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Nov 22, 2020 - 10:52:45 AM
5 posts since 11/22/2020

I'm a 100% novice when it comes to banjos, but my late Grandfather most certainly wasn't.

Apparently he played for a while with Troise & his Banjoliers and luckily his banjo is still in the family.

We took a look at it today, the first time for years, and it's a stunner.

The case is labelled as Clifford Essex & Son, 15a Grafton St, I'm assuming it's the original case.

The banjo is a 5 string Paragon.

I've attached a few photos but wondered if there are any particular identifying marks that may help date this beautiful instrument.

Any help or suggestions would be hugely appreciated




 

Nov 22, 2020 - 11:12:47 AM
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1153 posts since 5/19/2018

That is an amazing instrument . Extremely high quality and valuable to players of classic finger style banjo playing.

I am not an expert on British made Banjos on any level, but I know a fine instrument when I see one, and your Grandfathers instrument is certainly one of those. There are experts here who can give you an accurate date, but I would say late 1920’s to early 1930’s on that.

Please post more photos. If you can easily take off the back, do not force anything, there may be some serial numbers inside where an exact date can be determined. Please post photos of the inside and any serial numbers. Please also post some more photos so the experts here can weigh in with some real info.

My suggestion, keep it in the family and learn to play it. You would be very hard pressed to find a finer quality instrument.

Nov 22, 2020 - 11:34:19 AM

mycall

UK

5 posts since 11/22/2020

Thank you so much for your reply.

I'll take some more photos next weekend when I go to my Fathers house again and post them on here. It looks like it may need a bit of TLC at the back as there is what appears to be a slight crack where it fixes together. I'll photograph that too and post it.

I'm loathe to even attempt to try and take the back off, would rather leave that to someone who is more familiar with the instrument than I am.

From googling the company, it seems Clifford Essex & Son traded as that name from that address between 1919 and 1936 so that makes your date pretty accurate.

Thanks once again and I'll post more photos next week - and yes I'd love to learn to play it

Nov 22, 2020 - 11:44:13 AM
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185 posts since 11/4/2009

Ooh yeah!

Nov 22, 2020 - 12:05:53 PM
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838 posts since 6/25/2006

As Alvin says, vintage Clifford Essex banjos are prized by classic-style banjo players - worth posting questions/photos here also: classic-banjo.ning.com/
Paragon tenors are more sought after than the 5string version unfortunately but still very nice example with what looks like original case.
Have you found any related items (photos, sheet music etc) owned by your banjo playing grandfather? That would add value.

Nov 22, 2020 - 12:11:49 PM

mycall

UK

5 posts since 11/22/2020

Thanks, will do that once I have some more photos.

I'll check with my Dad if there any other things I can try and find

Nov 22, 2020 - 12:12:09 PM
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793 posts since 1/30/2019

Here is the 1928 catalogue. The Paragon is on page 6 archive.org/details/CliffordEs.../mode/2up
25 Guineas in 1928 (according to the first website I came across...) would be the equivalent of around £1600 now. If it's all there and in good condition it's probably worth more now, but I'm not an expert on these. Somebody will come in soon with some real expertise in sure.....

Nov 22, 2020 - 12:18:30 PM
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5727 posts since 9/21/2007

Cool banjo! And the family connection is even cooler!!

You cannot use the address to date a CE banjo. The Paragon model was introduced in early summer of 1924. The "Professional" tailpiece was introduced about that time as well. So your banjo is no earlier than that.

I believe that the Paragon was offered up to WW2 when supply restrictions and lack of skilled labor shut production down for CE. In 1941 they changed the Paragon to a top tension like the Regal. It was short lived and I don't think they were ever produced again after the war

You could establish a better timeline by reading all of the BMG issues here...

classic-banjo.ning.com/page/bmg-magazines

It is not a complete set (we are always looking to fill in the gaps), but you will likely find many mentions of Troise & his Banjoliers and even your Grandfather by name if he was a member of a local BMG club.

Go ahead and join the classic-banjo.ning site and introduce yourself. I'll bet some members over there will have known your Grandfather.

Is your Grandfather one of these guys?

youtube.com/watch?v=D5nISX43wzU
youtube.com/watch?v=H7wvFdYP-vs

It looks like they were a plectrum band. While many people played with a pick on 5 strings, chances are by the 30s they would have a plectrum banjo.

Is there any sheet music with it? Manuscript arrangements?

As stated, these make fine "classic" banjos, fingerstyle on nylon strings.

Sadly the only value in them currently is for converting them to tenor banjos for Irish session playing. But I do recommend restringing it correctly with nylon and learning to play. The current version of Clifford Essex will have contacts who could refurbish it, repair the fingerboard near the rim that is chipping away, address the fret wear, and check out the resonator (which tend to self destruct). Just don't let them change the angle of the neck or replace the tuners with modern pegs. And if you have fret work done, have them match the size and not go larger.

Thanks for sharing!

Nov 22, 2020 - 1:00:19 PM

mycall

UK

5 posts since 11/22/2020

Thank you everyone for taking the time to reply, your advice, information and suggestions are all much appreciated.

p.s. Joel, I don't think he is in those videos, the only guy he could be is the one front left but i'm not too sure

Edited by - mycall on 11/22/2020 13:04:41

Nov 23, 2020 - 7:52:48 AM
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632 posts since 5/4/2014

Here is the most updated dating information that I put together. You cannot use the address to date it, it's been debunked a thousand times over.
https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/351714

Could you please send me a picture of the serial number, so I can catalog it?

Nov 23, 2020 - 9:40:33 AM

mycall

UK

5 posts since 11/22/2020

quote:
Originally posted by banjotrader

Here is the most updated dating information that I put together. You cannot use the address to date it, it's been debunked a thousand times over.
https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/351714

Could you please send me a picture of the serial number, so I can catalog it?


Thank you  - what a wealth of information.

I understand that I need to get the back off to find the serial number, and I'm loathe to fiddle with things I don't understand and potentially cause some damage in the process.

I'll pick it up from my Dads next weekend and seek some advice from there once I have it with me

Nov 23, 2020 - 9:44:24 AM

632 posts since 5/4/2014

there is one large thumb screw on the rear of the resonator, after manually unscrewing it, the resonator will just lift off without any effort

Nov 23, 2020 - 9:45:37 AM

879 posts since 2/17/2005
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wow, would love to see closer higher quality pics of all of it!!

Nov 23, 2020 - 1:23:59 PM

5727 posts since 9/21/2007

I forgot to add, these were the highest priced banjos offered by CE. And that is saying something as they catered to the upper class. Metal work on CE banjos tends to be exceptional. One will sometimes run into twisted necks though.

I own three CE banjos (Metal Hoop Special, Concert Grand, and Professional) and they are great banjos. I consider the Specials and up to be "high end" banjos of any era, and the Paragon was the highest.

You can see some of the features in the catalog description here...

archive.org/details/CliffordEs.../mode/2up

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