8/17/2015

1940s Kay-made "Stadium" Resonator Tenor Banjo




This nice old practical tenor banjo was a trade-in. It only needed the obligatory light fret level/dress, new head, bridge, and setup to get going but I also swapped the original (boring) tailpiece out for a good vintage Waverly adjustable unit. It plays spot-on (1/16" action at the 12th fret), has a straight neck, and a warm, fundamental sort of tone with enough punch to jam on. It's currently setup for CGDA tuning but my compensated bridge would do well with DGBE as well. It's a 23" long scale tenor.

This was definitely made by Kay and was probably built in the late 40s as it originally seems to have had friction pegs at the headstock (and Kay swapped to guitar tuners on their banjos in the 50s). The style of rosewood used on the board looks about that time for Kays, too. I'm not sure about who owned the Stadium brand, though.


Thankfully, the banjo has a normal 11" head so I had one on hand to do it up with. This is a Remo Renaissance type (my favorites).


Original bone nut and... Schaller tuners! They're not quite the best match visually but they work well, are the smaller version of these tuners, and tune up smoothly. I've got 30w, 20w, 13, 9 strings on it at the moment.


The board is rosewood and has celluloid position dots and original brass frets. The neck itself is maple and has a mild U/C-shaped profile. It's a quick neck!


The easily-adjustable neck angle bracket on these banjos let me dial it in for a good 5/8" bridge nice and easy. The tailpiece is adjustable for back-tension on the bridge.






All the rim hadware is original and in good order.


Two thumwheels release the resonator from the rim to convert this to an openback on the fly.

Under the hood this has a bolted-on neck and single coordinator rod setup rather than a dowel stick. It's super-easy to service.






A 60s chip case comes with the banjo, though one of the hinges is busted so it could use the duct-tape workout...

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