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Bacon Silver Bell 6-string banjos, information and history?

Apr 19, 2024 - 1:05:04 PM
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343 posts since 1/1/2016

Hi Gang,

Does anyone know of any good sources of info? Stuff like total production number, what years they were made, what the variations were, nickel or silver plated, were there non-Silver Bell versions, etc?

I've recently started taking guitar lessons at my local library and I'm using my Bacon 6-string banjo. I guess I'm not so much "learning to play the guitar" as I'm learning to play guitar chords, rhythms, tabs, and such.

By the way, my guitar class is right after the weekly Ukelele Jam Session where I'm trying to recruit Uke players and convince them to play 17-fret Tenors tuned as Ukes but played with a pick/plectrum. Gold Tone likes the idea and might be coming out with production item intended for this.

I'm quite the novelty in class to the teachers and the other students, but I have found that with my general Silver Bell knowledge about 4 and 5-string banjos, I know very little about the 6-string versions.

I know they are rare (as in low overall original production) and that the American Banjo Museum's collection includes a really nice example, but not much else.

Here's the one that I acquired from Noam Pikelny a couple of years ago. It has the plain (Presto?) tailpiece and not an Oettinger, something I'd like to upgrade at some point. And yes, I have talked to Lyndon in the U.K., he's not making the reproductions anymore...

Photo album of the SB 6-string banjo

  • What I can confirm about it is that its s/n #25362 which would indicate roughly late-1920s manufacture.
  • 11 1/2 inch head
  • 6-string tailpiece, but NOT an Oettinger.
  • It DOES have a Soft Pedal Mute (though not currently installed) with the corresponding hole in the pot WITH a metal insert bushing. I guess this kind of confirms that the Soft Pedal Mute was the grandfather to the "Whammy Bar" on later guitars devil
  • The resonator flange is F-hole stamped all the way around, its not "blank" under where the neck heel would be.
  • The Resonator screw nuts are welded/soldered on like early Silver Bells and DOES NOT have the anchor holes in the pot drilled through like later models like the Montanas that had threaded inserts.
  • The dowel stick is BLANK, no model name/number OR corresponding serial number to the pot (odd, right?).
  • And for a little extra "cool factor", its got a 17/32" Farquhar bridge plus a spare in the case along with what looks like an ORIGINAL or period correct bridge.
  • Otherwise, it looks like it has the standard SB hardware, i.e. tuners and such.

Apr 19, 2024 - 1:24:06 PM

jbalch

USA

8940 posts since 11/28/2003

Looks like that banjo was listed in Polle Flauno's database as a GB from 1928. 

That list is incomplete (and unverified?).  But a quick look indicates very few guitar-banjo (GB) models.

You can still view the database on the wayback machine internet archive:

wayback machine
 

You said that Lyndon in the U.K., is not making the reproduction Oettingers any longer.  I assume you know that he still posts regularly on FB when he ships new 4 and 5-string  tailpieces. Has he stopped making 6-string tailpieces?  Maybe he doesn't cast the back plates for 6-string versions now...?

Edited by - jbalch on 04/19/2024 13:37:51

Apr 19, 2024 - 2:26:32 PM
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3542 posts since 4/7/2010

quote:
Originally posted by cebracher

 It has the plain (Presto?) tailpiece and not an Oettinger, something I'd like to upgrade at some point. 

The tailpiece looks like the 6-string tailpiece that Gold Tone offered 10 years ago.

 

Bob Smakula

Apr 19, 2024 - 7:12:42 PM
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csacwp

USA

3353 posts since 1/15/2014

There are a number of these out there. I've personally seen more than ten or so of them. Yours appears to have the later, extra-wide flange, making it quite rare.

Apr 22, 2024 - 3:09:53 PM

343 posts since 1/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by csacwp

There are a number of these out there. I've personally seen more than ten or so of them. Yours appears to have the later, extra-wide flange, making it quite rare.


That's cool, thank you!

Apr 22, 2024 - 3:16:32 PM
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343 posts since 1/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by jbalch

Looks like that banjo was listed in Polle Flauno's database as a GB from 1928. 

That list is incomplete (and unverified?).  But a quick look indicates very few guitar-banjo (GB) models.

