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Decades of Banjo

Decades of Banjo

by Tom Morgan

from his 1984 GAL Convention lecture

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Quarterly, Volume 12 ,#4, 1984

I would be a lot more comfortable today if I could have a gutiar and a five piece band, but I quickly discarded the idea of trying to set an hour’s lecture to music.

I learned to love the sound of a good banjo not too long after the vintage years, and have had the privilege of examining a lot of good instruments. RB was the designation the Gibson company used for their five string or regular banjo, and TB means tenor banjo. Small numbers such as 2,3,4, and 5 were used, and just before the war early numbers like 7, 12, 18 and 75 came into use. The new models after World War II started with 100, 150 and 250, which was also their list price, and an 800 was added later.

The Air Force sent me to Washington D.C. in 1955, where I met Callie Veach. Callie was originally from Arthur, West Virginia, and had several mountain traditions in his past such as hunting, making whiskey, riding horses, and making music. By the time we knew him, he worked at free lance carpentry, but kept a large number of musical instruments, which he modified, inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl and used to horse-trade with the local musicians.

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