Early baritones who made what and when?

Jag-Stang

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After seeing the post of the 100 year old ukuleles, as a “bari” player, I have been intrigued with the “Who made the first Baritone
Ukulele ?” It seems there is no clear cut answer and the two that are most talked about are Herk Favilla baritones and the Arthur Godfrey
baritone made by Vega. I try to look at everything in a scholarly manner as getting history right is at least for me important.
i own a few baritones including a mid 1950’s Favilla, a 1960 Martin, and a 1950’s Harmony. I have seen a few Vega Arthur Godfrey
models although I do not own one. Recently I purchased a Stewart Wondertone baritone. I know the identical metal logo was used
for the Stewart arch top guitar manufactured in 1952. It seems odd to me that so many makers were active in the 1950’s and then
Martin in 1960 and Gibson soon after. So at least four makers were producing baritones by 1953 according to what I have seen.
Why so many produced a baritone within such a short stretch is to me an interesting question.
So thus far having no exact dates I have come up with these.
Favilla late 1940’s
Vega late 1940’s
Stewart 1952
Harmony 1953 (catalog)
Martin 1960
Gibson 1962
I know others produced early baritones that I have not included
Kamaka or other Hawaiian makers
 

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EDW

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Where do Gianninis fit in that history?
I know a guy whose main instrument is the baritone and his Giannini is his favorite. He likes it better than his Martin. The best part is that you can often find them at a decent price.
 

cdkrugjr

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The Renaissance guitar was essentially a 7-string Bari, strung for Low g, gg’c’c’e’e’a’.

There’s some evidence that a G-tuned instrument existed, but we haven’t found one yet.
 

Griole

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The two people frequently credited with inventing the baritone uke are Herk Favilla and Arthur Godfrey. While Godfrey did more to popularize the baritone than anyone, Herk Favilla gets my vote for being the first one to conceptualize, then build 'em. They became a part of the Favilla full line of stringed instruments. Herk also published a baritone ukulele method book in 1949. He just wasn't as good at self-promotion as Godfrey. Nor did he have a TV program to showcase the baritone uke. Of course, for everyone who agrees with me, there's sure to be someone who doesn't. Regardless of the provenance, I'm glad that someone had the foresight to do it. I'm strictly a bari player these days, having played both guitar and standard gCEA ukes in the past.

And to Jag-Stang, don't forget Guild baritones. They were every bit as well-made as the other major instrument makers who joined the fray.
 

Kimosabe

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Keith Richard and Ike Turner both took off their low E on their guitars. I wonder if others played guitar with only four strings.

I’ve read that Carl Perkins was such a poor share cropper that he had to tie a broken string back together.
 

Tom Snape

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I have a "no-name" baritone uke that I was told (on this forum) was probably built mid/late '40s...View attachment 144590
It looks like a Vega-made baritone to me. It looks identical to two Vegas that I have, except for the bridge. I've only seen that style of sound hole trim on Vegas (for baritones of that vintage). The bridges on the standard Vega baritones that I've seen do not have those radiused wings, they just have a square cut. The bridge in your picture looks like the one on my Vega Arthur Godfrey "Solo-Lute", so it still could have come from the Vega factory.

As for other brands of vintage baritone ukes, I have three made in W. Germany. One is a mahogany Lyra, late 50's - early 60's, which I read was made by Brüko. The other two were made by Framus in 1964, one mahogany and one rosewood, both with spruce tops (all laminated).

I have a few Favillas, a Harmony and a newer (2007) Bushman, and I feel that the Vega Solo-Lute is the best sounding of the bunch.
 

rustydusty

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It is 50’s not 40’s I am going to post a 1952 Stewart Wondertone you will see the similarities
I see similarities, but the sound hole trim is different. It could easily be from the '50s...
 

rustydusty

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It looks like a Vega-made baritone to me. It looks identical to two Vegas that I have, except for the bridge. I've only seen that style of sound hole trim on Vegas (for baritones of that vintage). The bridges on the standard Vega baritones that I've seen do not have those radiused wings, they just have a square cut. The bridge in your picture looks like the one on my Vega Arthur Godfrey "Solo-Lute", so it still could have come from the Vega factory.

As for other brands of vintage baritone ukes, I have three made in W. Germany. One is a mahogany Lyra, late 50's - early 60's, which I read was made by Brüko. The other two were made by Framus in 1964, one mahogany and one rosewood, both with spruce tops (all laminated).

I have a few Favillas, a Harmony and a newer (2007) Bushman, and I feel that the Vega Solo-Lute is the best sounding of the bunch.
One odd thing about the bridge on my uke is that it has a bone nut, but a wood saddle...
 

Tom Snape

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One odd thing about the bridge on my uke is that it has a bone nut, but a wood saddle...
Here is a Vega Arthur Godfrey baritone with a bridge more like yours, but with a plain ring around the sound hole. Actually, looking closer, it looks more like a groove around the sound hole.

 

Strumdaddy

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The two people frequently credited with inventing the baritone uke are Herk Favilla and Arthur Godfrey. While Godfrey did more to popularize the baritone than anyone, Herk Favilla gets my vote for being the first one to conceptualize, then build 'em. They became a part of the Favilla full line of stringed instruments. Herk also published a baritone ukulele method book in 1949. He just wasn't as good at self-promotion as Godfrey. Nor did he have a TV program to showcase the baritone uke. Of course, for everyone who agrees with me, there's sure to be someone who doesn't. Regardless of the provenance, I'm glad that someone had the foresight to do it. I'm strictly a bari player these days, having played both guitar and standard gCEA ukes in the past.

And to Jag-Stang, don't forget Guild baritones. They were every bit as well-made as the other major instrument makers who joined the fray.
I remember reading that Favilla's original concept for the baritone uke was as a starter instrument for kids and people with smaller hands on their way to playing guitar. Joni Mitchell was one such person.
I have a 50's Favilla that sounds incredible and brings me great pleasure...
 

socal16

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I remember reading that Favilla's original concept for the baritone uke was as a starter instrument for kids and people with smaller hands on their way to playing guitar. Joni Mitchell was one such person.
I have a 50's Favilla that sounds incredible and brings me great pleasure...

My mother took me to the music store (ca. 1960) when I was 11 y.o. and bought me a baritone uke. I think it was meant to be a starter instrument for guitar. Years later I traded it for a guitar (mistake!) and I’ve always wondered what uke it was.
 

ukulelekarcsi

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I think the very scholarly book by John King and Jim Tranquada addressed that issue, of the origins of the baritone.

Tenor guitars were tuned in 'chicago tuning' in the 1930s, but I still wouldn't count them as baritones for several reasons (metal strings, much longer scale length, thus higher tension and different bracing, different sound, narrower fretboards).

Oh, and I have a tenor ukulele I've been playing for about ten years... with a tied string (the knot's between the nut and the tuners). If it still works, why change it?