1929 BACON & DAY, OLD SILVER BELL No. 1, FIVE STRING BANJO
Hand built by Fred Bacon himself.
Is it a Museum piece, collector’s item, pride and joy of a professional musician, or just craved by someone like me who wants a sound like no other banjo ever made? Actually it is all of those. Stored in a dehumidified Calton thick lined case for the last twenty years, it looks like it did the day it left the factory. The only change I made was to change the keys from the original flammable Ivorid to real mother of pearl. As the photos show, the silver looks like it did in 1929. Plus, it is something no one else has. It is capable of a sweet and soft sound to play with a Philharmonic Orchestra with the resonator bolted on, or take it off and dig into the loud lively banjo music of country music or possibly mournful folk tunes. I've never heard any other banjo that sounds this good. Fred Bacon's genius along with 90 years of aging has resulted in a quality of sound and tone that reminds me of a 60 year old rosewood Martin D 28.
After all, It is not just a Silver Bell, it is Old Silver Bell No. 1.
This nearly 100 year old banjo is one that few musicians have ever even heard of much less ever seen one nor certainly never played one. I bought it 20 years ago from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where it was stored by a widow lady in a temperature controlled unit for over thirty years after her husband died. One of the photos shown displays the serial number, Old No. 1, and a also number hand carved which is 0192. That is the number Fred Bacon carved into this banjo to show the number of banjos he had personally made. The husband of the widow lady from whom I bought this banjo, died when he was eighty. He knew Fred Bacon personally and knew this banjo was made by Mr. Bacon since he was one of the Bacon and Day dealers for many years before he died. He ran a music store and told her to sell it only when she ran out of money late in her own life. Before that it came to California from Groton, CT where it was made. I paid her $10K for it in 1999. The musician who took it out of storage up there confirmed that only two strings were a little flat—AFTER ALL THAT TIME. Otherwise it played perfectly just like it still does, only now with new strings of course. I have also owned several Vegas and Gibsons. I have played banjos for 40 years. I played a 1926 Vega Artist for a long time. I even had Wyatt Fawley extend that one into a long neck, but I can tell anyone honestly that nothing sounds as sweet as this Bacon and Day Silver Bell Old No. 1. It has a ring that just fills a room but without a twang. It leaves it’s tone in the room as clear as a bell—hence that part of the name. Even Earl Scruggs would have loved this banjo. I was tempted to put a set of Scruggs gears on it, but instead put them on my long neck. Dave Guard would have loved them if he had tried them.
There is a big reason for this. In the mid 1920’s David Day left the Vega Co. where he was the plant manager to join Fred Bacon in order to form Bacon and Day. They mostly made four string riverboat models at that time because Dixieland was the big banjo music craze of that era. Mr. Bacon was a senior master craftsman, luthier, and banjo designer whose work was unparalleled. He could not keep up with his personal orders for the four string banjos and needed Mr. Day to run several employees to keep up with that demand. However, Mr. Bacon’s own true passion was a five string banjo and when the rare order came in for one he made it himself in its entirety. After all, that is what he played himself. Most of his 5 string customers were professional musicians, and that could still be who will want this banjo now as well. One thing is for sure. They won’t run into another one like this no matter if they play with Willie, The Boss, at the Grand Ole Opry, or any other group.
I also had a Calton case made and molded for it to preserve it. Sadly, arthritis has decided to invade my fingers to the point that I can no longer play this majestic instrument. All the silver work, frets, resonator, and woodwork are just the same as when it left the factory—all pristine.
What few five string Bacon and Day Old Silver Bell No. 1 banjos that still exist are mainly in the hands of collectors, or maybe poorly cared for and trashed.This is Fred Bacon's work from later in his life when he had the advantage of all his life’s work and knowledge to pour into this banjo. This is an ultra rare instrument. I’ve played banjos for 40 years, hung around music stores during that time, and met many banjo players and got to see their banjos up close. I played a 1926 Vega Artist for many of those years, and in fact, I had it converted into a long neck by Wyatt Fawley, but I have never played a banjo that can compare with this one. This is of course, my personal take on this instrument, but I have no doubt that whoever owns it next will heartedly agree with me. This banjo has been a sort of a love affair for me. The dang arthritis is the only reason I am parting with this banjo. Looking at it and knowing I am no longer able to enjoy it is just depressing me. At least I will always have the memories, and man oh, man what memories they are. Thank you Fred Bacon wherever you are after this life.
I have more photos. If you wish to see them contact me, I will email them to you.
Thank you for looking,
United States, NC, 28790
To be determined by where it has to be shipped.
Cash (in person), Paypal
Payment Option Notes:
PayPal is preferred, but USPS Money Order will be OK too.
Returns not accepted.
Condition of Item(s):
Used - Mint Condition
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