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Mar 5, 2019 - 9:34:32 AM

265 posts since 4/2/2009

Sonny, Id put my Chiefs up against anything.....and be pretty sure they'd be "better than"!

Mar 5, 2019 - 9:41:56 AM

2322 posts since 4/5/2006

Good morning Sonny,

Fwiw: I've heard it said that Stelling banjo's have a sound all their own, and they can never be made to sound like a Mastertone, much less a pre war Mastertone. Who am I to say? Not having a reference by which to judge, I have to take their word for it. You may be the proof of that. You have played a lot of Mastertone's and that Gradana has spoiled you. cheeky The tone you are able to pull out of that banjo, especially on that recording of America the Beautiful, is nothing short of phenomenal!    

Have a great day

Edited by - monstertone on 03/05/2019 09:50:57

Mar 5, 2019 - 4:08 PM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

Mr. Jones...In my opinion.

The Stelling sounds good when you get it and will continue to sound basically the  same. 

No, I don't believe it will ever sound like an old Mastertone. Although I have heard some old Mastertones that didn't sound very good...To me. But Geoff's banjos are much better than most I have heard that were made after 1970, I guess. If you question me on this, go to Utube and dial up The Osborne Brothers Sweden medley, I doubt you'll find many that will sound better.

My Granada is in a category of one, alone, by itself.  

I should clarify I guess. If you work hard enough you can make a Recording King Scout (which was made for the advanced beginner)... sound good by changing a lot of parts. Jens Kruger has one of the best sounding banjos around. I don't know for sure but I would venture to say it has been altered. (I have no idea what brand of banjo he has)

My Chief banjo should improve with age. I have number 00 which was the first one made. June of 1998. Simple math says it's 21 years old this June and has been played a lot...And I emphasize LOT. It sounds awfully good. I've recorded with it and it "has it!" I'm hoping the rest of them will do well with age. 

My advise is this; Play it a bunch, set it up or have someone with banjo knowledge do it for you. 5/8 bridge, Remo plastic head tightened to about 89-91 on a drum dial. A lot after that is just preference. Meaning, what your ear tells you that you want to hear. 

Don Reno told me once that Earl was the absolute best at setting a banjo up he had ever seen. I think Frank Neat knows what it takes to accomplish that. Unfortunately I was never in that group of people and it took me forever and about a million hours, but once I had it sounding the way I wanted it to sound, I didn't want anyone to so much as breath on it. Look all you want but do not touch!devil

s

Edited by - TheChief on 03/05/2019 16:10:34

Mar 5, 2019 - 6:59:55 PM
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5746 posts since 10/13/2007

Sonny, Doesn't J.D. have one of the three in your Mastertone lot? And Earl's was the third? How do you feel they sound, what are the differences, compared to each other? I know J.D. will be at Bean Blossom this summer, and I would love to hear his recently acquired banjo. However, I doubt he will travel with it. I was surprised how he sold the banjos he had made famous and then acquired the one he has. It makes me smile that even someone of his stature and stage of career would still have banjo acquisition syndrome. To me that is forever young.
Thanks,
ken

Mar 6, 2019 - 5:33:15 AM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

Yep, there were three..9584-1, 2, and 3. Earls was number 3, mine was 2, and JD got 9584-1. Actually there was another one..9584-5...I think it's in Raliegh N.C. Their tones were similar yet slightly different. Set up I suppose..I've played them all. I like mine best for me, but I'm sure they feel the same. At lunch one day I accused JD of giving up the farm for it simply because Earl and I had the other two. He answered in his usual way by saying, "right!" I love Crowe like a brother! We've known one another about 65 years.

The reason he bought it was because they are the best five string banjos ever made..In my opinion.

But then to my surprise he went to Frank and had A Mahogany neck built and installed...Once again I saw my opportunity and accused him of doing that because it was rumored Earl had put a Mahogany neck on his 9584-3 back in he late 50's.. Well that word got out and several other Granada owners rushed to Frank and had Mahogany necks made...UNREAL. I'm reminded that Earl didn't keep that thing on there but for a short time.  JD, I have heard, has changed his back to the original curly Maple neck...ahem...as did Earl. UNREAL! 

