Welcome to The Family
Meet Becky Schneider. The photo below shows Becky with her 1923 Bacon & Day Classic Style Five String Silver Bell Ne Plus Ultra No.6 banjo and her newly acquired Reunion Blues 405-15-34 brown leather banjo gig bag. This is a story of a banjo and a labor of love.
Excerpts from George Gruhn “The Vintage Catalogue” Frets Magazine, February 1983:
“During the banjo boom of the 1920s, many musicians considered Bacon & Day to be the finest banjo maker of the time. Their instruments were prized for their exceptional volume and cutting power as well as for their beautiful craftsmanship. The vast majority if banjos produced during the 20’s and 30’s by Bacon & Day and other makers were 4-string tenors and plectrums suited to the Dixieland music of the time; yet company president Fred Bacon was a well known 5-string banjoist who played in the classical style that was popular at the turn of the century. Original 5-string Bacon & Day banjos are very rare, but their quality is unsurpassed”
“Of all the Bacon & Day banjos, the Ne Plus Ultra models are very scarce, probably due to their high prices. In the mid 1920s the style 6 cost $450.
To put this in perspective a loaf of bread was $0.09, a dozen eggs $0.44 and a Ford Model T was $290. So Bacon & Day’s lowest end banjo cost nearly twice what a new vehicle would cost. A skilled workers weekly wages averaged about $30 per week in 1925.
Becky says she located this banjo some 37 years ago and when she first got it the banjo was unplayable and in very poor shape. She spent the next 32 years restoring this banjo herself! She took the time to learn the proper technique for the repairs and made sure she did the instrument right by not cutting corners or taking short cuts. The restoration was complete on December 9th, 2007.
Now it was mentioned that this banjo is rare, how rare? Well Becky says, “In all the years I have followed and played the banjo, this is only the second example of this model that I have ever seen.” She goes on to say, “There was a third No.6 five string that was built as there are surviving pictures of it from the early twenties, however it has never surfaced and is not known to exist today.”
Being this rare you would think that after spending three decades restoring this instrument to like-new condition she wouldn’t play this one out. Not true! She says, “This instrument does not get hidden away and played only for “special gigs”, it gets taken to every gig”.
Becky takes a moment before every performance to explain this banjo’s history and isn’t shy about letting people get a closer look after a set. It’s all about the music and the rich history that these instruments have. In fact that’s how she met the man that sold her that fine leather bag in the photo.
Becky had an old funky hard case that didn’t fit this banjo very well at all. She didn’t like casing it in that hard shell but didn’t really have another good option as she wanted something lighter than a typical hard case but something that could still protect her invaluable instruments. When she saw the Reunion Blues leather gig bag she was initially skeptical. She went over the gig bag with a fine tooth comb and had this to say, “Thank you for engineering and manufacturing such a fine case. It is well designed and executed in build, being not only strong and well padded, but light for my shoulders. It is easy to carry and fits my banjo with allowance for adjustment of the center neck support, and the leather exterior is top choice being outfitted with good hardware chosen to last. It displays a high degree of skilled craftsmanship and quality control in your facilities as the appointments and details are flawless.”
You can’t ask for a better review than that, and we didn’t have to ask!
Becky also added a few thoughts that I want to share with you: “We are all stewards for these fine instruments for only a short period of time, and when properly cared for they will pass on through history bringing pleasure to all who are lucky enough to make music on them or hear them played. They, like a good home are only as good as the roof over its head, in this case literally its case! The case and vigilance we have caring for these historically significant instruments will allow them to pass on to other generations. For that I am happy that your Reunion (Blues) Case covers my special banjo.”
Well Becky I have to say that we are happy to have your special banjo covered by our case. Welcome to the Reunion Blues family!