I reckon' I'll do a little show and tell session. I'm very happy with my banjo. I recently got it off of eBay from a man in Florida who couldn't keep it any longer because he was retiring and going to live in a boat in the Caribean Sea. He said he got it while in The Bahamas from an old friend of his who said he got the banjo from a calypso musician in Nassau by the name Alphonso "Blind Blake" Higgs I assume after or sometime just before he died in 1986. The banjo was missing the 5th string when he got it as that is the Calypso style. Higgs was very famous in The Bahamas in the 1950s. Here is his version of Sloop John B. It is unmarked, but he claimed it was made by J. H. Buckbee in the 1880s and I suppose a lot of their banjos were unmarked. I absolutely love the patina it has, you can definitely tell this instrument has been played for over a century. The back of the neck has capo wear and hand wear. I believe the tailpiece, a no-knot, isn't orginal. it isn't without it's flaws though. It has a tear in the head that was repaired (I'm very glad because that skin head is too cool to replace... my arm covers it up when I play.) there is one hook missing, and the previous owner used steel strings for the 20 or so years he had it, so the wooden nut is all chipped up (I had to stick some paper under the 4th string to stop it from buzzing on the 1st fret.) and the neck is a tad loose when there's no strings.

here are some pictures I snapped for you.

You can barely see it, but BLAKE HIGGS NASSAU is carved into the dowel stick.

notice the scar on the lower left.

Thanks for reading!



Views: 134

Comment by Adam on March 5, 2010 at 17:00
An interesting provenance for your banjo.

Re: instrument flaws. Sometimes (and I do mean *sometimes*) it's an instrument's "flaws" that make it most endearing ...

Looking forward to more videos from you ... Check out the Tune of the Fortnight postings on this site ... A biweekly project we've all started working on around here ... The next tune is St Patrick's Day - due on March 17th so get cracking! :)

Rob Mackillop has been so kind as to post tab and notation and an mp3 of the tune to work from.
Comment by Carl Anderton on March 5, 2010 at 21:20
That's a fine axe you got there, with, as has been noticed, an interesting provenance.

Personally, if my banjo had a cracked head, or fret wear that precluded solid intonation and tone, or any other problems that affected its playability, I would take it to a trusted luthier and have it completely put right.

That's just an opinion, though, I'm not trying to tell you what to do with your instrument.

Putting on a new skin head is an interesting experience, I've replaced several, and it's always very frustrating at first and ultimately satisfying when you get it on and it dries and tightens up.

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