Audio: Vermont Ukulele Society Concert

The Vermont Ukulele Society came and played for us at our recent October open mic/concert series event and I must say it was a good time for all of us! I've just finished up editing down the audio from the show and you can listen to the concert below:

You can also download the file directly by clicking here.

I also managed to capture a couple videos. Both videos are after the "post break" below...


Power Outages, Shipping, Etc.

Hi folks -- I just want to let everyone know that we may lose power for a bit up here in Vermont if Ms. Sandy the hurricane's winds get high enough to knock our lines out. If that happens, well, there won't be any blog posts until a bit later this week and it also may delay shipping time slightly if you've purchased an instrument (thank you!) in the last few days.


Local Flavor: 2nd Store Concert & Open Mic

The second official open mic/in-store concert happened tonight and it was a blast! The Vermont Ukulele Society played a full set of classics of all genres with all the skill one would expect from these fine ukers. Thanks so much for coming out, guys, and playing for us!

Video and MP3 audio of their concert will be available as soon as I can edit and get the stuff up, too, so look out for those downloads in the near future!

Thanks also to our open mic crew who popped themselves up on the stage and belted out! See you next month!


c.1936 Kalamazoo KG-11 Guitar

This nice KG-11 was supplied in trade from this good fella in France. When it got to me, it had action that was a bit high (1/4"), but after I worked it over per the usual -- fret level/dress, action adjustment at the bridge saddle, bridge pin-holes, and nut -- it plays perfect (3/32" bass, 1/16" treble at the 12th fret) and sounds wonderful.

It's no secret that these shortened 00-size body guitars are favorites of old-time and blues players (as well as songwriters) because they really dish out for their size and have a wonderful look and vibe as well as a very useful tonality: open and creamy but with a good tight bass that doesn't get spongy. This specimen also has amazing, rich sustain as well. A very nice box!

This guitar is in particularly good shape being all-original (save bone saddle, bone nut, and new ebony pins) and free of cracks. The finish is also pretty darn clean as well.

As an aside -- don't you love the look of this sunburst and pickguard?

Woods: solid spruce top with ladder bracing, solid mahogany back and sides, and a mahogany neck. The bridge and fretboard are nice old rosewood.

I added small string ramps and new ebony pins when I worked over the bridge area. This guitar, like most flattops from this time, has a minor amount of belly, but it's perfectly stable (especially with the 50w-11 slightly lighter strings on it right now) and had no deflection after tuning it up. Gibson beefed up the ladder bracing on these guys as opposed to what Harmony was doing at the time and as a result the tops sound better and are more stable.

Nice multi-ply binding around the soundhole. The top is also bound in white celluloid.

Lovely Kalamazoo stenciled logo.

Radiused rosewood board, pearl dots, original smallish Gibson frets (these feel GREAT) and no side dots.

The pumkin-orange to black sunburst is so cool.

Here you can see that nice, one-piece mahogany back a little better.

Original tuners are lubed and work great. The neck shape on this is that typical medium-to-larger Gibson v-shape from the 30s. It's not as big as the 1920s ones and in comparison to other brands of the time, it feels nice and comfortable. I think, especially on these Kalamazoos, some good thought was put into what makes a good strong neck plus a very playable one.

The cozy radius to the board definitely helps, for sure.

The mahogany in the sides is nice, too.

Original end-pin.

The serial -- 902B -- dates this to 1936.

...and it has a plain-Jane, no-frills modern gigbag that works just fine with it!

c.1955 Gretsch Soprano Ukulele

This Gretsch-made soprano uke dates to probably around 1955-1960 and is all-solid mahogany throughout with a very thin rosewood fretboard. It's styled after Martin ukes but is a lot less fancy. In terms of quality it rounds out about the same as a Favilla from the same period.

This is a customer's instrument and the work included a neck reset (plus reinforcement), fret level/dress, cleaning, brace reglues, and setup. I'm not sure if the tuners on it are original but they work just fine for plain-Jane friction pegs.

Sound is sprightly and alive with good volume. This is not that "creamy" Gibson or Martin uke tone, but more of the pronounced higher-grade Harmony tone.

Fun Gretsch decal on the headstock.

Brass frets, tiny plastic or clay dots.

I had to slot the saddle a little bit to improve action.

The mahogany on the back is very lightly curly in figure.

So, like all these post-war Gretsch ukes I've had the pleasure to play, it really stacks up especially when you compare prices of these guys to prices of Favillas or Martins.

Ephemera: Couch-Banjo-Cuddle (c.1938)

Definitely click this one to see it a little larger. Cute couple!

Anyhow, please don't mind me if there aren't as many posts this week as normal. Business as usual should return next week and I've got a lot of fun stuff on the way.

Repair time has been seriously cut down this week since I've been hunting a new vehicle and there are many shows and events going on! Speaking of which...

TOMORROW, FRIDAY - Come see our 3-piece band (The Baba Yagas) at The Wild Fern in Stockbridge, VT at 7pm -- free! We've been playing there weekly lately.

SATURDAY NIGHT - This will be our 2nd open mic/concert series show AT THE SHOP at 7pm with the open mic and 8pm with the feature performers. This month it'll be THE VERMONT UKULELE SOCIETY! -- and they're a great bunch! It's also free so come and listen and/or perform at the open mic! Refreshments & snacks are served. Check the concerts page link above for further info.


c.1910 Larson-made Stahl "Parlor" Guitar

This pearl-trimmed, slightly-under 00-sized guitar is owned by a friend of mine and boy am I jealous!