You can still view the database on the wayback machine internet archive:

wayback machine
 

You said that Lyndon in the U.K., is not making the reproduction Oettingers any longer.  I assume you know that he still posts regularly on FB when he ships new 4 and 5-string  tailpieces. Has he stopped making 6-string tailpieces?  Maybe he doesn't cast the back plates for 6-string versions now...?


Yes, I'm aware that Lyndon is still making 4- & 5-string Oettingers. I bought the last one of his solid nickel-silver 4-string versions just a couple of months ago.

I'm sorry I wasn't more clear, but given the nature of the post I figured that people would understand that I was ONLY referring to Lyndon's 6-string versions when I made that statement.

And thank you for looking it up in Polle's database. I wasn't aware it was still available in any form. I miss him, we had some good chats over the years regardless of how he was regarded in the banjo community.

That said, I'm still looking for information on the Bacon guitar banjos.

Edited by - cebracher on 04/22/2024 15:17:11

Apr 22, 2024 - 3:25:12 PM

343 posts since 1/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by Bob Smakula
quote:
Originally posted by cebracher

 It has the plain (Presto?) tailpiece and not an Oettinger, something I'd like to upgrade at some point. 

The tailpiece looks like the 6-string tailpiece that Gold Tone offered 10 years ago.

 

Bob Smakula


Interesting, good to know. I guess I won't feel bad if I'm able to locate an Oettinger and replace it.

Apr 22, 2024 - 3:46:45 PM
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13132 posts since 10/27/2006

Are those geared or straight tuners on that bad boy?

Apr 23, 2024 - 12:04:40 PM
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dutchtenor

Netherlands

59 posts since 7/6/2011

Beautiful! Never saw one “live”. Also, no 6 string B&D’s on Guenter Amendt’s website (though his focus is merely on 4 string banjo’s). And I never saw one for sale on auctions or anywhere else. That does not say anything, but it gives an indication (I own several B&D’s).
Could you post some more pics, just for fun? It looks like it has all the Silver Bell #1 details.
Congrats, hope you can find a 6 string Oetinger!
By the way, Polly’s database -may he rest in peace- is quit a good indicator for production years.

Apr 23, 2024 - 1:32:25 PM
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15023 posts since 1/15/2005

Is the pot the same size as the tenor and plectrum Silver Belles? I sold a pot to Buddy Wachter and I think he told me it was particularly desirable because it was a tad larger.

Apr 25, 2024 - 12:36:04 PM

343 posts since 1/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

Are those geared or straight tuners on that bad boy?


Geared and they hold a tuning quite nicely. No complaints for a nearly century old instrument. I've been playing it weekly at least lately although I should be practicing daily with it.

Chris

Apr 25, 2024 - 12:41:23 PM
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13132 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by cebracher
quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

Are those geared or straight tuners on that bad boy?


Geared and they hold a tuning quite nicely. No complaints for a nearly century old instrument. I've been playing it weekly at least lately although I should be practicing daily with it.

Chris


Cool. Since we are neighbors, we'll have to make a play date to look at each others' banjos sometime soon.

Apr 25, 2024 - 12:49:44 PM
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csacwp

USA

3353 posts since 1/15/2014

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoLink

Is the pot the same size as the tenor and plectrum Silver Belles? I sold a pot to Buddy Wachter and I think he told me it was particularly desirable because it was a tad larger.


The head should be 11.5'' in diameter like the other Silver Bell guitar banjos that I've seen.

Apr 25, 2024 - 12:53:25 PM
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343 posts since 1/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoLink

Is the pot the same size as the tenor and plectrum Silver Bells? I sold a pot to Buddy Wachter and I think he told me it was particularly desirable because it was a tad larger.


It's bigger, the head is 11 1/2 inches and the resonator measures 14 inches across the back of the resonator.

I know that Bacon produced some banjos with 12 inch heads, so it's not the largest they did, but its significantly bigger than a regular SB.

Chris

Edited by - cebracher on 04/25/2024 12:54:10

Apr 25, 2024 - 12:58:36 PM

343 posts since 1/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran
quote:
Originally posted by cebracher
quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

Are those geared or straight tuners on that bad boy?


Geared and they hold a tuning quite nicely. No complaints for a nearly century old instrument. I've been playing it weekly at least lately although I should be practicing daily with it.

Chris


Cool. Since we are neighbors, we'll have to make a play date to look at each others' banjos sometime soon.


