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Thread: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

  1. #1
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Minnie Heart of the Ever-Lovin' Jug Band (performance posted on jazz and blues thread) says of her banjo mandolin: "I actually don't know for sure what make the banjolin is! The only marking on it is the little oak leaf inlay in the headstock - there's no name or serial number on it anywhere." Anyone know what brand that might be?
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Some higher-end Vega banjos had oak leaf inlays on the fingerboard, but they were nearly uniformly ID'ed on the dowel stick, with model and serial number. I see a mention of oak leaf inlays on old Epiphone banjos, but again, these were usually clearly marked.

    Had we pics, might help.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Some higher-end Vega banjos had oak leaf inlays on the fingerboard, but they were nearly uniformly ID'ed on the dowel stick, with model and serial number. I see a mention of oak leaf inlays on old Epiphone banjos, but again, these were usually clearly marked.

    Had we pics, might help.
    Thanks, Allen. Minnie is playing it quite early in the video at the site below, though I'm not sure that the camera is close enough to be helpful. If that doesn't tell you anything, I'll see if she wants to send me some pictures. I may be more curious than Minnie is. Her instrument reminded me of my Vega Little Wonder, but, as you say, the serial numbers are clearly marked on mine, though I didn't know that some had the oak leaf inlay on some.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    The mention of "oak leaf inlays" in Vega banjo descriptions, seems to refer to fingerboard inlays in their more expensive models -- which our two Little Wonders are not. I've never seen a higher grade Vega mandolin-banjo in real life; I assume they're rare, and I also assume they'd be clearly marked, like every Vega I've ever seen.

    And, of course, who knows? Many instrument builders made instruments for distributors to sell under various labels (or lack thereof); some made instruments for individual musicians, to their particular specs in terms of markings and ornamentation. It's a big instrument world out there, with many inhabitants, some with uncertain backgrounds. There are myriads of anonymous instruments, whose history we may never know. Still, fun to try to ID them, whether we succeed or not.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Lotsa close-up pics of the instrument in this YouTube vid. Doesn't look like any Vega I've ever seen; I'm guessing a "trade" instrument made for a particular distributor or music store. I have a no-name mandolin-banjo, not too dissimilar, with the only ID a stamp on the head from Levis Music Store, a long-gone Rochester dealer -- who may have sold the instrument originally, or perhaps just replaced the head after-market.

    All are welcome to take a look and a guess. Nice jug band music, by the way.

    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Here's one of the more upscale Vegas that Allen was mentioning from the current Cafe ads. Click on picture to enlarge. (I have interest in this ad.)

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    "The Vega Company of Boston, Ma. was one of the premier manufacturers of fretted musical instruments in the 20th century.

    "This extremely loud top-of-the line 10 13/16” Style X mandolin-banjo incorporates the renowned Vega tubaphone tone ring. Volume and tone are not the only claim to fame of this mighty 8-string wonder. Visual appointments are remarkable as well, featuring engraved abalone peg head inlay, fretboard and heel cap inlays as well as delicately engraved silver plated gear covers. The 3-piece neck is of highly figured curly maple. The rim edges features the decorative inlaid marquetry of the Vega-Fairbanks era.

    "This is a rare, beautiful and valuable treasure in excellent playing condition and nearly 100 years old!"
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Ranald, this is an interesting puzzle but we are mostly flying blind!
    If you are in touch with Minnie ask her for a set of photos.
    I agree, this is most certainly not a Vega. I have one of each of the Vega mandolin banjos in my collection and the headstock shape and the minimum number of brackets (16?) eliminates Vega.
    I looked at the YouTube video and captured these photos. Where exactly is the oak leaf inlay? It doesn’t appear on the instrument she is playing.

    Mark

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    Mark Lynch

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Thanks, Allen and Mark. I asked for photos and am waiting for a response.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Thanks, Allen and Mark. I asked for photos and am waiting for a response.

    I was watching this video but I don't see the oak leaf either.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...njolin-concert
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Ranald, A very enjoyable performance!
    She is playing a different instrument in this video, notice the white tuner buttons.
    I can make out something on the peghead too, maybe the oak leaf inlay you mention.
    Hopefully some better photos will help us determine the maker.
    Minnie has wonderful control of her mandolin banjo, she may go a long way towards removing the stigma of these often maligned instruments...
    Happy music!

    Mark
    Mark Lynch

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    I looked at a number of videos and stills and she has different instruments in each. That headstock in the video in Allen's post resembles some Stella mandolin headstocks. In fact, take a look at this Reverb listing:

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  18. #12
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: banjo-mandolin with oak leaf

    Thanks, Jim and everyone who contributed here. The mandolin-banjo's owner hasn't responded to my request for photos, so I guess she has less interest in its history than we do. Oh, well. (I've been overdoing the net, took a break for a few days from everything except email and weather.)
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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