1/01/2011

c.1950 Vega Baritone Ukulele Deluxe ("Solo Lute")


Ah, hail the champion of old baritone ukes... rumor has it Arthur Godfrey himself had Vega build these first-of-bari-ukes (mind you, he called it a "Solo Lute" and that was its original title) so that he could extend the uke's range and application... and also (I think) used this model of fellow on a pretty fancy uke jazz LP. My history may be a little sketchy, though!

At any rate, this is a well-built (what else can one expect from the Vega Co out of Boston?) baritone ukulele with features you don't see on other period instruments... or heck... even modern ones. First off, it's all-solid mahogany with a hog neck as well, and rosewood fretboard and bridge.

Tuners are guitar-style Waverly (clones?) of the type seen on '40s and '50s Martins.

Next up... the neck joins the body at the 16th (SIXTEENTH!) fret, which gives this the feel of an electric guitar or tenor banjo playability-wise... perfect for lead or melody playing. In addition to this long join the scale length is 2" longer than a typical bari at 21" -- which is more typical of a tenor guitar or tenor banjo than it is of a baritone uke.

All this adds up to an incredibly responsive, easy-to-play, loud, punchy, and sweet little baritone uke... and to top it off the bracing is light fan-style like a classical guitar, so rather than notes mushing more together like on a typical bari (which can be advantageous if you're just playing chords), each string has great definition and clarity.


Yup, sounds like I'm talking it up, but it really is a nice one.

And the sunburst finish? Yessir!



This fella has plenty of finish crackle, and that combined with some dirt having gotten down in that crackle, gives a nice played-in, well-loved vintage look. Aside from a short-ish crease(?) on the top (it's like a hairline crack that hadn't gone through the wood, though I did rub glue in it from the inside to keep it stable), it's in crack-free condition... and all-original, too, aside from an apparent saddle shave at the bridge.


Excuse some of the dust in the photos...




Brass frets, MOP dots inlaid in the board.







No binding, but a nice and simple single-ring rosette.




And an original case!

I'm tempted to hold onto this fellow, but it'll likely go on the auction block pretty soon... :)

1 comment:

Claude said...

That's a beauty.
I wonder if anyone makes those today? I stopped to feel inside my bari and found cross bar bracing above and below the sound hole.
It must be an incredible instrument to play.