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Custom Made Top Tension Banjo, 1978 / First Quality Banjo / Liberty Banjo Co

Price: $4,500.00 USD

This is a one-off custom-made 1978 top tension banjo with a lot of personal history and ties to some of the great banjo builders of that era. I put this together in 1978 from top quality parts and guidance from Bill Sullivan (First Quality Banjo Supply) and Bob Flesher (Liberty Banjo Company) ... some of the most recognized names even to this day. I was 18 years old when I assembled the parts and put this all together. Here is everything you need to know, but feel free to ask any questions and I'll be happy to answer as best as I can.

The three-ply rolled maple rim and tone ring were purchased from Bill Sullivan in 1978. The rim was made by Bill in his shop. The tone ring is believed to be a Steve Ryan ring as he was supplying rings to Bill Sullivan at that time. The top tension hoop and solid one-piece flange were bought from Bob Flesher of Liberty Banjo Company.

Sometime in the mid-1980s when I lived outside of Knoxville, a friend of mine ran a business plating and polishing fine metal and I had him strip all the nickel plating off all the brass and bronze parts using a slow controlled electrical/ acid process that he closely monitored. He then polished the parts and applied about 8 coats of clear Emrond car paint, so the parts have maintained their natural beauty since. Except for a few tiny places where the clearcoat has worn off, these parts never tarnish and retain the natural beauty of these metals.

The neck on this banjo was re-made by Bill Sullivan in his new large shop in 2002, after the original neck Bill had made for me in 1978 was broken. The headstock is based on a Paramount design which I modified by elongating it slightly and widening it at the top, which I think made for a more pleasing, balanced shape. The replacement neck bears the same headstock and fingerboard inlay, an original design by Bob Flesher. I got to meet Bob Flesher at SPBGMA in Knoxville sometime in the 1980s and I had him autograph the wood rim inside.

The neck features highly flamed curly maple, a rosewood peghead overlay bound with a very pretty antiqued binding which Bill recommended would be a nice touch and I agree. The ebony fingerboard is a compound radius and measures 1.25" at the nut and is a very beefy thick neck. I believe it has a two-way coordinator rod installed.

I installed 4 new Gotoh tuners about a year ago. The fifth tuner is original, I cannot remember the brand but it still works fine.

I acquired the tailpiece directly from Gary Price, I really love the in-line design. I do not recall which generation or version this is but I think I acquired it from him between the mid 1990s and mid 2000's. Somehere I have -- if I can find it -- an original 1970s Kirschner tailpiece that was also stripped to brass and clearcoated. If I can locate it, I will include it with the banjo.

The resonator is from an Aria Pro II banjo I had at the time (1978), and the wannabe hippie in me had an artist friend, Joan Nelson Worden of Spartanburg, paint an oil painting inside the resonator; I didn't want to part with that so just carried it over to the new banjo I assembled. I completely stripped the epoxy resin finish off the resonator decades ago any applied about 10 coats of clear lacquer. I believe the resonator is some type of rosewood and it has faux abalone binding. The unusual combination with the neck I always enjoyed, and thought was pleasing to the eye.

The radiused Prucha bridge was installed on the banjo by Jaroslav Prucha himself when he was visiting and attending banjothon in January 2010. He had a tacklebox full of bridges with him and he personally selected that bridge for this banjo and I bought it directly from him on the spot. The radiused bridge that Bill Sullivan provided when he built this neck is also included with the banjo.

I am the one and only owner of this banjo for the last 45 years since I put it together. It has a lot of personal and sentimental history and I've played hundreds of gigs with this banjo in person and all over the radio in east Tennessee. You as buyer will be the second owner. While there might be some debate as to the worth or value of this banjo, I am not inclined to negotiate on price very much as the sum total of its parts alone is close to the asking price, especially given the hands that had a role in creating this instrument. And it doesn't matter to me if this sells or not, but at this stage of life I'm probably not going to use it much anymore as I love my lightweight Nechville which is waaaay more forgiving on my back. You will never find another banjo like this that has had these well-known and respected builders involved in one single instrument. If a new caretaker can love this the way I have loved it for these many decades, I will be happy to part with it. But only if it is be played and cherished for what it is. This is not a museum piece, it's a working banjo and needs to be played. It's life is still young, mine, not so much :)

Being a top tension banjo, it is loud yet mellow, clear and has a full-bodied sound. You can pull a lot of beautiful tone from this thing. The 5-star head is at least 20+ years old so a new head would not be a bad idea. I have tons of recordings of this banjo I can point you to, to hear it online, many here on BHO. And of course, it weighs a ton, somewhere around 14 lbs.

Banjo is shown with the custom engraved truss cover with my name. I will remove that prior to shipping and retain that for myself as a sentimental keepsake. So, no truss cover will be included.

I am including an inexpensive relatively new hardshell case that is not really suitable for shipping ... so I will remove the neck for shipping; the pot assembly will be well padded inside the case and I will pack the neck separately but will ship together in the same double-wall guitar box, so you'll receive one large heavy box. This way I can ensure it will not be damaged in shipping. Shipping is fully insured, and is included in the price to the lower 48 states. If you are outside the continental US we'll need to have a discussion as the shipping can cost a small fortune and you will need to cover much of that added cost if you're really interested.

I will drive up to a 200 mile radius of Spartanburg SC (which includes Knoxville, Atlanta, Raleigh, Myrtle Beach and everything in-between) to meet any interested potential buyer for a non-refundable $75 deposit to cover my travel. If you buy the banjo this will be applied to the purchase price.

So there you have it.


Interested? Contact Seller to arrange purchase


Shipping: Shipping to lower 48 include in price

Posted By: banjoy
United States, Spartanburg, SC,

Contact Info: Please contact me through classifieds with your phone # and I will call you and we can discuss by phone. I will drive up to a 200 mile radius of Spartanburg SC (which includes Knoxville, Atlanta, Raleigh, Myrtle Beach and everything in-between) to meet any interested potential buyer for a non-refundable $75 deposit to cover my travel. If you buy the banjo this will be applied to the purchase price. Many thanks.

Condition of Banjo: Used - Excellent Condition

Discuss this Banjo

Type: 5-String Resonator, Brand: First Quality Parts

Ad Status: Active, #99976, viewed 2473 times


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