Bruno Royal Artist Style A Tenor Banjo, made by Wm. Lange (1926)

 Bruno Royal Artist Style A Tenor Banjo, made by Wm. Lange  (1926)
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Item # 11711
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Bruno Royal Artist Style A Model Tenor Banjo, made by Wm. Lange (1926), made in New York City, natural varnish finish, laminated maple neck, resonator and rim, ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

Is a Paramount by any other name still a Paramount? In this case pretty much yes, as this tenor banjo made by William Lange for Bruno & Sons in New York is every bit as grand as its full-line equivalent. Lange had a longstanding business relationship with New York jobber Bruno, who in the 1910s were the exclusive distributors of his high-end Orpheum line. The 1926 Bruno catalog introduced a 3-model "house" line of fully professional banjos branded "Royal Artist", of which this Style A was the most basic.

This banjo is a close cousin to Paramount's Style A, the plainest banjo in the company's professional line. This Bruno retailed originally at $125.00;, $5 less than its Paramount sibling. In the 1920's this was still a fancy and expensive instrument, aimed at pro players. The Paramount line were about the most popular orchestra banjos of the 1920s, the lynchpin of the rhythm section of every jazz and dance band in the country as well as a featured soloist's instrument.

This Royal Artist Style A has many similar features to the mid-1920's Paramount A, but some interesting differences as well. The neck, resonator and rim are of laminated all-maple construction with some beautiful burl figure on the back. The rim and elevated tone ring are Paramount style, but the resonator is a bit deeper with unbound edges but an inlaid strip along the side. The stamped metal flange is the only part that looks cheaper; it is integral with the rim sheath and has fancier star-shaped holes. The resonator is retained by two small screw-on nuts instead of the hooks used on Paramounts.

The neck is very similar, made of 5-piece laminated maple with a bound thin ebony fingerboard sporting notched diamond pearl inlay. There is a marquetry strip laid under the fingerboard and a particularly fancy and attractive peghead design with elaborate engraved pearl inlay engraved "Royal Artist" "Bruno NY' and "A"..

The tailpiece and tuners depart from in-house Paramount practice; they are Grover parts may have been sourced by Bruno separately. Tuners are the early Grover "spike" style geared units and the tailpiece is the standard long Presto used by many makers. The curved armrest is also a more generic piece. As the original Page tuners used exclusively by Paramount were prone to cracking housings even when new, Bruno got the better end of this deal!

This Royal Artist Style A is a medium-level tenor by 1920's standards but neat and attractive. It maintains the quality and sound of a Paramount, not as heavily decorated as some but with the same construction as the high grade styles. It is a much rarer instrument, as this line was only in production fairly briefly in the mid-late 1920s. This is a fine and lovely nearly 100 year old banjo, not too heavily used and ready for the next century.

Overall length is 33 3/4 in. (85.7 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 23 in. (584 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This nearly 100 year old banjo shows some general wear overall but remains original and a fine player. The original thin varnish finish is largely intact on the neck and rim; it appears the resonator may have been refinished or overfinished long ago or it could be sloppier than usual work from Lange's crew on this off-brand piece! A small chip of binding is mossing on the treble side of the fingerboard just above the body.

All hardware is original, the thin metal flange has some dents and warping to the outer edge but nothing that affects function. The original slim frets have only very light wear. The banjo is set up with an older (probably 1960s) Weather King plastic head and has a very powerful sound, fully equivalent to its Paramount siblings. It resides in the original HSC, somewhat battered externally but still fully functional. Excellent - Condition.