7/16/2011

c.1950 Gretsch-made (unmarked Bacon Belmont?) 5-string Banjo


Talk about a workhorse!

This looks like a c.1950s (or '40s) Gretsch-made 5-string banjo, probably originally sold as a Bacon Belmont model (you can see various incarnations of this basic design from the '50s through the '60s). It looks like the previous owner removed pearloid from the headstock and resonator edges, which would explain the discrepancies. The binding on the fretboard is also unoriginal (it's tortoise, now).

This is a good, solid, bluegrass or old-timey instrument, because with the loosening of one bolt/screw, the resonator pulls off and this turns into a nice-sounding openback as well. It's got a good solid maple multi-ply rim, big hoop tonering, heavy-duty hardware, and a loud, lush tone. Most of the hardware is original, though it has a later '60s style adjustable tailpiece, Remo-style head, and I've also replaced the metal Grover 5th-string tuner button with an old cream one to match the set at the headstock.


It's a cool banjo, with great volume (cuts in a jam) and fun, worn-in looks.


New bone nut. Headstock has the leavings of what was probably the adhesive for pearloid that is now missing.


Thinner (side to side) neck like modern bluegrass banjos. Frets are bigger, electric-guitar style types, with good height left. I've dressed these frets as well.



I like the color-change pearloid on the rim. Note the nice grooved tension hoop.


I've tossed in a compensated bridge for good measure.



It's a simple-looking banjo, but does have it where it counts: playability and tone.


All the pegs are friction types.


Two-piece maple neck with thin lam down the middle.





A nice adjustable Presto tailpiece would be a good, simple upgrade, but this works just fine.

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