Yes, for sure!!

I practice with the Peninsula Banjo Band every Thursday evening at St. Andrews Church in Room 40 (that's the building near the flag poles) on Saratoga Ave. across from the Library at 6:30pm. We also have connections to the South Bay Traditional Jazz Society and similar groups.

To do a Show-and-Tell of my collection will take a couple of hours, we'll have to plan an afternoon for that.

Chris

Apr 25, 2024 - 1:04:15 PM

343 posts since 1/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by dutchtenor

Beautiful! Never saw one “live”. Also, no 6 string B&D’s on Guenter Amendt’s website (though his focus is merely on 4 string banjo’s). And I never saw one for sale on auctions or anywhere else. That does not say anything, but it gives an indication (I own several B&D’s).
Could you post some more pics, just for fun? It looks like it has all the Silver Bell #1 details.
Congrats, hope you can find a 6 string Oetinger!
By the way, Polly’s database -may he rest in peace- is quit a good indicator for production years.


Yeah, when I saw the mention of it on Facebook in one of the banjo groups, I jumped on it right away. I didn't even haggle over the price not knowing when or if I'd ever seen another for sale.

Did you see the link to the photo album I posted, lots more pics there....
Photo album of the SB 6-string banjo

I do have one lead on a 6-string Oettinger, but I haven't talked to the person yet. If they have one, I'm fairly certain they will sell it to me.

Actually this banjo is already in Polle's database, another poster found it and reported that it seems to be 1928 manufacture.

Chris

Apr 25, 2024 - 3:14:07 PM
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13132 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by cebracher
quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran
quote:
Originally posted by cebracher
quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

Are those geared or straight tuners on that bad boy?


Geared and they hold a tuning quite nicely. No complaints for a nearly century old instrument. I've been playing it weekly at least lately although I should be practicing daily with it.

Chris


Cool. Since we are neighbors, we'll have to make a play date to look at each others' banjos sometime soon.


Yes, for sure!!

I practice with the Peninsula Banjo Band every Thursday evening at St. Andrews Church in Room 40 (that's the building near the flag poles) on Saratoga Ave. across from the Library at 6:30pm. We also have connections to the South Bay Traditional Jazz Society and similar groups.

To do a Show-and-Tell of my collection will take a couple of hours, we'll have to plan an afternoon for that.

Chris


So that's where you guys are since Harry's closed. I have choir rehearsals at Prince of Peace down the road but not every Thursday. I'll have to stop on in. 

Apr 25, 2024 - 4:08:54 PM

15023 posts since 1/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by cebracher
quote:
Originally posted by BanjoLink

Is the pot the same size as the tenor and plectrum Silver Bells? I sold a pot to Buddy Wachter and I think he told me it was particularly desirable because it was a tad larger.


It's bigger, the head is 11 1/2 inches and the resonator measures 14 inches across the back of the resonator.

I know that Bacon produced some banjos with 12 inch heads, so it's not the largest they did, but its significantly bigger than a regular SB.

Chris


Thanks ...... that's what I thought!

Apr 25, 2024 - 4:09:31 PM

15023 posts since 1/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by csacwp
quote:
Originally posted by BanjoLink

Is the pot the same size as the tenor and plectrum Silver Belles? I sold a pot to Buddy Wachter and I think he told me it was particularly desirable because it was a tad larger.


The head should be 11.5'' in diameter like the other Silver Bell guitar banjos that I've seen.


Thanks John!

Apr 25, 2024 - 5:04:51 PM

343 posts since 1/1/2016

 

So that's where you guys are since Harry's closed. I have choir rehearsals at Prince of Peace down the road but not every Thursday. I'll have to stop on in. 


After Harry's, we went over to Bogey's Pizza in Almaden for almost 2 years leading up to the Pandemic Lock Down in March of '20. When things started to go back to normal, we started talking to them and they initially said they wanted us to come back. But then several weeks into the process, they start getting wishy-washy and then inform us that they are switching to karaoke and don't want ANY live music.

Considering that WE were paying the ASCAP annual venue fee, we weren't sure was that was about, but wrote them off and found an open night and space at St. Andrews which is my church and that of another band member and his wife.

We've done some gigs here and there, but we'd like to find another public venue again.

Chris

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