c.1930 Gretsch-made Resonator Tenor Banjo

Update 2013: This banjo was sold but shipped back even before the box was opened up as the buyer couldn't keep it. In transit back to me it received a bit of damage on the resonator side near the tailpiece area. That's been glued up and I've included photos way at the bottom of this post.

This is an early-to-mid 1930s tenor banjo with a full 23" scale. It was made by Gretsch (these are often sold under other brand names, though) and has a sturdy, workmanly build. It's very loud, crisp and bright, which means that it has that perfect chirp for fast fiddle tunes and following the melody. This makes it an ideal Celtic or old-time fiddle tune banjo, while the longer scale also lets it make use of slightly lighter gauges for a more banjo-y tone (I have 38w, 28w, 18, 11 strings on this right now) vs. the heavier strings typically used on short-scale GDAE-tuned tenors.

My work on it included a (previous) fret level/dress, cleaning, and (now) new head and quick setup. It plays with fast 1/16" action at the 12th (spot on).

This 'jo has a nice heavy-duty multi-ply maple rim with a mahogany exterior veneer. It's sort of an archtop construction because the big hoop tonering is on the interior edge of the rim. This gives it that focused, bright, and very clean tone. It also contributes to its being very loud. Even with a very thin pick I can get extreme volume out of this fella without distortion. Loud like a Paramount!

Simple small pearl dots. The fretboard is dyed maple.

Very nice adjustable tailpiece and a new Grover 2-foot ebony/maple tenor bridge.

I love the one-piece flange. It's heavy pot metal and in great shape. The hardware definitely shows some aging, though, with rust spots and tarnish throughout but still good-to-go.


Pearloid headstock veneer and original 1:1 friction tuners.

I had to round off the arm rest which had a chip out of it on the "top" side (nearest the headstock) near the mounting bolt. However, without telling someone, it is not something anyone would notice since it just looks like it's had arm-wear in that area, now.

I love the double binding on the resonator sides.

I also added clay side-dots.

 Ivoroid buttons. Note the very typical Gretsch volute to the headstock rear. Extra strength!

Plenty of use-wear down that 2-piece maple neck with center strip!

 Mahogany resonator... and it pops off with that one bolt in the middle.

Tailpiece and flange detail. 

Here are photos of repaired resonator damage from shipping -- showing hairlines but good to go:



Tim Dempsey said...

looks great Jake!!!

Shakeyj ShaKeyJ said...

Cool! I would like to get a banjo sometime but I've never played. (I play acoustic and electric guitar)
I have a c.1930 Regal Arch Top similar to the one you've posted before.