This one is a head scratcher, but I honestly think it's unlikely that Recording King actually built this prototype.
I have no affiliation with the seller of this banjo, nor am I interested in purchasing said instrument.
I am putting the link below for the SOLE purpose of seeing if the more knowledgable individuals in the banjo market, can conclusively tell whether the seller's banjo is exactly what he claims.
As I said in private email after you sent this to me today, the information in the listing makes it impossible for this banjo to have been by Recording King or its parent company The Music Link. The seller says he worked for Fender a long time ago and bought this banjo in 1985. Recording King as a company or other entity within TML didn't exist until 2007. TML was founded in 1998.
Scott Zimmerman made a Concert Tone prototype in 2001 to show Fender a possible offering should it re-enter the professional level banjo market. Here it is for sale at Turtle Hill Banjo.
I think it's possible the banjo for sale at Reverb was made in Korea after Fender production moved there from Japan. It could have been a prototype for a banjo higher up than the Leo or Leo Deluxe -- that eventually became the FB58 and 59.
I've written to seller to ask about the conflicting information of being made by Recording King and his owning it since 1985. Will report here if he writes back.
Scott Zimmerman or Greg Rich would be the ones who I would ask. This banjo has some strange features: No Concert Tone ID block, the armrest engraving is not the expected pattern, the flange is not engraved. Neck is 5-piece and maple. There were some Artists with Concert|Tone-style fingerboards, but I have never seen a curly maple resonator nor one with a sunburst. The Allegro had a plain maple sunburst resonator, but the Concert Tone and Artist were always walnut.
A real head-scratcher for sure.
Ken is correct, Recording King (rebooted) and TML did not exist in 1985 when this banjo owner states he worked at Fender and acquired it. That is confusing. If this seller worked in the industry, he/she should know this information already.
If it was acquired from Fender by a worker at Fender, would this not be a Fender? And given that origin, why would a Fender employee not know the pedigree of this banjo? Makes no sense to me. It seems there is a huge missing piece of this story...
If this is a prototype acquired from Fender, why would there be minor wear on the gold hardware? This indicates the banjo was played or used before it was acquired and stored all these years. Or why mention the absence of other dings or "buckle rash"? Huh? So it was a used prototype?
None of my observations are about value. Personally I think this is a little overpriced but if indeed it's one of a kind, maybe not.
Yeah, a head scratcher.
Edited by - banjoy on 11/27/2021 19:03:23
Thanks Ken for setting the record straight on my prototype
To be clear IT CANNOT be a Recording King AXL instrument in any way period.
In 1985 AXL didnt exist the only offshore source were Japan who made the Leo banjos at Moridaira and about the same time Moridaira stopped and banjos moved to Korea under Sam Ick, thats it the only choices, No USA banjos in 1985 the factory in Fullerton didnt exist, AXL didnt exist
I take it that you meant "TML" (The Music Link), when you wrote "AXL"?
Or is there a "TML" and an "AXL"?
Luke AXL is the parent company of the Music Link, the Music Link is just their American distribution company, world wide its always AXL
Thanks for the explanation.
I played a Fender Concertone during the 1970's. They were made in Fullerton, CA. They are good banjos. I don't know what they are worth in today's dollars but that is a bogus ad.
IF GRich actually had one, maybe he can enlighten us. If someone went to the trouble of making 2 flanges like the old ones, I would be surprised.
I had a very cordial exchange of messages with the seller, Steve Woolley. Didn't have enough time to report back yesterday. By the way, a quick bit of Googling confirms Steve really was at Fender a long time. This page on the NAMM website identifies him as a co-developer of Fender's Passport PA. Other search results show his name on numerous patents assigned to Fender. So the man is for real, even if the information he's sharing is a bit off.
No need for me to comment. I'll let you read the complete exchange, in order, and decide for yourself.
1 - My first message to Steve:
Hope you can clarify something. You say you bought this banjo in 1985 and that it's a prototype made by Recording King. But the current Recording King brand/company did not exist until 2007 -- the same year you say Greg Rich sold another one of these. Their parent company The Music Link was founded in 1998. So if the banjo was made in 1985, it had to have been made by someone else.
Could it have been made in Korea by Samick or some other company? Could it have been made earlier than 1985 in Japan by the same company that made the first Fender Leo banjos?
