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Mountain banjo from Kingsport, TN

Posted by cbcarlisle on Friday, March 2, 2012

I recently bought an unusual mountain banjo which was found in the area of Kingsport, Tennessee. The most distinctive aspect was that it had a top ring and a bottom ring but only small blocks around the edges for the middle ring. Paul Dolce remembers it being listed (perhaps sold) on eBay some months before I bought it in January 2012. It was screwed together with 8 iron threaded bolts with a square top section and round, mushroom-domed heads. (Someone will recognize them and tell me what they are.)  The square shanks were countersunk into the top ring and square iron nuts were attached to the back (I added brass washers). It is about 35" overall, with an 11 1/2" pot and a 7 1/2" head. There are no tabs from the body into the neck which is, therefore, one piece: the entire 2" depth of the body. There was a thin, narrow wooden splint which was tacked over with a piece of chamois-like suede which was non functional. Though the splint had many tack holes in it and looked as if it might have originally held a skin head, I could find no method by which it could be reinstalled so I replaced it with a full height 1 5/8" metal ring from a cookie tin. There were some faint marks but no definitive evidence of a center bent rim having been originally installed. Knowing, however, that this construction method was used by some North Carolina makers, I installed an alder splint between the top and bottom rings with a block at the tail position for support (to counteract the pressure of the tightened bolts). The  banjo is made of walnut with a distinctive peghead design and was covered with a rather thick, modern finish which I removed. The original(?) string holder was a piece of sheet metal held by the endmost bolt which I replaced by a rosewood block at the end, between the top and bottom. Except for the items mentioned above, the instrument seems to be within the range of variation of Western North Carolina homemade mountain banjos. I would be interested in hearing about other banjos with similar features.

Pictures may be seen in the album, "Kingsport banjo."

3 comments on “Mountain banjo from Kingsport, TN”

Old Man Says:
Saturday, March 3, 2012 @4:22:37 AM

Kingsport is my home town .I live about 4 miles from Kingsport city limits just across the Virginia line. I am interested in this keep us posted.

iSteve Says:
Saturday, March 3, 2012 @8:24:53 AM

I, too, am from Kingsport, but now live in Richmond, VA. I would be interested to know where you bought it. A dealer? Store? Individual? Just curious.

cbcarlisle Says:
Saturday, March 3, 2012 @8:22:15 PM

I got it from a fellow who bought it from an estate "in the Kingsport area."

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