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And another mountain banjo from New York City. "New York City??!!"

Posted by cbcarlisle on Saturday, March 3, 2012

This is a big shout out to everyone around the Big Apple. I bought a mountain banjo from the son (in PA) of the original owner. It had been in the family for at least 30 years. All the son remembers is that it was supposedly made by a paraplegic WWII veteran who made them as a hobby. He supposedly lived either in Brooklyn or Huntington, L.I. and he had a collection of Martin guitars. The man supposedly felled the tree from which he made the banjos. Of course, he also said it was "cherry" when it is clearly walnut. So much for the oral tradition.

It is 38 1/4" long with an 11 3/4" body and 6 1/4" head. The three piece body has flush rings and the top, which has a tab (but no fastener) is glued and pegged (screwed?), with 8 fasteners, to the center ring. The back, which has a pierced, 5-petaled daisy/star, has 7 screws and one on the tab. Both the top and bottom are made of rather narrow strips glued together in the following order: 5/8", 1 1/2", 2", 2", 1 3/4", 2", 1 1/2", 5/8" (reversed back to front). Obviously, the outer, 5/8" strips, were rounded out of a larger strip but the irregularity is interesting and unique in my experience. The inner, metal ring is thick aluminum with the skin attached to it with hose clamps. Also unique. There is a very thick polyurethane finish on it (which may or may not be original) but it has been sanded off in places and I will completely strip it. There have been several sets of pegs on it, including at least one geared set. The most interesting detail, however, is the way the neck is joined to the top ring of the pot. In most Watauga County banjos it is a simple, right-angled butt joint. In banjos known to be made by the Glenns (and, perhaps, Frank Proffitt, Sr.), on the other hand, the joint is a sophisticated Z-shaped joint. This may be characteristic of this sub-type. It was, certainly, the detail which blew my mind in 1963 when I saw my first one. I still am flabbergasted by the simple elan of that superfluous cut. The question arises: did this maker learn it, first-hand, from the source or was he as impressed by it as I was and decided to copy it?

There should be others out there. Does anyone else have one or recognize the maker's description? Pictures are in my New York Banjo album.



1 comment on “And another mountain banjo from New York City. "New York City??!!"”

ebenami Says:
Saturday, March 3, 2012 @7:12:23 AM

You'd be surprised at how many banjo players there are in NYC. Brooklyn especially.

-- Etan (from Brooklyn)

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