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Thread: Orpheum “dead end”

  1. #1

    Default Orpheum “dead end”

    I’ve seen a number of posts/questions about the name Orpheum and they all just seem to fall off with only a bit of info. I’ve found some information but mostly pertaining to Orpheum banjos and guitars, very few things on the mandolins. Anyway, I realize it’s most likely not the most intriguing mandolin story but I scored one of these mystery mando’s this past week. My best guess is it is from the 70’s and as the country of origin sticker says it’s MIJ. The only other possible identifier other than Orpheum may be the tailpiece cover which seems to be an S or maybe just some genric symbol. Regardless of origin etc, this plays and sounds like a dream (IMHO) of course. And to have picked it up for a bargain I almost want to say the seller almost came into my life like some kind of Mandolin Angel... I will attach a few pics, if anyone can detail more on these Orpheum mandolins, I’d love to hear! Much appreciated..!
    Last edited by GDog; Apr-16-2019 at 2:09pm.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    Orpheum was originally the brand name for a quality line of banjos made during the early 1920's by the Rettberg and Lange Co. of NY City. The banjos were built in-house. The name also appears on a line of arch-top guitars in the 1930's. These were most likely made by Harmony. Any Orpheum mandolins that were made during this period appear to have been built by Chicago manufacturers such as Harmony and Kay; or whoever was building for Strad-o-lin. I have seen Orpheum mandolins that looked nearly identical to Strad-o-lins.

    In 1922, Rettberg and Lange was reorganized as the Paramount Company, and continued to make banjos through at least 1935. Rights to the Orpheum name were probably sold off during the depression. Paramount had shut down by the beginning of WWII. After WWII, the Paramount name was licensed to Gretsch.

    The Orpheum name appears to have floated around quite a bit. It would not surprise me if the brand has been stamped on instruments made by a dozen or more manufacturers.

    The Orpheum name appears on a line of Asian made instruments in the 1960's and 70's. Your mandolin was made during this period.

    Some of the more knowledgeable people on Banjo Hangout believe that the Asian-made Orpheums were made by Kasuga, although the "S" tailpiece makes me think of Samick.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-16-2019 at 5:46pm.

  4. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    This same mandolin was brought into the country with many brand names on it, one being Penco. The Orpheum brand name on mandolins was placed on instruments built by other companies as early as the 30's. This one has no connection to the earlier mandolins and banjos. I've owned two Strad-O-Lin genre mandolins from the 30's that were labeled Orpheum. We've had Kay built mandolins labeled Orpheum and many others. Here is a every mention of the work Orpheum on the Cafe.

    Here's a similar instrument.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    It doesn’t make any sense to me that this would be a Samick product when Samick is a South Korean company, and the instrument is clearly made in Japan.
    Don

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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    Ok.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    I'm into Tacoma Guitar history. They owned the name "Orpheum" during their brief life but didn't use it. Possibly it was passed on to them by their parent, Young Chang of South Korea. When Fender bought Tacoma in late 2004 they acquired the name and immediately put it to use: http://www.tacomaguitarforum.com/tgf...um_olympia.pdf

    Per Fender:
    Originally started as a banjo manufacturer
    in the late 1800’s in New York City,
    Orpheum was considered by many to offer
    the highest quality premier banjos at the
    time. Weathering the Great Depression, two
    World Wars, and developing contemporary
    instruments like archtops and electric
    guitars, Orpheum contributed to the
    romance period of American musical history.

    In the late 60’s, Orpheum faded away into
    obscurity. Under the direction of the Tacoma
    Guitar Co., Orpheum has been resurrected
    with the intent of preserving a wonderful
    legacy of high quality banjos, as well as
    creating other traditional instruments.
    Orpheum Banjos, Mandolins and Resonator
    Guitars reflect the marvelous tradition of the
    original Orpheum company, while offering a
    series of high quality instruments that allow
    you to honor your musical traditions, or to
    create new ones of your own.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    I appreciate all the insights. I’m curious as to why there isn’t more info on these. I guess that given the Orpheum name in later years was shared among various shops/factories they just shipped them off to be sold. That being said, I’m not sure they were that mass produced as there is so little info or even used classifieds/posts for them. Also interesting that there isn’t more of a manufacturer identification for an instrument that is of pretty decent quality.

  10. #9
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    In the late 60's into the 70's and 80's many Vintage brand names were scooped up and put on imported instruments. They weren't really anything other than commodity items. Some were decent, some were awful but the brand name was nothing other than an attempt to market a pretty unremarkable item using a known brand name. It continues today with many older musical instrument brand names. It's the way it's been for several decades. Again, that same instrument came in with several brand names.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  12. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    And here it is. It was a brand name acquired by the Maurice Lipsky Music Co. after WWII and applied to instruments manufactured by Kay and later on imported instruments from Japan. Lipsky was an importer and distributor in New York.

    1960s : Wandré (Italy), Egmond (Holland), Guyatone (Japan) and Welson (Italy)
    1970s : Japanese-made Gibson copies similar to Ibanez's SG & Les Paul. (may be supplied by Teisco or FujiGen)
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    There's an Orpheum Gibson electric bass copy on ebay right now which is made in Japan and described as late 60's - early 70's. Also two MIJ Orpheum electric guitars one of which is identified as an early 60's Guyatone.

