How many sons did he have?Well I guess it doesn't matter now (apart from for accuracies sake) but there are a lot of British made Banjoleles with his name on and ever a few Ukuleles too. And now one of the Ukuleles is coming to Ukulele Corner! From the photos it looks in really good nick and it is very likely a London made instrument but I am keen to find out all I can about its history, thats one of the reasons I invited it. That and that is is a lovely pre WWII sunburst Ukulele that looks (again from the photos) very pretty. Who knows, once it it here maybe it will tell me if John and his family did exist?
And it is in every bit as good a condition as the photos suggested. There are a few chips, the finish is a little crazed and the tuners are fairly modern replacements, (oh and it has a funny mothbally smell!) but for the money it's bloody good! Its also very tuneful too Everything is firmly fixed with a 12½ fret neck there are no worries about losing the 12 fret to neck movement, (though I can see no signs of neck movement) A good original bridge no seam separation, no cracks just the replacement tuners and these have been done pretty well. It has the "made in England" label in so must date from the 1930's but is much better made that a lot of the British made ones of the time I have seen and is at least equal to any of the US made ones of the time it is also interesting to see the John Grey bridge and neck heel (though I've not seen them on anything else so possibly these weren't made for anyone else?) It doesn't tell me if john Grey existed but it does tell me Rose Morris made a fine Ukulele
Well after 6 months of waiting I finally gave up and changed my order. I had already paid as it was part of a larger order and with the Euro weakening against the Pound quite a bit in the intervening period I would have lost a fair amount if I had just asked for my money back so I decided to change the order. What I went for was Fenders re-issue of its famous 1950's Electric Mandolin, now branded the Mando-Strat, (because although everyone called the original a Mandocaster, Fender never officially did - it was just the Fender electric Mandolin - and in the intervening years a number of people had put out electric Mandolins they had officially called the Mandocaster). I really wanted one of the original 1950's versions, (and still do), but they run well into 4 figures for a good one so it looked very unlikely in reality that I would ever get one, and this re issue when it first came out wasn't cheap so I decided to wait before getting one in case I could get an original or until I could get a new one at a much lower price, (probably 2nd hand), I did keep a vague eye on them though, in case they were discontinued again (in which case I would have to buy one quick!) Well they haven't been discontinued yet but the price has dropped considerably, (by more than half at Thomann), so when I looked for a substitute there it was. (Truth to tell I wasn't particularly looking for a substitute but when I saw the price Thomann was now doing Mando-Strats for, I then decided to change the order) So now the Mando-Strat is on its way to Ukulele corner; I shall mess about with the strings and tune it like a Ukulele as I do with all my Mandolins and I will still dream about getting a Blond '56 one, (the reissue only comes as sunburst) I will even still say I would like one of the ones on sale in Japan that were actually built as Ukuleles (but these are very very expensive even without shipping and import tax however they do come in other finished too so I would get a blue one of those - and if I had all three, then I would tuned the Mando-Strat as a Mandolin)
And its a real real Fender - the bolt on neck and the headstock shape make it seem much more like a real Fender than my Fender Ukulele though they are both real Fenders(? so I'm not sure I'm conveying what I mean well here - anyway) Steel strings hurt my fingers but I have persevered with it and learned to play Sweet Home Alabama on the Mandolin so far though I'm still not sure whether to leave it tuned G~D~A~E (Mandolin) or go A~D~F#~B (Ukulele low A but I probably should change the B string if I do...
Nah its nowhere near as cheesegratery when its a little slack)
This was another Ukulele that I couldn't let go by without having a fairly serious go at. Its a 1959/60 Levin Honolulu Soprano, made in Sweden a few years before Martin brought Levin and for those that don't know Levin was reputedly a very, very good maker. So good in fact that they use to make instrument for Martin to brand, (which is why Martin brought them). However they are quite rare and don't come up for sale very often so when this one came up I knew I would have to have a go though really the amount I bid for it was more in the hope that no one else would know who Levin were; a hope that paid off and now it too is coming to Ukulele Corner as a welcome new resident. It will be interesting to compare it to my Martin which is of a similar vintage and see which one is the best?
