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Turn of the century SS Stewart skinhead banjo

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I picked this up years ago in an antique store in a tourist town in WI. It was in very poor condition with the skin head torn and frets popping all over the place but just looked so pretty I couldn’t resist.  It just sat around until I finally sent it off to Juel Ulvin for a new skin head and general overhaul since I needed a banjo for a Stephen Foster show I was writing. Now Juel can be pretty opinionated about banjos and he insisted on setting it up for gut strings… he was right.

The combination of a thin skin head and the nyla-gut strings gives this banjo an authentic old time plunky sound.  I recorded it on Bloody Williamson with a single Neumann KM-184 mic and it just jumped out of the track.

Even though it’s quite fancy looking, it a fairly inexpensive instrument with a thin tone ring and unusually thin ebony fretboard.  Juel suggested it was a Stewart; I’ve also heard some folks say it resembles a Bumble Bee, a brand I’m not familiar with.

Used on: Bloody Williamson

Track: Bloody Williamson