I'm guessing -- only guessing -- this was made to demonstrate that the Asian builder (whoever it was) could make a banjo similar to the California originals. Of course, those were walnut, but at least this one has the Fender flange instead of the Gibson style flange Fender ended up using on the FB58 and 59 and the renamed 2015 Concert Tones.
Appreciate any clarification.
2 - Steve's first reply to me
I actually said 'I was informed' this was made by Recording King. This information was through Larry Perkins who had spoken with Greg Rich. Greg's 'identical' banjo was a sample put together for Fender to give to an Asian manufacturer as a guide for what to make. Neither Greg nor Larry have questioned that it is other than a US made instrument and a twin to his one. Like I said I bought it from Fender where it was one of Eddie Rizutto's samples. I have a couple of other samples of acoustic guitars. All this was between 1982 and 1985 mid year.
3 - I write back to Steve
Thanks so much for your kind reply. Sorry I didn't read carefully enough. If Greg Rich was involved with it before '82, I guess it was through some other company. What's really interesting about this prototype is that it has the Fender flange, as I mentioned before. Fender ended up not using that in its Asian banjos.
Meanwhile, Turtle Hill Banjo Co. in Maryland has for sale a Concert Tone prototype made for Fender in 2001 by Scott Zimmerman that was intended to demonstrate a product for Fender's possible return to making professional level instruments. They didn't go through with it.
4 - Steve writes back:
My (late) pal Eddie Rizzutto was the acoustics marketing manager (from the Yamaha Invasion at Fender) in the early 80's through to his retirement. Eddie was from whom I got the banjo. I wish I'd listened to it's provenance more carefully at the time I acquired it. My claims for it's roots are based upon input from many others. I hope I am correct so far. What I do know is it's a really nice piece and I'm sad to part with it. But needs must.
And that's it.
Forget what I said before. I will comment. I think Steve has received some obviously incorrect information or is mis-remembering or conflating different things he's been told. But I don't think there's any intent to misrepresent. The banjo is certainly different from anything the rest of us have ever seen. No one here has talked about seeing Fender copies, so I think it's legit -- whatever it is. I think it's highly likely this was a prototype. I think pre-'85 would put it in the time between Fender discontinuing banjo production in California and the introduction of higher-level Leo banjos (the Deluxe, that became the Fender FB58 /59). I can believe Fender still had some flanges lying around in the early 80s that could have gone into a couple of prototypes for
Scott / desert rose: Do you know Steve or the other people he mentions? Does anything about his version of history jibe with your experience? In particular, what was the "Yamaha invasion" of Fender?
Paging Greg, grich
You're named in the Reverb.com ad for a rare Fender "prototype" banjo as having had something to do with making it. The owner, former Fender employee Steve Woolley, says he bought the banjo from the company in 1985. The ad claims you sold one just like it in 2007.
The ad says the prototype was made for Fender by Recording King, which is not possible seeing as your Recording King company did not exist until 2007 and TML didn't exist until 1998.
Can you shed any light?
Thanks Ken for posting that I worked with Steve as well. He is clearly just passing on heresay I promise he wouldnt know a four string from a five string banjo , NOT a bad guy!! A good guy just out of his league in banjos. The guy he mentioned Eddie Rizzuto was a good friend of mine at Fender as well
Originally posted by desert rose
Thanks Ken for posting that I worked with Steve as well. . . . A good guy just out of his league in banjos.
I see no intent to misrepresent. Just unawareness of bad information.
Do you agree that Steve's acquiring the banjo from within Fender in 1985 and the banjo supposedly being made between 1982 and '85 supports it being a prototype? If so, is my supposition plausible that it was a prototype for what Fender could have built in Asia as something higher than the original Leo?
Or, do you have any idea what it is or who might have made it?
Ken Correct about getting bad information and just passing it on nothing more.
Knowing Eddie Rizzuto and knowing the inner workings of Fender at this time Im SURE I know the source, its the same source as the Leo banjos and ALL of Fender acoustic guitars during the seventys and early eightys Moridaira Music, aka Morris banjos. I worked at the Moridaira factory for a couple years 1987 period.
'The Snowy Path' 1 hr
'Rickard Tubaphone' 2 hrs