Ludwig Standard Art Tenor Banjo (1927)

Ludwig  Standard Art Tenor Banjo  (1927)
$2,750.00 + shipping
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Item # 11222
Prices subject to change without notice.
Ludwig Standard Art Model Tenor Banjo (1927), made in Chicago, serial # 9529, natural varnish finish, laminated walnut neck and resonator, brass rim, original black hard shell case.

The "Standard Art" model is a truly beautiful high-end example of Ludwig's 1920's craftsmanship, originally the top of the Chicago company's banjo line. "The new spirit in banjos" the Ludwig catalog enthused "Artistic...designed to meet the favor of the most discriminating performer". By the time this one was made the even more over the-top-deluxe "Big Chief' had appeared but this is still an extremely ornate banjo, even considering its original $350.00 price. Ludwig banjos of the 1920s are unique in several ways, with solid metal rims (a close relative of the company's revered snare drums) and after 1926-7 built to an advanced top-tension design.

Everything on this banjo is exceptionally fancy, with decoration on all exposed surfaces. The neck and resonator are made of figured American walnut which Chas. McNeil (Ludwig's resident banjo consultant) considered the "only" suitable wood. The neck features numerous maple and ebony laminates both horizontally and vertically, with small pearl diamonds inlaid along their length. Very fancy shaped pearl inlay adorns the bound ebony board. The headstock has engraved pearl inlay and "Ludwig" script logo set into an abalone background, the heelcap is similar. The heel and back of the headstock are elaborately carved.

The rim and flange are solid milled brass, engraved in delicate motifs everywhere. All hardware is gold-plated, of course! The resonator back has an elaborate inlaid wood design, the sides have an inlaid web pattern within inset pearl pieces. The proprietary tailpiece is engraved with a "Ludwig USA" logo in the center. The neck is fitted with the Ludwig banjo action adjustor, two screws at the base of the neck to alter neck pitch. The tuners are gold-plated Planets with genuine pearl buttons.

These 1920s metal rim Ludwigs are very high-quality banjos, less common than most other makes of the era. The Standard Art is a very rare instrument in both the earlier bottom-tension and this top-tension versions. The sound is fairly bright (it IS a brass rim) but not overly so in comparison to tenors of the period. In terms of dollar value at the time, Ludwig offered a lot of flash and sound for the money and that is still true now!
Overall length is 33 3/4 in. (85.7 cm.), 10 7/8 in. (27.6 cm.) diameter head, and 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 23 in. (584 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/16 in. (30 mm.).

This banjo is in nice playing condition, showing some play wear overall but retaining all its original hardware. A very light lacquer overcoat was added to the finish on both neck and resonator many decades ago, typical of "older man" banjos popular in Dixieland bands. The gold plating was not redone and retains an aged muted sheen and crisp engraving. There is finish ear mostly to the back of the neck, worn partially through to the wood and light plating loss, without substantial gold missing.

The neck has been refretted with wire bigger than 1920's Ludwig standard, but not glaringly oversize. The original tailpiece is intact but the treble side flange mounting has a small crack in it and if dismounted or handled roughly will likely require a repair. The only alteration to the banjo is an inset collar over a small round hole in the rim just below the neck; this was either for a mute or (more likely) an electric connection for a head-drying light bulb.
This beautiful banjo is set up with an older clear plastic head and a handmade maple bridge with bone inserts in the ebony cap. It plays very well and has a fine sound, particularly rich for a metal-rim instrument. The original green plush-lined case also is well-worn but still solid and functional. Very Good + Condition.