10/09/2014

c.1930 Epiphone-made Bruno Glee Club Resonator Tenor Banjo




Update Nov 1: This banjo is exactly the same as in the following description except that it now has pearl side dots installed.

I actually finished this up yesterday but the rain hit so I couldn't take photos. This banjo bears a Bruno "Glee Club" headstock veneer but it's actually an Epiphone-made instrument and is identical except for the headstock veneer to their Mayfair tenor model. To my ears it sounds an awful lot like a good 30s Weymann resonator build (think the dry Megaphonic rim sound) but to my hands it feels more like a Gibson TB with a resonator attached. The neck has that Gibson C/U shape feel and sizing but with more depth (front to back).

It's a long-scale (23") tenor with 19 frets on the neck and it's super-hecka-loud just as might be expected from a nice old Epi build. This thing was certainly built to do war with horns in an old jazz band and so the fella playing it will need to execute restraint to not overpower other fretted buddies with the lightest touch.


Work included a fret level/dress, new Remo-made 11" Elite Amber head, new ebony/maple bridge (compensated), light cleaning, and setup. At the same time I also installed a set of 4:1 vintage geared banjo pegs to replace the original friction pegs that were on it. It plays spot-on and I currently have it setup for DGBE (Chicago) style tuning.

The long scale gives it extra sustain and a guitar-ish sort of sparkle while the big hoop tonering and resonator clear up the tone to give it a lot of dry, airy slap. It has bass where you need it's nice and dry so you don't get a tubby, thucky, or overtone-rich sound for group work.


The headstock veneer is fantastic. It's lifted slightly on the treble side but still attached firmly. I added the new vintage-style ferrules to help with tuning stability. The nut is original bone and has a funny extra slot someone added at some point.


This has a flat rosewood fretboard and bigger pearl dots. The frets are narrow and tall just as one might expect on old banjos... and it's leveled and dressed just fine.


An adjustable tail and compensated (new) bridge help to dial in tone...



So, as far as woods go on this jo: it has a two-piece mahogany neck with a mahogany resonator. The rim consists of an inner core of two 1/8" maple plys and two exterior 1/8" mahogany plys. It's a good, heavy, and gorgeous thing. Usually the mahogany veneer on the exterior of rims is pretty thin but the extra thickness, I'm sure, gives this a slightly different tone than a maple/veneered rim.


Here are those vintage geared (4:1 ratio) pegs. I used this banjo's original buttons on them, however.



The resonator shows plenty of scuffing and scratching but it does have this pretty old decal under the finish. Epi's Mayfair model had much the same detailing.



All the rim hardware is there except for one hook/nut.







I taped up and re-nailed the original case so it's sturdy and ready to go.


Here's what's on the inside of that rim: a Gibson-style simple coordinator rod hookup for the neck and a big hoop tonering installed on the outer edge of the rim (from the outside it looks like it might be a "Little Wonder" style hoop/sleeve ring but it's not).


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