1920s Langstile Deluxe Tenor Banjo


William Lange and his eponymous company were constantly releasing new banjos during the 1920s. The existing Orpheum brand was joined by the Paramount line in 1921, which introduced longer necks, standard resonators, and geared tuners to create the first “modern” tenor and plectrum banjos. By 1924 these had been joined by the Super Orpheum line, which spanned the price gap between the Orpheum and Paramount lines, and the Langstile brand on the low end of the price range. A 1924 advertisement laid the four brands in order of target market, from beginners to semi-professionals, true professionals and “artists”.

However, Lange proceeded to muddy the waters in a couple of ways. For one thing, there was an overlap in price between the Orpheum and Super Orpheum lines – not to mention additional redundancies available by special order (such as resonators on the Orpheums) listed in catalogs. At some point, Lange introduced the Langstile Deluxe: a professional-grade banjo featuring all the modern accoutrements of the Super Orpehum and Paramount lines but marked with the “beginner” brand.

The previous Langstile models had 17-fret necks, friction tuners, and open backs, but the Deluxe had a 19-fret neck, geared tuners, and a standard resonator. However, there are two ways in which it differed not just from pervious Langstiles but from all other Lange models. The first was the rim, which had chromed tubes running through it supporting a massive perforated tone ring that took up half the depth of the rim. The tubes were already used on the Triple X banjos that Lange made for the Henry Stadlmair Co, but there were fewer tubes in the Langstile Deluxe. The second difference was a top-tension system – as far as I can tell, the only one ever seen on a Lange banjo. The 7-piece neck was actually similar to the higher-end Paramounts, and the extensive use of rosewood was typical of Lange’s mid-priced models. The hardware on this banjo was plated in chrome rather than nickel, which was an expensive novelty at the time.

The result was a high-quality instrument with an excellent sound, which makes it odd that Lange would place it at the top of the “beginner” line. A few years later, Lange would introduce a new name altogether for the Challenger series just to emphasize their unique construction, but apparently this was not considered appropriate for the Langstile Deluxe. By the mid-1930s, the Langstile and Super Orpheum models were discontinued in favor of the Lange-Craft line, a more budget-oriented version of the Paramounts.

This particular banjo has a replacement tailpiece but is otherwise original.