4/30/2009

c.1950s? Regal Wendell Hall Teeviola Tenor Ukulele


Here's a sort of rare bird: this is a Regal-built tenor uke (17" scale) from either the late 1940s or early 1950s. It's a very sturdy uke and features a nicely-grained (with some spidery figure) spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides, with a maple neck. The bridge and fretboard are both ebony, the frets are brass, and the nut and saddle are bone. I've replaced the original plastic bridge pins with vintage rosewood ones (tone enhancer) and I've taken off the original geared Kluson tuners (safely stored away) in favor of same-era standard friction tuners. The original Klusons work great but they've had new cheapy ugly buttons installed that really hurt the aesthetic. This uke plays great and has a ringing voice that is especially suited to a pick.


Curiously enough, there headstock veneer is birdseye maple, but you can't see the figure much at all. Bone nut.


Nice and tasteful cherry/orange sunburst on the spruce top.


Ebony fretboard with freshly dressed brass frets and MOP dots.


Soundhole rosette is reminiscent of much earlier Regal ukes and almost identical to the ones on earlier Wendell Hall models from the 1920s and 1930s.


Nice moustache bridge of ebony with a bone saddle. Vintage rosewood pegs have replaced the original plastic ones, which like the tuners, have been safely stored away.


Sides are solid mahogany, as is the back. Nice grain, no?


Side.


Back.


Now here's the curious bit: aside from the original tuners being off and the marks they've left, we can see (faintly) four extra drilled holes that have been plugged up at the factory. I'm wondering if this was originally intended to be strung with eight strings as the spacing would have been perfect for mandolin tuners. Now, supposing that's correct, my other intuition is that this uke is built more like a tiple (the neck is thick and strong and the body quite strong, too) than a tenor uke, which tend to be built much lighter. The neck is also a bit wider than a typical tenor uke, too... which makes me tend to think that this was originally meant for 8 strings and possibly steel ones. It could definitely handle 4 steel ones at the moment... very sturdy. Not to mention, Wendell Hall had old photo-ops while holding tiples... so who knows...?


Side.


Lower bout join.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow - my mom the antiques dealer just gave me one of these! Between the OctoFone and the Teeviola, I'm catching up to you.. - Claude

mary wright said...

We have an klearstone elton banjo 3 pearl 7 in across, 21 in. my husband has had this bango sense the ealry 1980`s. we would like to get it fixed but i have not been able to find anywhere to have that done. if you could contact me at mary_wright93@yahoo.com with information i would be very greatfull
thank you mary wright

mary wright said...

We have an klearstone elton banjo 3 pearl 7 in across, 21 in. my husband has had this bango sense the ealry 1980`s. we would like to get it fixed but i have not been able to find anywhere to have that done. if you could contact me at mary_wright93@yahoo.com with information i would be very greatfull
thank you mary wright

Joe Dan Boyd said...

I have a slightly different version of this same instrument. Fretboard & moustache bridge look like rosewood, not ebony, and top, back & sides are a lighter color which might be birch, maple or spruce. Since your neck is maple, I'm guessing my body may be all maple. No rosette in the soundhole, just a plain black paint "binding." Frets appear to be brass & headstock front is painted black (matching the soundhole binding?) which emphasizes the "Wendell Hall Teeviola" lettering & the Regal logo. Mine is equipped with 4 silver colored geared tuners each anchored by two screws (which might account for the extra drilled holes in yours if mine is an earlier version using different tuners and the outline marks shown in your photo appear to suggest this). On the other hand, if your theory is correct, I suggest that the instrument might have originally been strung as a taropatch rather than a tiple since Wendell Hall mentions another of his signature instruments as a "taraguitar" to be tuned EAC#F#, but no photo of this instrument has ever come to my attention. I would very much like to locate one. Finally, my teeviola has the same sturdy construction and ringing sound that you describe in yours. It's a great tenor ukulele, regardless of what it might have once been. However the scale length on mine is about 2/8"-inch short of 17".