One of the interesting trends of the early 20th century was the fascination with converting all sorts of stringed instruments into banjos. People made mandolins into banjos, and guitars, and most ill-advisedly, even full scale string basses were fashioned onto a banjo body.
The most popular, perhaps, were the banjo ukuleles. Virtually all were based on the soprano ukulele, small instruments with only four strings, making them suitable for children or for travel. These became quite popular and many examples still remain in the custody of collectors and vintage music specialists.
And now, proving that everything old is new again, the Deering Banjo Company has added a banjo ukulele to their Goodtime banjo collection. A chief difference between theirs and the ones popular in the 1920s is that Deering has put a concert ukulele neck onto a standard 11′ banjo pot. It makes for an odd looking assembly, but as it happens, a sonorous and extremely playable instrument.
The concert scale neck makes it comfortable for banjo, mandolin, and guitar players, with a fingerboard extension reaching to 17 frets over the head. Other features and appointments share specifications with the other banjos in the Goodtime line: maple neck and rim, guitar-style tuners, and are made in Deering’s California facility.
They are offered at $499 and should be available from Deering dealers by the end of this month.
Here’s banjo wizard and Deering endorser Jens Kruger with a demonstration.
Will we see a revival of interest in the venerable banjo ukulele? Time will tell the tale.