I did have another neck made..Curly Maple...like the original because I nearly had the original neck broken...Thanks to a ceiling fan in Texas and Little Roy Lewis in Rural Hall, North Carolina. Funny thing about that, I couldn't tell any difference in the tone. But, Raymond McClain, who was working with Jim and Jesse at the time...on the way to the Opry was listening on the radio, asked; "Did you do something to your banjo? I noticed a slight difference in the sound." He was the only one who ever said anything about it...which says a lot for Raymond's ear. He would be good in a recording studio.. (one of the nicest people I have ever known)

I've written another book...I just don't know when to shut it down.

Edited by - TheChief on 03/06/2019 05:46:39

Mar 6, 2019 - 6:06:13 AM
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5746 posts since 10/13/2007

Facinatin' stuff Sonny - Thank you.

And if you don't mind, I am going to ask you another question. How much difference does the gold plating make. As I understand it, Earl had gold plating but most of it wore off. Do you think some banjos (neck and rim configuration) sound better with gold and some sound better with out it?

It is kind of a shame that Earl's banjo has turned into a museum piece and is not getting played, but I cannot think of an appropriate way to have it played on any regular basis.
ken

Edited by - From Greylock to Bean Blossom on 03/06/2019 06:11:20

Mar 6, 2019 - 10:01:44 AM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

Ken...speaking just for me, it seems as though Gold plating tends to soften the tone of a banjo. The RB3 I had was Nickel, or chrome and it always had a tinny sound as compared to the Granada. However, Aaron McDaris doesn't seem to have any problem getting a great sound from that banjo. Just meI guess.!

When I started building the Chief, they were all Gold. I thought they had a softer tone and sustain was a bit better. ...I've never had any complaints. I also prefer Gold strictly because it looks better...especially after it wears some. It doesn't look shiny but still has that gold tint...I like that. 

Earl's banjo didn't just wear off, he actually changed the parts to Nickel...that according to his son Gary. He changed everything but the tonering and it didn't seem to alter the tone one bit...Go figger... personal preference I reckon.

s

Edited by - TheChief on 03/06/2019 10:05:42

Mar 6, 2019 - 12:07:44 PM
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2322 posts since 4/5/2006

Sonny,

A long time ago, I heard there were only five original pre war 5 string Granada's made, & that Wade Mainer's was one the them. Might that be the NC banjo #5  you referred to? And if there really were five, where the hell is 9584-4?

Edited by - monstertone on 03/06/2019 12:09:01

Mar 10, 2019 - 8:32:02 AM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

No, I don't where that got started. To my knowledge there were 4 built by Gibson about 1934 with the serial number of 9584. 1,2,3,4,5. We were able to track down four of them...No. 1 Dave Osborne, No. 3 Earl, No.5 Tim Myatt, and No.2 Me. I know of several more five string Granada banjos but the group of four under discussion were all extremely good. None better in my opinion.

Wade's banjo was not one of those. Interesting banjo, the one Wade had.

Number 4 finally surfaced  as a top tension. Or so I'm told. I never saw it but I talked to Curtis McPeak on the phone some years ago and he told me he had 9584-4 and it was a top tension banjo. I don't know the history of that banjo, whether it is a plectrum, tenor, or five string, nor do I know of it's whereabouts at the present.. 

s

Edited by - TheChief on 03/10/2019 08:41:32

Mar 10, 2019 - 10:02:11 AM
Players Union Member

Pam W

USA

223 posts since 2/3/2005

Thanks for the reply Chief!

I took lessons from Mickey Flatt and really liked his mahogany Chief #1. I made a trip about ten years ago and stopped by Janet Davis Music and tried out a Stelling Master Flower and was hooked. I'm by no means worthy of such a banjo but I do love it. I wonder if the Tony Pass rim might have solved some of the issues you had with yours? Mine seems to stay in tune or very, very close even with weather swings. I'm pretty sure Geoff went to the Pass rim after you played the Son Flower.

You are right about Geoff and Sherry, they are good people. Sherry answered any questions I had by email and kept me updated on the progress from start to finish. I called the shop one day and Geoff answered the phone. I still prefer to do business with small businesses and true craftsmen like Geoff and Frank. That's why when I decided to write the big check it came down to Goeff and Frank. Didn't want to get off topic here to far but thanks for your insight on the Stelling. Who knows, I may still own a Chief yet. :)

Mar 11, 2019 - 8:19:46 AM

1185 posts since 4/8/2004

sonny, what about the granada crowe has, i heard it was #1 of the 9584 batch.

Mar 11, 2019 - 10:20:04 AM
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5746 posts since 10/13/2007

quote:
Originally posted by bluegrassboy

sonny, what about the granada crowe has, i heard it was #1 of the 9584 batch.