While branded "Stahl" in the soundhole, this is a Stahl that was made by the Larson Brothers, those oh-so-famous Swedish fellas in Chicago who have in recent times started to get the renown they deserve.

So what does that mean as far as this guitar is concerned? High class, high quality, and wonderful sound -- rich, sustained, full, and precise whether flatpicking or fingerpicking.

This guitar sports its original finish which is in gleamingly-good condition. It's possible the top was either lightly French polished at some point to bring it back up to luster or it was simply buffed up because there is a small amount of pick wear at the treble side of the soundhole that has been blended into the finish.

Either way, it hardly matters. The condition of the instrument speaks for itself: extremely well-kept! It is also crack-free except for a couple under-1" hairline cracks with the grain on the back.

...and if you were wondering, this is a 13 3/4" wide body and the top is ladder-braced, though in typical Larson fashion the build is well-thought-out and very sturdy.

These were built in what we call "domed" fashion today, with the top and back built "under tension" over slightly curved braces. This means that compared to a typical ladder-braced Harmony, Regal or other mail-order guitar of the time, the top and back have a slight "dome" shape overall, and with the wood flexed in this manner it's much more stable than a flat piece of wood that can more easily bend or warp... and a more-stable top means better sustain, clearer tone, better volume, and so forth.

The headstock and fretboard are bound in the same white celluloid that the rest of the instrument has all over it. The headstock has a nice dark-stained rosewood veneer on it and check out the slotted cuts: they've been squared-off for a super-elegant look. That's an inlaid pearl "snowflake" at the top of the headstock.

Original frets, dressed nicely, in an ebony fretboard. This board hasn't been "ebonized" so the natural grain is allowed to show through which looks simply beautiful. The pearl-inlay workmanship is also top-notch for the time and very clean.

Nice "Chicago" style bridge with inlaid "wings." The pins appear to all be original ivory types with pearl dots inlaid.

Lovely soundhole rosette and pearl top edging! Notice the red piping that really pops the pearl out and also the nice soundhole binding -- a very "Chicago" (vs. Nazareth) addition. The appointments on this guitar are similar to early Martin style-45 trim.

Gorgeous stuff...

The Brazilian rosewood, as typical for a Larson-made instrument, is fantastic and beautiful. Many firms at the time sought out very straight-grain rosewood, but the Larsons seemed to have really enjoyed stuff with good figure and an interesting mix of colors.

The neck looks like nice Spanish cedar as opposed to "true" South American mahogany to me, but I might be wrong. At any rate, they're in the same family and have much the same strength characteristics. Spanish cedar is the stuff used in classical guitars to this day and was found on most nice guitars (read: Washburns, Martins, etc.) up until the 1920s.

I love the multicolored, inlaid backstrip. The heel is also perfectly fit to this guitar.

Wonderful rosewood used for the sides, too!

The rosewood is so pretty on this side!

Nice Waverly tuners.

Ivory end-strip with pearl-inlaid ebony endpin. Classy!

Here's the "Wm. C. Stahl" mark on the inside. The penciled-in bit at the top of the photo reads "J.B. Sutton" -- though, except for a possible Tennessee general store connection, the lead seems to be dead.


Sound Clips

I finally got some new sound clips up for those of you asking after them!

I also redid the lap steel clips as well so you can hear the "direct in" sound minus the amp. Anyhow, for those of you that like to get a feel for what these old fellas sound like, feel free to browse them with your ears on the inventory page...


Ephemera: Mountain Warblers (c.1940)

Another photo spotted on old eBay... this one signed by these two ladies, Agnes & Lucille, called "The Mountain Warblers." As the seller pointed out... while the whole photo is incredibly cool, the best bit is that Miss Guitar on the right is banging out an A-major chord on an early '30s Martin C-2 archtop guitar.

Wouldn't that guit look nice in the collection?


c.1928 Lyon & Healy "Camp Uke" Ukulele

By now, blog followers will know my passion for these lovely little Camp Ukes! Great fret access, sparkly but full tone, a fun and curious shape, and nice build mark these all in the "A" column as far as uke design goes for me.

This one needed the usual -- tightening the neck-attachment screw, cleating of a few small top hairline cracks, fret leveling and dressing, cleaning, and setup. Like all Camp Ukes, the bridge saddle needed shaving-down, too, to get proper action. I also replaced the period wood pegs (that were half-unoriginal anyway) with some good-quality mechanical friction pegs.

The serial dates this fella to 1928-ish.

I'm thinking this uke is made from the same monkeypod wood that most Camp Ukes were made of, but a UV-saturated, darkened original finish makes it hard for me to be sure.

Nice pressed-in "Camp Uke" logo. The nut is original and ebony.

Original brass frets are leveled, dressed, and in good order. Those are black celluloid dots in the fretboard face. Action height is great at 1/16" at the 12th fret.

These have such a cute profile.

This has a "third generation" Camp Uke back, being a simple flat back with a brace across it. Previous versions of the instrument had (first) a turned resonator back with a soundhole in it and (second) a turned resonator back glued on to the back just like this one, but protruding from the edges a little bit like a violin's edges would.

This uke's back was reglued at some point and the job is sturdy but the job shows a little bit here and there.

Patent Applied For script on the back of the headstock. These are nice friction pegs and turn easily and smoothly.

I love the way the simple black celluloid binding pops the shape of the body right out.

Here's the patented L&H "smile" bridge, still holding perfectly fine after all these years (it's a good design).