Tenor banjos

part two: American Jazz Age


Tenor banjos from the golden age of jazz. The 1920s saw the 4 string tenor banjos rise in popularity. Developed from the four string banjolin (mandolin tuning) or Tango banjo. Popularity of the five string banjo declined with the first tenors appearing in greater numbers from about 1915. Tenor banjo became more and more ornate to compete with rival makes. By 1935 music tastes changed, the guitar was taking over in dance bands. Banjo players took to tenor guitars which were tuned the same as the banjos.

Vega Vox III. The Vega Company is best known today for its banjos, such as he Vegavox model they co-developed with famous plectrum player Eddie Peabody
 Vega Company was a musical instrument manufacturer that started operations in Boston, Massachusetts in 1881. The company began under Swedish-born Julius Nelson, his brother Carl, and a group of associates that included John Pahn and John Swenson. 

De Wick

DeWick Tenor Banjo, c. 1922, Brooklyn, New York,
An unusual early19 fret tenor banjo with many unique features including an enclosed back, rim countersunk into the resonator, and a patented neck angle adjustor cradle.


GRETSCH circa 1920s

Founded in 1883 in BrooklynNew York by Friedrich Gretsch, a 27-year- d German immigrant, shortly after his arrival to the United States. Friedrich Gretsch manufactured banjostambourines, and drums until his death in 1895. In 1916, his son, Fred Gretsch Sr. moved operations to a larger facility where Gretsch went on to become a prominent manufacturer of American musical instruments.



Tenor banjo circa 1922. Gibson was a bit slow in starting tenor banjo production. A short scale instrument GDAE tuning. Gibson soon caught up with better and more ornate banjos.


ORPHEUM: Rettburg and Lange took over the factory and banjo making of J H Buckbee  New York .1908 announced their “Orpheum” range of banjos. July 1918 saw the debut of the “Orpheum Plectrum banjo”,
A short scale 17 fret instrument circa 1916. With a damper fitted to the perch pole.

MAJESTIC: Circa 1920 by Rettburg and Lange. New York.

Standard 19 fret.

PARAMOUNT: “Paramount” banjo and this new instrument (designed by William L Lange) made its first appearance in 1921. In 1922 William took over sole control of the company and changed the title to Wm L Lange. In September of that year he announced (as “successor to Rettberg & Lange) six styles of the “Paramount” banjos.“Paramount” banjos became world famous and were much sought after by all the leading dance-band players. .Ceased in 1939

EPIPHONE. Alhambra Recording. Circa 1930. Founded in 1873 by Anastasios Stathopoulos. The death of Epaminondas Stathopoulos in 1943 allowed Gibson to purchase the company. 


See also:-

Hardanger Fiddles   Pochette and kit violins    Metal violins   Decorated violins   Unusual violas   Fakes  Mute violins    Early violins

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