I've had my eyes on a Clifford Essex Concert Grand for some time now (this one was built between 1912 and 1919 so it satisfied my historical interests given my passion for WWI history).  I know a number of players on this discussion board play Concert Grands, so I was hoping to hear their opinions on them.  I've never seen one in person and I can't try before I buy, but I love how they sound in recordings and am aware that they are often regarded as tonally improved Whyte Laydies.  Right as I was about to pull the trigger on the Concert Grand, I was offered a 1897 Cole's Eclipse 4000 (butterfly inlay) in mint, unplayed condition with its original case.  From a monetary standpoint the Cole is a fantastic deal since the seller is only asking for $1700!  The Concert Grand I was looking at is $1400, which is still a good deal I think.  How does the Eclipse compare tonally to the Concert Grand, and in terms of general playability which banjo is superior?  I've heard that Eclipses have wider fingerboards and chunkier necks than late 1890s Fairbanks banjos, so it may have a comparable feel to the Concert Grand. Having played neither, I just don't know.  There is a video on Youtube of Bill Evans playing Ragtime Episode on an Eclipse and I really like the tone he is getting, but upon closer inspection he is using a three-legged ebony-topped bridge and appears to be playing with his nails pretty far from the bridge, so I doubt it will sound the same with a proper bridge and played without any nail. 

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Agreed, there is a big difference between:

Clifford Essex Co.     and       Clifford Essex & Son !!

I think there may have been a woman involved.

I believe there is a problem with the datation , your banjo n° 4330 should be from the early 20 'S and not from 1934 ;  the n°s 4299 & 4300 have both the pre 1919 CE label ;  it 's impossible  that only 30 CE special have been sold between 1919 & 1934 .............

the  E K ' bill  have a mistake or the banjo was re sold 2nd hand in 1934 or has been in the reserve of the music store for 15 years ........... ,?

Those are all possibilities, Marc...and I discussed them with EK. I had originally thought it would have been built in the 20's also. He was adamant though. I do know that he spent a good deal of time in England back in the 70's and 80's. He's got a huge pile of UK music, including a large dose of Joe Morley manuscript that I'd like to dig into.

By 1919, the popularity of 5-string banjos had begun to wane. Certainly here in the US, very few were sold by any given manufacturer after WWI...Tenor banjos having overtaken 5-strings. However, I do agree with your line of thinking. Surely there were more than 15 sold and we do have similar situations here with Gibson banjos that sat for years before being sold.

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