From Sonny's ost of March 6:

Yep, there were three..9584-1, 2, and 3. Earls was number 3, mine was 2, and JD got 9584-1. Actually there was another one..9584-5...I think it's in Raliegh N.C. Their tones were similar yet slightly different. Set up I suppose..I've played them all. I like mine best for me, but I'm sure they feel the same. At lunch one day I accused JD of giving up the farm for it simply because Earl and I had the other two. He answered in his usual way by saying, "right!" I love Crowe like a brother! We've known one another about 65 years.

The reason he bought it was because they are the best five string banjos ever made..In my opinion.

But then to my surprise he went to Frank and had A Mahogany neck built and installed...Once again I saw my opportunity and accused him of doing that because it was rumored Earl had put a Mahogany neck on his 9584-3 back in he late 50's.. Well that word got out and several other Granada owners rushed to Frank and had Mahogany necks made...UNREAL. I'm reminded that Earl didn't keep that thing on there but for a short time.  JD, I have heard, has changed his back to the original curly Maple neck...ahem...as did Earl. UNREAL! 

I did have another neck made..Curly Maple...like the original because I nearly had the original neck broken...Thanks to a ceiling fan in Texas and Little Roy Lewis in Rural Hall, North Carolina. Funny thing about that, I couldn't tell any difference in the tone. But, Raymond McClain, who was working with Jim and Jesse at the time...on the way to the Opry was listening on the radio, asked; "Did you do something to your banjo? I noticed a slight difference in the sound." He was the only one who ever said anything about it...which says a lot for Raymond's ear. He would be good in a recording studio.. (one of the nicest people I have ever known)

I've written another book...I just don't know when to shut it down.

Mar 15, 2019 - 9:58:39 PM

5833 posts since 7/12/2004

Dale Sledd had a prewar Granada, don't know if it was an original 5 string or not, Dale is My wife's cousin, But I don't know if He is still alive or not? Last I heard He was still living here in Mo. I remember back when Dale, and Patsy played to gather, Cause I'm 83 years old today, But I remember everything pretty well. Your pickin inspired Me very much THANKS. (Up This Hill And Down)

Mar 18, 2019 - 10:22:02 AM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

Lee...good to hear from you.

Up this Hill and Down was an inspired recording...;-) 

Dale has been gone since August 21 of 2016, Born April 23 of 1938..he was 79. Buried on Warsaw, MO.

He worked with us for 12 years and was one of three best rhythm guitar players I was associated with. Ray Edenton, Lester Flatt, and Dale.

His banjo was a pre war raised head, or arch top Granada that he took to Gibson in the late 50's and had a pre war flat tone ring installed which required cutting the rim. Some of the arch top conversions were not very good but Dale's Granada was good, probably th best one that I played. The sustain on that banjo was unreal. I played it some while he was with us. It was good. I don't know of it's whereabouts. I do know that he had some instruments stolen but I don't know whether the banjo was one of them.   I recorded with that banjo as did Dale. He and I played twin on some of our records. Not only the best guitar player, but he was a pretty good banjo and acoustic bass player as well.

If I can find a photo I will post it.

Mar 18, 2019 - 2:39:26 PM

1282 posts since 3/24/2006

quote:
Originally posted by pick1936

Dale Sledd had a prewar Granada, don't know if it was an original 5 string or not, Dale is My wife's cousin, But I don't know if He is still alive or not? Last I heard He was still living here in Mo. I remember back when Dale, and Patsy played to gather, Cause I'm 83 years old today, But I remember everything pretty well. Your pickin inspired Me very much THANKS. (Up This Hill And Down)


I know that banjo, it wasn't a 5 string and it wasn't a factory flathead........Sonny should know this banjo too, I heard rumor that it's the banjo that Sledd Ridin' was cut with. He can confirm or deny that rumor! Interesting story about that banjo , if there's any truth to it. Heard it was taken to Gibson in the mid/late 50's where it was cut and fitted with a gold plated flathead ring and that Gibson also built the curly maple FE neck that is on it. Again, Sonny will know and can confirm or deny. I know it's a pretty stout old banjo, if you like that kinda thing! 

