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The four-string banjo comes in several forms, including the plectrum banjo and the tenor.

As with mandolins, banjos were often sold through teacher agents, who organized instrumental groups, trained musicians, and then sold instruments to their students.Gibson was one of the top banjo manufacturers, and many musicians consider the mid-1930s Gibson Mastertone flathead five-string banjo the best banjo ever made for bluegrass.When traders brought African slaves to America, the slaves brought their own music—and musical instruments—with them. With a body made from a gourd, the banjo was first reported in 1620 by the captain of a ship on the Gambia River.Structurally, the banjo is very similar to a drum, with an animal skin stretched over a rim.For the buyer, it is critical to know that an instrument being sold as "all original" probably is. He told me that Waverly, for whom he had worked since his pre-teens, had provided most of the metal parts and accessories to the banjo makers.

In his workshop he showed me many patterns, cutters, tools, and dies used in making the nuts for Vega, Gibson, Bacon, Paramount and all the standard nuts we associate with the large makers.

I don't know if they made the Whyte Laydie and Tubaphone assemblies or if some of the parts were made locally and then assembled at Vega -- the most likely scenario.

It is likely that Vega did not stamp the serial number on a rim until final assembly, just before it was ready to be shipped.

Be sure to visit the article Fairbanks & Vega Dating for more information about this project and a summary of my conclusions based on the instruments listed below.

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Over the decades, the design became more sophisticated, especially in the 1870s and 1880s, when banjos began to include frets, steels rings, a tone ring, and a resonator. Stations often aired live performances featuring country groups, which frequently included a banjo.