Abbott banjos

George Houghton & Sons

George Houghton & Sons Soprano
Not only Banjos
Old (1950's) GH&S "Melody-Uke" Resonator Banjolele Acoustic Soprano
Melody Uke
George Houghton and Sons The Marvel Soprano Banjolele Banjo at Ukulele Corner
The Marvel
George Houghton established his Reliance Works in Heaton Street, Birmingham in 1888 and the range of banjos and related instruments he made were often branded Reliance. As the firm grew, the name changed to G. Houghton & Sons and production was increased to make OEM instruments for other firms in the UK and around the British Empire of the time to be branded with their own name or logo.

GH&S also had their own ranges available, if not branded Reliance then usually marked with a gold-embossed lion, British Made, and sometimes with the initials G. H. & S. underneath -this Lion and British Made logo often, (but not always), still featured on models they produced for other to brand. On their own brand instruments the model names often featured across the middle of the headstock, Some model names I have seen on Banjoleles are, Melody Uke, Melody Major, Melody Minor, Melody Junior, (Melody Jo was a Tenor Banjo), and the Marvel. I have also seen them marked with model and one or more letters on the headstock, (this signified the number in the catalogue).

As one of the major British manufacturers of the time they had their own Music Hall Star endorsements too. Theirs was Harold Walden, a man largely forgotten now but in the 20's and 30's was a music hall bill topper with a couple of films to his credit, (and also prior to his music hall career he was a gold medallist at the 1912 Olympics and a professional footballer with Bradford and Arsenal).

Another likely endorsement was the Dick Barrie Band. All the Dick Barrie Band branded Banjoleles I have seen have all been made post WWII and were made by GH&S. and to be honest I'm not even sure who Dick Barrie is, the only one I can find fitting the bill at all was a, (now largely forgotten), American Trumpet player who started his own Swing/Dance band in 1936. I know this Dick Barrie was still a working musician in 1943 but I lose him after that. I don't know if this is the right Dick Barrie and if it is I have no idea why a US trumpet player should endorse a range of Banjoleles in the UK in the late 40's early 50's?

There are other names that you find on GH&S made instruments too and I find it tricky here as I don't know if these were Houghton Brands or OEM? One that really confuses me is the Ivory Queen. The central label style is exactly that of GH&S brands but I have seen Ivory Queen Tenor Banjos that also have a B&S Masters plaque on too? Another is Sunray which again has a GH&S type label but I have also seen the name linked with Savana. the Rose Morris brand?

In 1962, town-planning development in Birmingham plus staff difficulties finally led to Edgar Houghton, (grandson of the founder), to close down and move to London to become associated with John E. Dallas & Sons, (they had been making instruments for them for some time), The plant and materials plus a few of the key workers left Birmingham and set up a factory at 12 Gravel Hill, Bexleyheath, Kent, and from that time until 1965 they made the bulk, (if not all of), the banjos sold under the Dallas label

One final note and its a General one - If you see a small British made banjo instrument with 8 strings it is a Banjo Mandolin not a Banjolele 

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