Paramount Style A Tenor Banjo (1925)

Paramount  Style A Tenor Banjo  (1925)
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Item # 7594
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Paramount Style A Model Tenor Banjo (1925), made in New York City, serial # 5714, natural varnish finish, laminated maple rim, laminated maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

Paramount's Style A was the plainest-grade instrument in the company's professional standard "letter series" line retailing originally at $130.00; in the 1920's this was still a fancy and expensive instrument. Along with Vega's Vegaphone models William Lange's Paramount line were the most popular of all the orchestra banjos of the 1920's and basically set the pattern for the "modern" resonator banjo. These banjos were the lynchpin of the rhythm section of every jazz and dance band in the country, as well as a featured soloist's instrument.

This Style A is fairly well-worn but typical of mid-1920's Paramounts, not as heavily decorated but with all the same construction details of the high grade instruments. The neck and rim are of laminated all-maple construction with rosewood-bound edges. The rosewood fingerboard has notched diamond pearl inlay, there is a marquetry strip under the fingerboard and a particularly fancy and attractive peghead design with elaborate engraved pearl inlay.

The tailpiece is the standard 1920s Paramount adjustable tension style, marked as "improved Paramount Pat. Pend'g" on the hinged cover. The armrest is the earlier style bent flat wire piece. The original Page tuners are long gone, a very common situation as the cast housings were prone to cracking even when new. This Style A is a medium-level tenor by 1920's standards but retains all the quality and sound of the best Paramounts. This is a played-in but fine nearly 100 year old banjo, ready for the next century.
Overall length is 33 1/2 in. (85.1 cm.), 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm.) diameter head, and 3 1/4 in. (8.3 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 fairly well worn but a solid player, with changed tuners and fitted out with a modern plastic head but otherwise largely original. The fragile Page cast-housing tuning pegs are long gone; the banjo looks to have gone through several tuner experiments long ago. It is fitted with a set of late-20s Grover two-tabbed pegs, functional and correct to the period at least. Multiple holes and marks in the back of the peghead attest to other different fittings early on. Thankfully the beautiful headstock face was relatively undisturbed.

There is some fairly heavy finish wear, most notably to the lower/bottom side and back of the resonator. The back of the neck only has had a clear lacquer overspray, likely long ago with some older wear visible beneath. Some of the ambered lacquer has flaked off the heavily inlaid headstock facing. Position dots in paint have been amateurishly added to the side of the fingerboard; these could be removed if desired but are actually fairly functional, for the less than expert player at least.

Most of the plating is in surprisingly good shape; The tailpiece cover has some heavy loss and some hooks show corrosion mostly along the bottom side. The hoop is a bit chewed into on its top surface from multiple re-headings. The hooks and nuts are original and complete; the outer head on one of the mounting bolts for the armrest is sheared off but it does not affect the piece itself at all. The banjo was refretted some time ago with somewhat larger wire than the (very thin) original and this is a fine playing and sounding example of a classic era Paramount from the mid-1920s, one of the standard orchestra tenor banjos of that or any era. It includes a worn but functional original HSC. Overall Very Good + Condition.