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8 November 2012

Alvin Keech Banjulele

This post is for my pal Daniel Hulbert who is busy restoring a banjulele. A couple of years ago I was going through a crazy mad banjo uke phase. Truth be told, I think that I might have been a little bit obsessed. :-)


I was buying old repair-jobs from ebay and having a go at restoring them. I made all sorts of mistakes! Looking back on it, I guess it was the start of the instrument building bug. At the same time I was also enjoying reseaching the different manufacturers and brands. I was pretty skint at the time, so the banjo ukes I picked up were low-end. One instrument that I just had to have was an Alvin Keech. I hunted high and low until eventually I got the one I wanted. It wasn't in too bad nick, but I wanted to pull it all to bits and put it all back together again; I was interested in how they were made and figured the best way to find out was to take one to bits. I didn't do a brilliant job of restoring it, but I didn't do a terrible job either. There were lots of mistakes made and lots of lessons learnt... which of course was what it was all about.

Why the Keech? Check this out and it should be obvious... I wanted a little piece of ukulele history all for myself...
The banjolele (brand name; sometimes banjo ukulele or banjo uke) is a four-stringed musical instrument with a small banjo-type body and a fretted ukulele neck. "Banjolele," sometimes also spelled "banjelele" or "banjulele" is a generic nickname given to the instrument, which was derived from the "banjulele-banjo", introduced by Alvin D. Keech in 1917. The instrument achieved its greatest popularity in the 1920s and '30s, and combines the small scale, tuning, and playing style of a ukulele with the construction and distinctive tone of a banjo, hence the name.

I took a load of photos of the project, but for some reason I never shared them here on the blog. Today I rectify that sorry omission.

Remember that there are A LOT of pictures here. No apologies for that. If I've done this right then they should be from project start to finish. This one really is for the geeks!






































































































































































17 comments:

  1. Beautiful!! Now I wanna see you play that

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  2. Thanks Thiago. It's been a couple of years since I did this project. I dug it out a few months ago and the head's had it. One day, I will re-skin and bang out a tune for you. Or maybe my Dixie is still playable...

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    1. I purchased one of these from England. I can't restore - don't know how, but it's in pretty good shape. I too have become obsessed with Ukes and banjoleles. I must sell some to reoup some of my money. It's almost like gambling! Nice job on the restore.

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    2. Thanks Shelly Beach. I did post quite a few pictures here didn't I!

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  3. That is so odd. The instrument I play most (of the 10) is a Kerch 1924 A with wooden tension & tone rings.

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  4. I just finished restoring my grandads old B series. Looks good and sounds fantastic. These little guys do have a way of turning a small project into an all out obsession! I'm in love with them!
    Good job on yours. Looks amazing!

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    1. Thanks for the comment Adrian. Let's see some photos then!

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    2. How would I go about uploading photos on here?

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    3. Upload your photos to Google+. If you do them all together it will create an album for you. Share "Public" and comment with a link to the post here.

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  5. I recently acquired one of these from a family members estate . Ty for the info

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  6. Hi, I have my father's Ketch. I was wondering how to date it. I have a photo of him playing it in the desert in North Africa during WWII. It has a stamp on the neck B.R.1943. I do play it, and it still has it's original (slightly damaged) velum skin, and one catgut string still on it. The others became nylon about ten years ago.

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    1. I'd love to see the photo of your Dad and a close-up of the stamp Raymond. There is some great info on the Keech's with a little bit of narrative about the serial numbers here on Lardy's site: http://database.ukulelecorner.co.uk/i-j-k/keech

      Based upon what you've said though I'm wondering whether this is a reference to the year 1943 and maybe the BR are initials for a place or person? I could be completely wrong here, but wouldn't that be great!

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  7. Hi I found in the shed a Keech banjo no. X2218 it is signed on the back can you tell me if it has any value. Richard

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    1. Depends who signed it my anonymous friend. Can you post any photos?

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    2. It is kind of scratched in Alvin d or maybe t Keech. How would I send a photo I do not have a Google+ account. Thanks Richard

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    3. Could email or set up a + account I suppose

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    4. catch.the.kiwi@gmail.com

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