12/23/2011

c.1925 Oscar Schmidt Sovereign Banjo Uke





Up until Harmony acquired the Oscar Schmidt brand names in the late '30s, Sovereign was that company's high-grade line of fretted instruments. This banjo uke dates from the early to mid 1920s and, while it's had a rough life, certainly lives up to the Sovereign name.

This is a good-playing, loud, and full-sounding instrument with a wider-than average fretboard which makes it very "old school uke" in terms of feel -- not the narrow banjo uke necks typical for the time.


Rather than the typical smallish uke pegs most other maker used, OS instruments typically mounted full-size Grover Champion banjo pegs, which are (as far as I'm concerned) the best of the old friction tuner designs.


My work on the uke included a fret dress, new (vintage stock, note the cool signature) skin head, cleaning, and setup. I also added a replacement bridge.



Simple vintage bridge gets the job done.


Possibly James E Long? ...though it does read "Jams" -- heh heh. I had this skin (just the right size) hanging around in the old heads bin and I figured this signature front and center would be kind of cute.


Note the Vega-ish style tonering -- almost like a Little Wonder with a hoop ring in a half-spunover sleeve. This imparts loud, bright, but also balanced and crisp tonality... with a warmer undertone



Neck is three-piece and looks like a plain maple or similar and either ebony or an ebonized wood?


Rim has an ebony "rim cap" and some inlaid striping. Rim also looks like maple to me.





Here's the Sovereign stamp.


...and here's the weird part! The original neck brace was missing and someone had done some "aftermarket" attempts to get the neck on the pot well. This included (1) the big screw which uses a key as its washer and (2) a replacement neck-brace, though the replacement brace didn't have either of the ebony shims needed to make it work when I got the uke.



It's a cute looker, too, with some worn-in charm. The fretboard and nut are ebony, as well, by the way -- I think I forgot to mention that.


...and a non-branded "No Knot" style tailpiece.

1 comment:

ekvin said...

I have the exactly same banjo uke, except mine is branded as a Varsity, sold by Weymann. It's great that I'm finally able to identify the jobbers that made the various Varsity ukes.