  14. #12
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    Orpheum guitar ads and catalog pages from Maurice Lipsky Co. These are Guitar ads but they show they were using the brand name on other instruments.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  15. #13
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    If you want to buy a subscription you can view these Lipsky Orpheum pages but they predate your mandolin by about 10 years. In one of their ads they insinuate that they've been building Orpheum guitars since 1931 when in fact they didn't own the brand name that far back. It's an attempt to add some legitimacy to their instruments.

    It appears that Lipsky put that brand name on everything from guitars and basses to picks, cases, and amplifiers.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    The Fender "history" of Orpheum is loaded with inaccuracies.

    Orpheum was never a manufacturer, they were always a brand name.

    Rettberg and Lange used the brand first. John Hartford played a Lange made Orpheum #3 Special.

    The Lange-made Orpheums were made to compete with the upper line of Fairbanks/Vega banjos. They were instruments of high quality and fine workmanship, with a good tone ring system, and beautifully inlaid fingerboards and pegheads. The higher models also featured fancy marquetry in the rims and carved neck heels. Rettberg and Lange did not make guitars or wooden mandolins. They did, however, make some Orpheum banjo-mandolins. The original Orpheum banjos appear to have fallen out of production around 1920.

    Here's an Orpheum #3 banjo: www.billsbanjos.com/Orpheum3.htm and an Orpheum banjo-mandolin: www.billsbanjos.com/orpheummandobanjo.htm

    After Lange re-organized as Paramount and concentrated on resonator banjos, they let go of the Orpheum name. It floated around for years on instruments made by different manufacturers for various jobbers. Most of the American made post-Lange instruments were of modest grade. Some were cheapies. I believe that the name fell out of use during most of the 1950's.

    I believe that the imported Orpheum mandolins and banjos first appeared in the late 1960's or early '70's. From what Mike has posted, it appears that imported Orpheum electric guitars and basses were available by the mid to late 60's.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-17-2019 at 1:07am.

  17. #15

    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    Your tailpiece with that Stylised S is from a 1970s Suzuki mandolin as is the truss rod cover plate. I have seen that S tailpiece cover plate on other Japanese mandolins from the 1970s that were not branded as Suzuki. I imagine, they were leftovers or it was decided that the stylised S was just a a squiggle with no real importance and they were used willy nilly.

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    Cobalt 

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    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    I have a mandolin with the same 'S' tailpiece, the headstock however has a 'V' inlay and the brand name is Ventura. Bought about 1980, it is made in Japan. When I have photos, I'll post more details - in a separate thread I think.

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  21. #17
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    Ventura was another brand like Penco that these came in under. I believe the earlier ones didn't have a truss rod, the later models did. Imported from the same Japanese manufacturer(s).
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  22. #18

    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    After all these clues, it does appear that it was probably produced in a Suzuki factory circa late 60's to mid 70's. Found this post here on MC with a Suzuki that looks spot on except the name of course. Guess Lipsky or whoever had the name at the time farmed work out to Suzuki Violin Co for at least a little bit any way. The line here on MC with the Suzuki is here - https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...Suzuki-A-Style

  23. #19
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    I'm sure other distributors were importing them with other names on them. Lipsky seemed to own the Orpheum brand name.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    Looks like the most recent user [2014] of the Orpheum name was Guild Guitars, who are in turn currently a division of the Cordoba Music Group. However, the Guild Orpheum models are no longer in production . . .

    Maybe when they get tired of using the name, a Café member can buy it and become owner #27 of the Orpheum brand . . .

    Or maybe Fender kept the Orpheum name when they sold Guild to Cordoba around the same time, and Fender will keep the name forever whether they use it or not . . .

    or maybe they'll have them made in a remote country with no previous history of fretted instrument manufacturing . . .

    Or maybe Fender will sell the Orpheum brand to Henry Juszkiewicz, who will start a new company with the golden parachute money that Gibson is giving him to stay home . . . . . . [sorry about that . . . well . . . kind of . . . well, not really . . .]

    Let's see . . . owners and manufacturers of the Orpheum brand . . . Lange, Harmony, Kay, Strad-o-lin [United? Favilla?], Lipski [Wandre, Egmond, Guyatone, Welson, Teisco, FujiGen], Kasuga, Suzuki, Tacoma, Guild . . . I'm sure I've missed 2 or 3 . . . do you think Tonk Bros. might have had them in the 30's? How about CMI or St. Louis Music??

    I should find something better to do with my time.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-17-2019 at 10:14pm.

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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    And my apologies to GDog. He was just looking for some simple info on his new mandolin. I hope he doesn't go away, and that he gets plenty of enjoyment from his new instrument.

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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    Now that GDog has some history on his mandolin, I hope he will take it somewhere and invest the money into gettting it properly set up so that it will sound and play it’s very best. If he got it at a bargain price there should be epsome extra cash to do just that. And play that sucker! Hard to tell from photos, but to my eyes it looks pretty well made and in good shape.
    Don

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  27. #23

    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    rcc56, no offense taken..! multidon, there is indeed a proper setup and it actually plays like a dream for what it is. To have only spent $60 on it, I couldn't have asked for a better instrument that plays and feels like many I've seen & played in the $600 range.

  28. #24
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    Default Re: Orpheum “dead end”

    I’m glad you enjoy it GDog! That is THE most important thing about playing music!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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