2/05/2012

c.1925 Lyon & Healy? Archtop Tenor Banjo


According to Bob Carlin's new Regal Instruments book, banjos of this headstock style were made by Regal for Lyon & Healy and others. I've noted this style build on many, many "names" of the time, most often seen under the Slingerland and Lyon & Healy lines from the time (a number of Washburn model tenor banjos were seen with this headstock shape). This one has no markings, but is a slightly more upscale model than the usual fare.

It has a big archtop tonering with cut-outs presumably to warm up the tone (lighter weight) and good, strong mahogany rim with veneer on the sides and a multi-piece mahogany neck for strength. The fretboard is some sort of dyed hardwood and has shrunk from the edges. The neck also has a slight back-bow, so despite my best ministrations (fret level/dress and good setup) the action remains at a hair above 3/32" at the 12th, where it should be about 1/16" for a tenor 'jo.

The playability is still excellent for playing in first and second positions, but because the board "dips off" after the 7th fret, the action is slightly higher up the neck but doesn't particularly feel that much different to me.


At any rate, I've set this up with heavy strings for Celtic (GDAE) tuning. It has a 20" scale which means it's perfect for doubling on fiddle tunes an octave down in the Celtic or old-time fashion. The sound is crisp and chirpy-warm which is, well, perfect if'n you're after the kind of open-backed tenor sound preferred by trad session players.

In addition all the hardware is original save the bridge and new Remo Renaissance head and it has some nice-looking pearl inlay.


Bone nut, pretty pearl, and good ivoroid-buttoned friction pegs. Note the heavy gauge strings: 46w, 36w, 26w, 13 for GDAE an octave below mandolin/violin.



This tailpiece is adjustable but the adjuster screw is missing. This is perfectly fine because the archtop nature of the tonering means that at "fully un-tensioned" the tailpiece is as low as it can be cranked down anyway! -- probably the reason the screw is missing!



These Remo Renaissance heads look and sound phenomenal. I just replaced the badgery old skin one on my Gibson plectrum banjo with one and I always love the upgrade the Renaissance does to the tone... warm and sweet like skin but louder and more crisp and slightly more aggressive.

Also, isn't that semi-trans look nice with the big old tonering?




See how the tonering skirt rides down the rim a bit? Gives it a "Little Wonder" look. The Vega-ish hardware also reminds one of those Boston products.




Here you can see the five-piece semi-flamed mahogany neck.




Good neck brace.




The tailpiece has to be angled a bit for proper string alignment... but so many old banjos need that so it's nothing out of the norm.

3 comments:

nosoup4u said...

Is that a Sloan tone ring? Is this still available? Thanks!

nosoup4u said...

Is that a Sloan tone ring? Is this still available?

Antebellum Instruments said...

Not a Sloan ring -- it's original equipment on it -- 1920s and lightweight vs. a bluegrass Mastertone style tonering.