Mar 21, 2019 - 7:07:42 AM

2994 posts since 3/6/2005

Hey Nobody;

You are partially correct. Dale took the banjo to Gibson and as I remember he stayed while they did the work. The tone ring was a prewar Flat ring. The neck, I believed to be the real deal, but if you know different, then I'm wrong. I discussed the rim cut and tone ring with Dale but the neck was never mentioned. Anyhow, that banjo was good and since you brought it up I seem to remember that I might have recorded "Sledd Riding" with his banjo. He helped write it so, why not...sounds reasonable and he would have liked that as well..

s

Mar 21, 2019 - 8:50:40 AM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

CHRIS SHARP....Who is he? I Know the name, but I can't put a face on it. I don't like to get into a ....ing contest but sometimes I feel it deserving. Of course, this being one of those times. 

Obviously MR. Sharp believes Lester Flatt to be a genius. I surely can't argue with the fact that Lester was good...but Genius? I have a problem with that. I've played with, and know some good, very good rhythm Guitar players...but GENIUS...that one hasn't surfaced yet...IN MY OPINION.

It was brought to my attention that MR. Sharp criticized my comment concerning the statement I had made about Guitar players  and actually said in a roundabout way that my knowledge was quite limited, when it came to timing and rhythm Guitar players.. I think I said Dale, Lester Flatt, Ray Edenton, were three of the best I had been associated with. These people I was associated with and definitely should be added to that list... Paul Brewster, Dana Cupp, Terry Eldredge, Jimmy Martin, and Red Allen, and...Doyle Lawson is a great rhythm Guitar player, but I was not professionally associated with him other than being friends for a hundred years...He, MR. Sharp (flat) also made a comment about the poor timing on our records. Well, In doing that he thought he was alluding to OUR BAND'S timing when actually he was criticizing; Terry Smith, Bob Moore, Ray Edenton, Grady Martin, Buddy Emmons, Hal Rugg, Weldon Myrick, Pig Robins, Pete Wade, Buddy Harmon, Willie Ackerman, Vassar Clements, Buddy Spicher, Blaine Sprouse, and Lightning Chance. Literally the best musicians in the world... and add to that, the best Producer ever, OWEN BRADLEY!

Remembering, when Lester and Earl left Bill Monroe they took the sound (which would include timing) with them and when Earl left Flatt and Scruggs the timing suffered without Earl, so......

 The old saying...IF A FISH KEPT IT'S MOUTH SHUT, IT WOULD STAY OUT OF TROUBLE......SO TRUE, HUH?

OK, I probably shouldn't have written this and that makes me the fish...it brings me down to that level and I don't like that, but sometimes I think the truth is necessary. If I have offended anyone with my way of thinking or my thoughts here, or anywhere else, Please accept my apology.

Edited by - TheChief on 03/21/2019 09:10:18

Mar 21, 2019 - 9:25:09 AM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

I said once in a post that Lester was a genius....I need to clarify that...He was a genius by sticking with Earl Scruggs....and a good rhythm Guitar player...

s

Mar 21, 2019 - 11:20:14 AM
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356 posts since 11/29/2007

Well said!

Mar 21, 2019 - 12:19:39 PM
Players Union Member

rbfour5

USA

1065 posts since 11/9/2010

Amen!

Mar 21, 2019 - 1:18:01 PM
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1282 posts since 3/24/2006

quote:
Originally posted by TheChief

Hey Nobody;

You are partially correct. Dale took the banjo to Gibson and as I remember he stayed while they did the work. The tone ring was a prewar Flat ring. The neck, I believed to be the real deal, but if you know different, then I'm wrong. I discussed the rim cut and tone ring with Dale but the neck was never mentioned. Anyhow, that banjo was good and since you brought it up I seem to remember that I might have recorded "Sledd Riding" with his banjo. He helped write it so, why not...sounds reasonable and he would have liked that as well..

s


Sonny, thanks for the reply and at least partial clarification. I say partial because (a) that's been a long time for you to remember details and (b) I'm just going off the story I was told when the new owner got it a few years back, so there is room for error for both of us. So....does mid/late 50's sound right for Dale to have taken it to Gibson? Your news on the neck and the ring will be of GREAT surprise to the new owner as he presumed that Gibson built the neck when they installed the ring......even he thought it odd with it being a Flying Eagle neck. The ring he also assumed was whatever they had at the time, although he did say that there was a "slight" chance that it could be an old one. Thanks again, it's nice to visit with you even if it's thru written word.

Robby Boone

Mar 21, 2019 - 2:27:27 PM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

Robby..

