1920s Leedy Solo Tone C

While some information on Leedy’s later banjos is available from a surviving catalog, the earlier Solo Tone series remains something of an enigma. There were at least four models, lettered A through D in order of increasing price. All Leedy banjos shared the same basic construction, but the cheaper Solo Tones featured nickel plate while the more expensive ones shone in gold. Inlays, binding and carving also became more elaborate with increasing price. Some Solo Tones are covered entirely in pyralin; it’s not clear if these are rare models, special orders, or transitional specimens. It’s not even clear if the Solo Tone series continued to be produced alongside later models or if it was discontinued first.

As a result, I’m not certain of this banjo’s model. I have seen at least one identical banjo, so it is definitely not a one-off instrument. I believe that the black nickel finish on the rim identifies it as a Solo Tone C; certainly, it’s one of the higher-level models in the series. The rest of the hardware is gold-plated, the heel is carved, and the resonator is covered in black pyralin engraved with a geometric pattern. The resonator is notable for an internal aluminum cone designed to help direct sound towards the flange and thus out the front, though its effectiveness is questionable.

This particular banjo has undergone some restoration: the neck appears to be oversprayed (but not actually refinished) and the tailpiece has been repaired. All the parts seem to be original, though, and the neck is perfectly playable thanks to the working tilt adjustment system.