and its a lot heavier that the Martin, (or the Vox thats just arrived) and with a 353mm scale a little bit bigger too. It is still a Soprano but only just. This is a quality instrument, and very solid but to answer the question I posed before it arrived, and with the caveat of them both being over 50 years old and me not knowing how hard a life either of them has led up to coming to Ukulele Corner, I would say the Martin is the better quality. However the strings on this one badly need replacing and I will probably think a lot more of it once I have done that; and with the distinctive stepped headstock this one looks cooler than the Martin
When the Vox Hello Kitty limited edition Ukuleles came out I was very taken with them, and a little confused too. First Vox; now its a name with a good rock'n'roll heritage and as such the kind of thing I wanted if only for the heritage name, but there is no history of Ukuleles in the brand? Ok so Korg had brought Vox since its heyday are the British Guitar and Amp maker of the 1960's and I know the Japanese do like their Ukuleles but it still seemed a little odd for Korg to put the name on this limited edition range? Even odder that they brought the range out in conjunction with Hello Kitty, (another thing I know the Japanese like, but why the link to Vox?) The next odd thing about the whole setup was These were very high quality Ukuleles, actually made in Japan by Headway, but they were very expensive, (more expensive that I thought Hello Kitty collectors would want to go - and I didn't think the Hello Kitty connection would appear to serious Ukulele collectors who would be willing to pay that sort of money for a Ukulele: when I say serious I don't mean me because I can never take myself seriously - its all a bit of fun) They were also only originally available in Japan so, though I liked the idea of owning a Vox and I thought the Kitty soundhole looked fun I'd never realistically get the chance to invite one to Ukulele Corner. Well after a year or so Korg international got hold of some and they became available in Europe but they were still very expensive and they were still Hello Kitty, there were a lot of other Ukuleles that I wanted more if I was going to spend that kind of money. Korg had also put out the Vox Teardrop electric Concert, it played far more to Vox's heritage and was a lot cheaper so it was a much better bet to feed my need for a Vox Ukulele, (I'll still get one when I get the chance at the right price), so the whole thing was well on the back burner. Then this one came up its from Korg UK and is an ex display model, and still not cheap, but a serious amount cheaper than they were originally, (cheaper even than the teardrop), and I still think the soundhole looks fun; and I still want a Vox, and I know Headway make very good Ukuleles So I set the invitation out and it was accepted and no 152 (of 400) is coming to stay at Ukulele Corner, Hello Kitty!
and Hello Kitty indead! this really is beautiful and it has a magnificent tone, every bit the true quality Ukulele I was hoping for; I even love the soft case (though I can't say that is spectacular quality but it does make me laugh - me with a Hello Kitty soft case - I shall use it in any situations where I use a soft case). It also came with a Vox owners user manual, a Gotoh Ukulele tuner user manual (that is entirely in Japanese apart from the heading?) and a label that says it is for sale in Japan only, (which I shall keep too). Maybe Milton Keynes has moved since I was last there? Whatever the case I love this Ukulele!
Anyway on to the Banjolele - What I have invited is a Banjolele branded Pennant by Barth, Lutchins and Feinberg of New York, made some time in the 1920s probably by Oscar Schmidt, (can't be sure until I see the whole thing. and as ever since I am collecting it I won't have to wait very long until its here - What I will have to do is get that new rail up!!
and it was made by Globe Musical Instrument Co. not Oscar Schmidt. its also in very good condition and was made in 1927 - there is a little note written on the perch pole saying it was a Christmas present for E.F. Lorey that year - Well in 2014 its a Christmas present for Lardy Fatboy, (but I won't write that on it anywhere). As well as being in good condition with no tensioners missing, original tuners, original tailpiece and original resonator, it's very loud (and very welcome to Ukulele Corner)
But its a Classic, Its got all of the original plastic bits, the damage is only superficial, (hopefully you never know what is hidden buying online) and its a breath of swinging sixties surfing sunshine even if it was made a long way from the beach - Its the the Petersen Polk-a-lay-lee!
The damage is listed as a largish chuck of the top layer of ply off from the back, hopefully no more and hopefully with its 4 foot plus length it can get to Ukulele corner without getting any more (going to be fun to pack!) Once it is here I will be able to strum away and dream of the beach
and its been snapped in two in transit right where the tuners are. Its also in a lot worse condition that described with most of the top layer of laminate peeling away as well as whole chunks of laminate missing from the front and the back! I don't know if this can be brought back from the dead at all!! Anyone need some Polk-a-ley-lee tuners?
