1/23/2009

c.1925 Supertone "Ragtime King" 5-String Banjo


Today I have another nice sold-through-Sears banjo for you. This is a lot like the Supertone I posted about a while back, but this time I have before-and-after photos as well as a video and some very cool history! As opposed to that earlier post, this banjo is also a step up: the "Ragtime King" model 509 (which this is) is decked out like a simple professional's banjo: plenty of hooks to keep the skin tight, a nice cherry neck, simple dot and star inlay, and a 26" scale. It's like the Telecaster of its day -- and best yet -- these were made by Lange for Sears, so they're nice quality, too! The picture above is of the unrestored headstock.


And here's the 5th fret with a botched 5th-peg installation.


Skin head is in great condition and harbors a surprise you can read about (and hear) below!


Hardware'll need some polishing and the pot as well. Not bad condition, however. It actually tuned up nad played "ok" right out of the shipping box. But we can do much, much better!

Par example:



Here I am playing my song "Thanksgiving" on it, all finished-up! Sounds sweet, lilting, and very pretty to my ears. And here are the "after" photos:


Remember you can click to enlarge -- ain't she a beaut?


Typical Supertone headstock with the fun pearl star. The fretboard on this is either ebony or dyed pearwood -- as is the headstock veneer.


I've removed the bum 5th peg and installed a new geared type as well as a new 5th-string nut. I've used a vintage plastic cream button to blend in a little better. Here you can see the board conditioned and the frets all polished and dressed. I had to file all the edges nice and flat with the neck.


I've set this up for two play-styles: with a 1/2" bridge it's super-slick action for the quiet or classical-style player. With a 5/8" bridge it's perfect for the fingerpicker or clawhammer player (I prefer the 5/8").


And here's the best part! This banjo has been signed by Chubby Parker, who was a WLS-Chicago National Barn Dance player. He debuted in 1925 on the show and he probably signed this just about the same time. Here are some YouTubes of his music:


"Whoa Mule Mhoa"


"Nickety Nackety Now Now Now"


"King Kong Kitchie..."


Head.


New maple/ebony-topped bridge.


Nice color on the neck.


And here are some improvised friction tuners: these have the original shafts and screws, but have "new" vintage plastic buttons -- and I've used ferrules and plastic washers to elongate the button-side. This yields an old-timey banjo friction tuner look with very easy turning and good hold. The old bakelite tuner buttons were "okay" but are really better suited as uke tuners.


How 'bout that shine, now, boys?


Overview.


Rear of head.


And thank the gods for a nice neck brace -- these are far easier to use than the ebony-wedge type friction braces.


Rim closeup.


And here's the label: Style "Ragtime King" No. "509" -- mhm.


Original tailpiece and gleaming hardware! Hope you've enjoyed!

2 comments:

washe said...

I too have a Supertone Banjo, style "New Profess" No. 418. It was my grandfather's. Any idea of the age?

Anonymous said...

I have the same exact model (509) but mine has a amp pickup mounted behind the bridge. Any idea on the value? Thanks