Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hi all, I bought this years ago at an estate sale in Toronto, Canada, mainly for it's folky paint work on the skin. I don't know anything about it, and wondered if anyone could give me some info,  type of instrument, approx. age, etc.  It's 20 inches long, and the head is 7 inches in diameter. Thanks !

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It's a banjo-ukulele - probably early 20th century. These things were very popular in the 1920s and 30s. The painted skin and patina are very funky. It's not hard to figure out what chords the owner liked to play!

Paul...interesting find! It's not likely you'll be able to find original parts to restore this to a playable condition, but since you bought it more as an artistic piece, I don't think that was your goal, anyway.

Ian...Good observation on the neck wear. I have a c. 1964 (the year my parents bought it for me, new) Dixie Banjo Uke that I got for my 5th birthday. It has an all metal neck and fretboard, so the wear isn't so apparent!

For Paul's benefit, let me add that the single tuning peg in the peghead of this banjo uke is inserted from the front, but it probably was originally inserted from the back of the head with the larger part of the peg protruding back, not forward. Anyway, again...interesting find!

I've seen a few of those Dixie banjo-ukes. I always thought they looked like they'd be useful for hand-to-hand combat.

You got that right, Ian! But I have to admit that it satisfied a 5 year old's craving for a banjo. I played that thing for a few years, set it aside, got interested in trumpet, and a little later guitar, then bought my first 5 string in the 12th grade. I still have the Dixie, although it's missing a couple of pegs, the bridge, and strings. I never put steel strings on mine, but I'm sure that metal neck could have handled them!

Dan'l, I never even thought about the conotation of "Dixie" until you mentinoed it...but of course, I'm one of those Deep South folks who they probably were marketing to!

 

Vince

I bought my 18 year old indie-rock music loving son the modern manifestation of a Dixie uke for Christmas. It was made by a guy in Toronto. Metal neck and a body made out of an old fire alarm bell with a tiny dobro style resonator and a pickup. Weighs about 8 pounds but has lots of "street-cred". Actually sounds OK too - even acoustically. I promise NOT to bring it to the Banjo Gathering.

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