Vega Pete Seeger Model Longneck 5 String Banjo (1961)

Vega  Pete Seeger Model Longneck 5 String Banjo  (1961)
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Item # 11590
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Vega Pete Seeger Model Longneck Model 5 String Banjo (1961), made in Boston, Mass., serial # 100978, shaded maple finish, laminated maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, original brown alligator chipboard case.

This is an early and very nice example of the classic Vega longneck "folk" banjo from the early 1960s, originally designed as a custom instrument for Pete Seeger then put into production late in 1958. This is the earlier original style model with a traditional wooden dowel stick, replaced soon after with Gibson-like co-ordinator rods later which added quite a bit of weight to the rim.

The rim itself is the old Tu-Ba-Phone pattern, still with round holes instead of rectangular cut-outs found on later PS-5 and Vegavox models. The shoes are mounted through the rim from the inside (instead of just through the bracket band), but otherwise it is built to the same high standard as Vega's older prewar instruments with typically excellent workmanship. The neck is laminated maple, finished in sunburst with a dot-inlaid bound ebony fingerboard. The headstock face has a pearl inlaid Vega logo and star emblem, with geared "pancake" banjo tuners, later replaced with Grover Rotomatic guitar tuners.

The yellow Vega serial number label with "Pete Seeger" handwritten is intact on the inside of the rim. The serial number is also stamped on the dowel stick, where the employee made several attempts to get the final digit right before giving up and stamping it above the rest. Vega at the time were a small shop, there are very hand-made instruments. The success of this one instrument when the "Folk boom' took off was a strain on their limited production capacity in the early '60s.

These banjos were designed to be tuned down to "E" using standard 5-string "G" tuning intervals. The development was the result of Pete Seeger's need for a banjo that could comfortably accommodate different vocal keys, especially the typical blues guitarist's penchant for playing in E! He also sometimes used it in a low Bb version of "C" tuning. Most players kept a capo handy to easily switch to G or other keys...the position dots are actually designed to be in the familiar layout when the banjo is capo'd in the 3rd fret "G" position, and look odd when it is not. This one has had a later sliding capo added to facilitate 5th string re-tuning.

This style banjo was an essential piece of equipment for late 1950s and early '60s folk groups, starting with the Kingston Trio. This actual Seeger signature model longneck was very sought after at the time and considered rather expensive; they are actually rather rare today. Vega offered a cheaper version without the Tu-Ba-Phone tone ring and other makers soon copied the instrument, but the genuine Seeger model -- especially this early version -- remains the finest and most desired of all these long necks. While not often seen today, this is an interesting and versatile instrument just waiting for revival!
Overall length is 43 1/2 in. (110.5 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 2 3/4 in. (7 cm.) deep. Scale length is 32 in. (813 mm.).

This banjo remains in very nice original condition with some light wear. There are dings on the edges of the headstock and the heel, with a couple of chips to the back of the neck. The lacquer is lightly worn down to the wood in spots on the bottom edge of the rim. The plating on the rim and hooks is clean with no major corrosion or loss.

The hardware is original, The head and bridge are newer. As noted there is a sliding 5th string capo added to the neck, which is particularly useful on this banjo; a small railroad spike hole was filled in the fingerboard at fret 12. The banjo plays excellent with a big ringing sound, just as it did in 1961. The original alligator-grained chipboard case has some external wear but is nicely preserved as well. This is one of those instruments that just does not turn up much anymore, and we are always glad to find a nice one! Overall Excellent Condition.