Dale and I had several conversations about that banjo. He told me it was 1958 he took it to Gibson. I understood the tone ring was one of the old ones. And, from experience that banjo sounded too good to be a 50's Gibson ring. I remember it to be a sweet sounding, easy playing instrument. Dale loved it and it surprises me that he would consider selling it. However, I remember once at the Early Bird Bluegrass Festival, at the Fairgrounds in Nashville. An older man came to me and offered $100,000. for my banjo. Dale looked at me and said, "God, I bet my banjo would bring a pretty good price." I missed Dale's presence in our band, the vocal, and Guitar was very hard to replace.

Gibson did in fact make some Granada banjos with the Flying Eagle inlay. Bud Rose and Wade Mainer had original Gibson five string Granada banjos with FE inlay. My banjo has Old style Hearts and Flowers.

 Good to talk to you Robby.

s

Mar 21, 2019 - 2:47:27 PM
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2994 posts since 3/6/2005

Robby...the neck, I just assumed it was an original five string. He never said it wasn't. I bet Lonnie Hoppers would know more about that.... if someone had some way to get in touch with him. He and Dale were pretty close friends at one time...earlier in their lives. 

Another thought came to mind concerning the tone ring. A 50's Gibson ring was not good enough to make a banjo sound as good as that one...and, If it didn't sound good I wouldn't have recorded with it. Having checked a bit further, Sledd Riding was recorded with Dale's banjo. It has been a long time ago, but I remember things....wink

s

Mar 21, 2019 - 4:24:49 PM
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Ebanjo

USA

2085 posts since 1/15/2007

Sonny, Thanks for telling it like it is concerning Mr. Sharp/Flat. I agree totally with what you said. And I may open a can of worms saying this, but that flat head ring in Dale Sledd's banjo (And I remember seeing you play it on stage at Pinnacle, N.C in the late 70's), could it have been left over from the 30's ? I know there's a self appointed expert or two that claim there were no pre war flat heads left over from that period. But I have also seen over the years that if you say "Gibson didn't do this or never done that", in time you'll find out they probably did. At least that's what I've seen happen more than once. Bet you have too.
Eric Ellis

Mar 21, 2019 - 8:12:20 PM

54 posts since 3/2/2009

Hi Sonny,

Hope you’re doing well. Haven’t seen you since John Hartford’s funeral.

"Obviously MR. Sharp believes Lester Flatt to be a genius. I surely can't argue with the fact that Lester was good...but Genius? I have a problem with that. I've played with, and know some good, very good rhythm Guitar players...but GENIUS...that one hasn't surfaced yet...IN MY OPINION."


In fact, I was agreeing with you:
"It takes more than just strapping a Guitar on, understanding what needs to be done, and more importantly...what doesn't need to be done. That separates the men from the boys. Lester Flatt was a genius." – Sonny Osborne Oct 7, 2015 - 11:05 AM



"He, MR. Sharp (flat) also made a comment about the poor timing on our records. "

Actually, you’re one of my musical idols, and I never said a single negative word about your recordings. They make up half of what I listen to all day every day (and have for at least the past 25 years). In fact, nearly everything I said about you in that post was complimentary despite the fact that you appear to have been told incorrect interpretations of cherrypicked quotes by someone who seemed to really want you to get angry.
Some of the live shows were pretty loose, and I’m not going to apologize for speaking the truth (that is what you wanted here?)

Here are some of my excerpts from the thread:

"They (The Osborne Brothers) are my desert island band. I think Sonny is a brilliant record producer, amazing banjo player, beautiful singer, and just amazing on many levels. His forte, however, is not judging rhythm guitar players. The only thing I have read that I agree with from him in this post is that Lester Flatt was a genius."
“Being great at what you do doesn't make you great at something else. Sonny Osborne is one of the most important people in my musical journey. If you ever heard any of my recordings then that would be clear. He does not, from what I can tell, know much about what makes a rhythm guitar player great. Noticing that is not an insult.”

About Dale Sledd:
"I always liked his playing on the country stuff. Minimal playing suits that sound very well. Not really effective on the F&S covers though."


I’m linking some music and posting a picture of the inside and back of a CD jacket in hopes that you’ll see how fond I am of your music. I have nothing to say about the quality of my music, but I can tell you that my goal as a musician has been to blend your music and F&S music together. Finally, I will tell you that while I love F&S, my favorite band has been and will always be The Osborne Brothers (and the Eagles).


I wrote this because your first sentence seemed to ask for a response. Although I hope I’ve demonstrated how much your music means to me, I stand by my opinions. I also want to make clear that though an insult was perceived, none was intended.

Best wishes,

Chris Sharp


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