Monday, May 16, 2005

I bought a new banjo... and it's my first

I've just gotten a very special banjo: it's an old Kay banjo, a five-string with a mahogany neck and a rosewood fingerboard.

The head is probably some kind of plastic although it looks like skin--not likely a skin head would be this tight and would last this long. It's got a resonator on it, but I've taken it off--I want the open back sound to it.

Here's a picture from the back. You can see the nice flame pattern in the neck.

The pegs are metal and solid. They're rather unusual, as most of the straight-through pegs you find have some kind of plastic knob on 'em. Finding a Kay banjo with this particular feature has been something of a challenge, as most of them have the ivory-colored plastic.

Okay, it looks nice, it's in really good condition, and it's sturdy (although I do have to make some adjustments to the neck to get it just perfect), but what makes this banjo really special? Easy: this is the make and model of banjo that I started playing on, lo! these many moons ago, in 1971. I bought it from a very nice man through eBay and it just came today. Just pulling it out of the box and looking at it brought back a million memories of being in high school in Tucson and learning to play banjo and guitar.

There's nothing really special about this banjo of itself. It's like any of thousands of other low-end basic banjos. But save for a missing decal at the top of the peghead, it's the spitting image of the one I had. Even better, when I got it strung up with new strings, the tone was the same as the one I used to have Way Back When! It's a slightly different tone from any of my other banjos (this one's number #5 in the house) and I recall walking around Tucson, playing the banjo and singing songs. Gawd, I just well up with happiness at recovering a part of my youth. {deep and happy sigh}



Bozoette said...

It's lovely!

Ted said...

John, if you don't mind, what did you end up paying for that banjo? A friend just found one like it in her basement and I'd like to offer to buy it, but have no idea what it's worth.

John Hedtke said...

With $20 shipping, it was a hair under $150, which was about $30 less than I'd have expected to pay for it on eBay. If the skin head is intact and the neck is straight, $150 is a good price.

If you'd like more info, email me your email address or phone number and we'll talk.

sam said...

Do you have any other information about this model of kay. I too just purchased one on ebay and am looking for a bit of the history behind it. mine is unusual in that is painted a lovely off white color with a stencil of a rose in a circle on the back of the resonator. it seems to have come from the factory that way but I can't find any information to be sure. thanks for your help.