory.pdf



There is zero wear on the brass frets. I've never had to replace the brass frets on any of my Harmony or Kay instruments, a few with thousands of hours of play on them.


Edited by - mikehalloran on 04/26/2022 11:08:47

Dan Gellert - Posted - 04/26/2022:  11:31:03


That peghead shape is so ubiquitous on ukes of all ages that I didn't even think about the mid-50s-60's Kay banjo peghead being essentially the same. If it was made then, it still looks to me like the design intent was "standard ukulele shape" rather than "current standard Kay shape". If they don't appear in Kay catalogs, how about Sears and Ward's?

mikehalloran - Posted - 04/26/2022:  11:34:45


I found the K5 in the 1959 catalog — the description matches. 



1959 Kay Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin catalog



 



 

talljoey - Posted - 04/27/2022:  01:01:39


I have a Kay banjolele that I bought about 8 years ago. It needed new pegs because the original ones were broken. The bridge is also new, as the one on it was cracked. Considering that this instrument had a tough life before I got it, it sounds sweet, and fun to play.

You will enjoy yours once you have it up and running.


Edited by - talljoey on 04/27/2022 01:02:27


 

mikehalloran - Posted - 04/27/2022:  12:13:30


quote:

Originally posted by Dan Gellert

That peghead shape is so ubiquitous on ukes of all ages that I didn't even think about the mid-50s-60's Kay banjo peghead being essentially the same. If it was made then, it still looks to me like the design intent was "standard ukulele shape" rather than "current standard Kay shape". If they don't appear in Kay catalogs, how about Sears and Ward's?






Point taken. In fact, S/V made the same uke but with a dowel stick and a few more brackets.



S/V banjo uke



Mine is unbranded but others are out there under many names. This guy is convinced that every one he's seen is from "the 40s".



Kay "Orpheus" Banjo Uke



including some with the Kay logo.



Kay K5 Banjo Uke



All of these have a 14" scale, a bit longer than my May Bells and an 8" head. The rim is a plywood tube sawed off with a cap like the Waverly rims that Vega used till the Martin era. S/V and Kay were skilled at making plywood and there's no reason to believe that they would have changed production.



I am guessing that, when Seeburg ('65) or Valco ('67) owned them in the late '60s and they went to pressboard rims, someone figured out that construction was not suited to the 2-screw neck attachment. Banjo ukuleles were not likely popular enough to justify changing to the new construction. There's also the possibility that these never survived the move to the new factory in 1964. It's unlikely that we'll ever know.



Because everything including the tuners, finish, plastic dot & nut material matches instruments I own from the 1960s, I'm pretty certain that this is a K5 from the '57 & '59 catalog made for who-knows-whom.



They aren't worth all that much which is ok—didn't cost me very much. I gave my friend a check to donate to the charity in lieu of the instruments I wanted. The case I have on order will be my biggest expense. If my kids want this, I'll throw on a set of those mini Gotohs that Bob sells; if not, I'll sell it with the tuners it has and let someone else make that decision—I have another set in a box.



 

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