Alvin D Keech

Some Photos by John Croft the Ukulele man
Alvin D Keech style a Banjulele Banjo Ukulele by Dallas
The Keech "Banjulele"
Alvin D Keech and his brother Kelvin moved from Hawaii to San Francisco in or before 1915 to teach Ukulele, Kelvin had, in 1914 published "A Standard Method and Self-Instructor on the Ukulele" and the school was founded on the back of that, (the school also sold locally made Ukuleles branded as Keech brothers for a while too - I have sen it suggested that one or both of the brothers actually made them but this was not the case). It may or may not be true he taught Hollywood stars of the time, it appears to be true that he came up with the term Banjolele, (though he spelt it Banjulele), and it is not true that he invented the instrument. Another SF resident called John A. Bolander patented a, what was to become know as the, Banjolele in 1916, (it is possible they could have known each other?). Kelvin, certainly went to fight in WWI and after the war became a jazz musician in Paris. Sometime in the early 20's Alvin joined him and they toured the UK as well as France. In 1922 Alvin published a tutor book this time in London. In 1924 they had to move to London due to the French Musicians Union embargo on Americans playing in Paris. They set up shop in Bond St. and received the patronage of the Prince of Wales, who brought a number of instrument from them to give as presents. Keech appears never to have had a factory or produced any instruments himself, (in Europe, he or his brother were attributed as makers in Hawaii in the teens), but he rebranded a lot of Banjoleles and some Ukuleles distributed through Dallas. At some point after 1928 the brothers move back to the USA but I have not seen any production of Keech branded instruments for sale in the US? In Europe, manufacture of Keech Banjoleles and Ukuleles continued until at least 1935 but had ceased by 1939.

The Banjoleles branded by Keech came as standard or long scale in a number of decoration designations, I have seen it said they were given letters with "A" being the least fancy but then I have also seen some described as "Deluxe". If the letter designation is correct it comes from the first character in the serial number stamped on the neck heel (however this doesn't bear too close an inspection and I have seen a number of clearly different models start with A, and the same model start with both A and B?)  The Banjo Ukuleles usually had at least one reference to a patent on them though what the patent was for is unsure, (it was granted in 1925 and possibly just for the name Banjulele). All of the Standard bracketless models have a facsimile of Alvin Keech's signature engraved on the rear resonator, (All Keech Banjo Ukuleles should have a rear resonator) but they were all made by Dallas, (or from the look of them Dallas had George Houghton make the standard scale ones along with Dallas's Jedsons and the like), Some of the later bracketed models may have been made in Germany? It is also possible with the very best very early ones that someone other than Dallas made them, (possibly Keech did? or more likely another London maker?)

The Ukuleles, (and there were Keech branded Guitars too), on sale in Britain were certainly made in Germany or Bohemia. All the Ukuleles I have seen were Long Scale but appear to have come from different makers, (Albo made some, but it doesn't look like all of them?) so you get different fixed or floating bridges, archtops and flat tops Bridge pins and ties but no differentiating model numbers.

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