Leedy SoloTone B Tenor Banjo (1926)

Leedy  SoloTone B Tenor Banjo  (1926)

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Item # 8726
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Leedy SoloTone B Model Tenor Banjo (1926), made in Indianapolis, serial # 1209, natural lacquer finish, brass and walnut rim and flange; laminated walnut neck with ebony fingerboard, period black hard shell case.

The Leedy banjos of the 1920s are far from common today -- this muted gold and walnut Leedy solo tone B is a very impressive-looking instrument, and also a beautifully designed piece. The headstock and fingerboard are ebony with delicate pearl inlay, with "Leedy" and "Solo Tone" engraving on the peghead banners. The brass hoop and rim are neatly engraved and the resonator back veneered in an unusually patterned greenish-brown celluloid with an engraved design in the center. The tuners are gold-plated Grover tabbed pegs with ivoroid buttons.

Leedy banjos are uniquely engineered and were quite advanced for their time. The rim is machined from solid brass with a convenient top-tension arrangement pre-dating Vega and Gibson's systems by several years. There is also a very effective action-setting feature built into the heel operated with a standard tension key. These designs were the work of an engineer named Cecil Strupe, who licensed ideas to both Leedy and Ludwig at the same time.

These Chicago companies were both primarily in the drum business, but also became direct competitors in the 1920s banjo wars as well. Neither was especially successful at this, and by the end of the 1920s a downturn in the drum business drove both companies into near bankruptcy and an eventual merger. By then all their banjos were history. Although Leedy banjos are better remembered for their visual appeal than sound quality, this is a good-playing and sounding tenor, and a classy-looking showpiece of Deco style.
 
Overall length is 34 1/4 in. (87 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 3 3/4 in. (9.5 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.).

Overall this banjo appears in excellent condition, with all the original hardware complete and intact. The neck finish shows an old clear overspray on the back while the face of the headstock has been polished out; the engraved pearl inlay remains crisp and clear. The rim and flange finish appear original; it looks more like polished and lacquered brass than gold, but the detail and crispness of the engraving preclude these parts having ever been replated.

The neck and frets are in good shape with only light wear and the banjo plays and sounds very well, with the crisp tone typical of these brass-rim instruments. It is set up with a plastic head and modern handmade bridge. The banjo resides, in a historical irony, in a nice period hardshell case made for Leedy's bitter crosstown Chicago rival Ludwig, which fits very well. Excellent Condition.