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Vega Vegavox III Artist Tenor Banjo , c. 1931
Vega Vegavox III Artist Model Tenor Banjo (1931), made in Boston, Mass., serial # 96447, natural varnish finish, laminated maple neck, rim and resonator, original brown hard shell case.
This fairly early production Vegavox III is a well-played but still beautiful example of Vega's final development of the tenor banjo family, which even today remains one of the most sought-after of the breed. The Vegavox models appeared at the end of the 1920s, when interest in the tenor banjo was already fading. With their industry-standard Vegaphone line, Vega was arguably the most successful banjo maker of the era, and they weren't going down without a fight!
The Vegavox line were exclusively high-end professional banjos. Developed with input from plectrum virtuoso Eddie Peabody, the Vegavox used the familiar Tu-Ba-Phone rim mounted in a very deep resonator totally enclosing it with the flange mounted just under the head. The tension nuts were adjusted from the top, a design pioneered earlier by Leedy and Ludwig and eventually adopted by Gibson in the 1930s. The sound is deeper and more complex than many jazz-age banjos, and was well suited to the sort of solo virtuosity Peabody employed.
This Vox III was third ranked model of four styles offered, priced originally at $300 (in depression era dollars!) and unsurprisingly is quite a fancy banjo. The bound ebony fingerboard is inlaid in a pattern similar to the earlier Vegaphones with shaped and engraved pearl pieces; the elaborate pearl headstock pattern is much like the high-end Vegaphone Artist model. The back of the deep-dish resonator is a pie-section layout finished in Vega's lovely subtle shaded maple. The outer rim is swathed in ivory celluloid with a deeply engraved and colored leaf pattern. All hardware including the top-tension nuts and flange are gold plated, with the top edge of the flange set with large rhinestones to catch the lights on a vaudeville stage!
The sound is very powerful with a deeper dimension than most tenor banjos. "For solo recording or broadcasting, it is absolutely unequalled" Vega insisted in their 1931 catalog. Many players who worked as soloists or with small combos agreed and often preferred the Vegavox to all earlier tenors. Vega continued to make them -- in small numbers -- up into the late 1960s. This is a lovely early-pattern example and still an exceptionally fine tenor banjo for any application.
Overall length is 33 3/4 in. (85.7 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 3 1/4 in. (8.2 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 banjo shows fairly heavy play wear but remains in nicely original condition. The finish on the back of the neck is pretty much worn down to the wood, and the back of the resonator has numerous scuffs and scratches. The frets and fingerboard remain in very good playing condition with some loss to the engraving on the inlay. Three of the small screws around the outer rim of the flange are missing, but all other hardware is intact with some wear to the gold plating. There is an additional original tailpiece in the case (this is a somewhat fragile fitting) and the original Vega-branded wrench. This is a superb sounding banjo, set up with a standard plastic head in the original brown HSC. Very Good + Condition.
Prices subject to change without notice.
Item # 8986
This item is currently on hold.
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