Now I really must get a job and get those new rails up And I hope it sings as sweetly to me once it arrives
That slow boat from China is getting faster and faster
It's all lovely and shiny and new, (well not shiny as it has a matte finish but you know what I mean). It has Aquila strings and nice enclosed tuners. The rosewood veneer is pretty and so are the bindings. It doesn't have a side port which surprised me and with the single set of small sound holes it is quite quiet. The epaulette itself does look more ovation like than I was expecting from the publicity photo but everything else is very different from an Ovation so it doesn't come across too much as a copy. The factory set up is pretty good so it doesn't need anything done to it except being loved and played; and I can do that.
And I still have no idea where it came from? There is no "Made In China" label but there is no made in anywhere label just a Bryce BUK08 label but that was probably added by the distributor. From the build It really doesn't look Chinese made? The Spanish heel (yes slot head and a Spanish heel!!) the golpeador the fretboard, (or lack of even a pretence of one) the brass frets the finish; Everything! This certainly comes from a different factory from any of my other Ukuleles, and the overall slightly less machine made quality of the build makes me think a slightly a slightly less modern industrial nation that China. maybe India? Maybe Venezuela? Is very good for the money though
Well I asked and it IS made in China but clearly from none of the factories I have Ukuleles from already
and its a lot more beat up that the listing said! both the back and the sound board are coming away, there is a split in the back and it looks like the bridge is coming away too. I'm not sure how original the finish is either it is quite amateurish and looks sticky without quite being stick to the touch(?) I'm tempted to sent this one back as "not as described" but postage would cost pretty much what the Ukulele did so I'l keep it and see if I can get it restored.
In addition to being a crock of shite there are no other markings that give away anything about its origin and nothing legible on the very old box apart from Hand & Co W1 - not even a postmark date. Well I've put the box away safely. I think, (hope), the re-glueing will be straightforward so lets see if I ever get a tune out of it
Alas this didn't come into stock when advertised and I'm going to have to wait at least another month for it Well they say good things come to those who wait so it must be a good thing
They missed that delivery date now its due for Christmas (I do believe in Santa I do believe in Santa...)
Santa didn't help now the delivery date is after the 15th January (that is 2015 isn't it?)
Well it didn't arrive for my birthday and it hasn't arrived for Easter either despite being given a revised mid March delivery date! I wonder what the issue is? I know its with Dean as they are show as unavailable with similar delivery leads on their online shop. I'm waiting to see what the new delivery date will be - but at the moment I'm tempted to swap the order for a Fender Mando-Strat
Well I've made the decision and decided to swap and get the Mando Strat so I'm just waiting to get confirmation that this is OK and they haven't already shipped one to me and its on the way? (to be completely honest the final straw in making my mind up on the switch is a second hand one coming up on eBay - Once I know I'm getting the Mando-Strat I'll put a bid in for that; who knows I might still get one)
What a saga trying to get this Ukulele to come to Ukulele Corner is proving! I swapped the order with Thomann (see it may be a Sub but its a Super sub) and went to put a bid in for the second hand one on ebay but it had gone! Something about an error in the listing which usually means they have sold it elsewhere so I thought "thats that", deleted this page and resigned myself to the ML being like the Iceman, one that I have seen in photos but am unlikely to get a real one.
However looking at ebay last night the second hand one I had seen was back (the postage had doubled in price!) and only had a few hours left in the auction with no bid on it. so I put a bid in quick; and no one else bid! Even with the extra postage and import tax its still cheaper than the one from Thomann - and this one was in stock, (though the photos were pretty crap), so it should now be winging its way to Ukulele Corner. Finally!
And I don't like it!
No I love it, (though it is a bit awkward to play - the vee bit at the bottom makes it tricky to hold comfortably you kind of have to put you are between the vee which then holds the body at a bit of an odd angle. It probably should have strap pins to get arouns the holding issue but it looks AWESOME so I'm not going to do anything that might detract from its original awesomeness I shall learn to play it at funny angle
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