J. E. Dallas Concert Fretless 5 String Banjo , c. 1890

J. E. Dallas  Concert Fretless 5 String Banjo ,  c. 1890
$1,250.00 + shipping
Buy Now
Item # 10503
Prices subject to change without notice.
J. E. Dallas Concert Fretless Model 5 String Banjo, c. 1890, made in London, England, serial # 1896, natural varnish finish, spunover rim, mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, black gig bag case.

John E. Dallas was one of England's premier banjo makers, starting in a small workshop in London's Oxford Street with J E. Brewster in 1873 and two years later set up as a music publisher and banjo maker at 415 Strand. Dallas was an excellent craftsman who fashioned some very high-class banjos and zither-banjos. By 1893 he took over the entire 415 Strand premises for his workshops making a large range of instruments, some sold under his own brand and more for other firms and teachers. For some years he claimed to personally test every banjo before it was sold. In 1905-6 his three sons were made directors and the firm became to J. E. Dallas & Sons.

This interesting 19th century fretless banjo was built well before that, simply stamped "J. E. Dallas" on the dowel stick. It is not possible to date exactly but 1890 would be a fairly good, if late period estimate for a fretless of this type. It is stamped "Concert" on the shaped dowel along with the makers name and serial number, those latter two also stamped inside the rim. The slim mahogany neck has a smooth ebony fingerboard with star and dot markers, but no fret lines. It is fitted with varied-size position dots on the upper side designating every position, a practice common in England but not the US.

The rim is a fairly standard spunover type similar to most American banjos of the period, with a complete set of Dallas' fancier hooks and nuts. The original Celluloid pegs are also intact. We don't often find good fretless banjos of this type; this one is not only a fine quality if fairly plain instrument but exceptionally well preserved. This is a fantastic find for an experienced fretless banjoist and a great "starter" for the player just dabbling in microtonal banjoistic possibilities!
Overall length is 35 3/4 in. (90.8 cm.), 12 in. (30.5 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 28 in. (711 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/16 in. (30 mm.).

This fretless banjo is in excellent condition for its age, something like 130 years on still quite a functional instrument. It looks like the entire neck and dowel finish along with the interior rim were lightly overcoated with a new varnish application long ago, so the patina is not as aged as it would naturally be. There is very little subsequent finish wear, the plating has some minor spotting, pitting and corrosion but for its age is relatively clean as well. The headstock veneer has an ancient tight split on the face.

The head is an older calfskin, and the hardware on the banjo appears largely original including Dallas' fancy hooks and nuts. The ivoroid tailpiece is an older style, possibly original but it looks more like a later repro. The bridge is vintage styled but newer. The neck is quite straight, the fretless fingerboard has virtually no wear (it is of course a gut-string banjo) and playability is excellent. This is an excellent instrument within its 19th century limits (gut or nylon strings only, please!) and a lovely authentic fretless player. Overall Excellent Condition.