Vega Pete Seeger PS-5 Model Longneck 5 String Banjo (1963)

Vega  Pete Seeger PS-5 Model Longneck 5 String Banjo  (1963)
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Item # 12260
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Vega Pete Seeger PS-5 Model Longneck Model 5 String Banjo (1963), made in Boston, Mass., serial # A-11493, shaded maple finish, laminated maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This is an original and very clean example of the classic Vega longneck "folk" banjo from the 1960s, originally designed as a custom instrument for Pete Seeger then put into production late in 1958. The iconic Peter Seeger PS-5 model went through a number of evolutionary changes; this is second generation transitional 1960s version with metal coordinating rods instead of a wooden dowel. The yellow Vega label inside the rim has the A-series serial number ink stamped with "Pete Seeger" handwritten, and dates to 1963; this banjo has only 5 numbers after an A-prefix, which was apparently a printer's error as the series had run to six some time before.

A link to earlier Vega banjo styles is the "Tubaphone" tone ring, which still has round ports instead of rectangular cut-outs found on some later PS-5 and VegaVox models. The shoes are mounted through the traditional bracket band but also run through the rim, unlike earlier models. The neck is laminated maple, finished in sunburst with a dot-inlaid bound ebony fingerboard and an adjustable truss rod. The headstock face has a pearl inlaid Vega logo and star emblem.

These long-neck banjos were designed to be tuned to a lower "E" pitch 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 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 less expensive "Folklore" version without the Tu-Ba-Phone tone ring and other makers soon copied the instrument, but the genuine Seeger model remains the finest and most desired of all 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.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This 60 year old banjo remains in extremely clean original condition with just some very minor wear and a replaced tuner set. There are a few small dings, scuffs and dents here and there but really the finish appears very little used. The plating on the rim and hooks is quite clean as well, with some light scuffing no major corrosion or loss. The hardware is original except for more modern high-grade geared tuners both on the headstock and 5th string position. The 5th string nut was replaced leaving a bit of scarring around it, and there are some marks in the finish on the side of the neck around the 5th string peg as well. The head is a genuine skin mounted to a modern flesh hoop and the bridge appears to be the original Vega maple piece with an ebony cap. The original tailpiece and armrest are intact.

The banjo plays perfectly with a big ringing sound, just as it did in the 1960s. The original green-lined alligator grain Lifton hardshell case is very nicely preserved as well. A whole passel of period paperwork is included, with the original instruction sheets and hangtag among them. This is one of those instruments that does not turn up that much anymore, and we are always glad to find such a nice one! Overall Excellent Condition.