US distributed Baritones of the 50's & 60's click for more

Baritone Ukulele
The Baritone in Question
Unbranded
Harmony made SR Baritone Ukulele
SR Baritone
This WAS made by Harmony
In post war USA, possibly due to the popularity of Arthur Godfrey?, There was a number of Baritone Ukuleles that came onto the market in addition to the obvious brands of the time, (and of course Vega's Godfrey endorsed product). Some of them, like Guild, are easy to work out the provenance of, but other brands seem to have appeared from nowhere? And disappeared back there just as quickly after the boom times. Most of these brands also appear to be branding the same Baritone Ukulele too - same headstock - same bridge and saddle - same double marker on the fifth and tenth fret - same rings around the sound hole - same extended fretboard with the squared off end - same solid mahogany build and so on. Some of these brands also brought out a, definitely Far Eastern made Soprano, but not all of them.

Of the actual maker of the Baritone, everything I have heard is rumours. I have read the are pre WWII - this seems very unlikely but I'm not sure of the actual start, (or end) date of production. I have read that Kay made them largely because St. Louis Music's Custom Kraft brand is confused with the much earlier Kay Kraft brand and also because Kay made some of the early Airline brand Ukulele s for Montgomery Ward. Kay didn't make them and I have never seen one branded Kay, Valco or any other of the names Kay went through at the time. Harmony had a similar looking Baritone out at the same time but there are obvious differences, the most obvious one being the top of the headstock, Harmony's ones were flat. Another contender is The United Guitar Co. of New Jersey. I believe it is the case that they did produce some, (possibly earlier), more artisan looking Baritones for some of the brands, but these models had a made in the USA stamped inside the sound hole or on the back of the headstock and I don't think they would have dropped this stamping if they had made them? Vega is another name that often crops up as the maker. Vega certainly sold the model as the bottom end of its catalogue but it doesn't look much like the more expensive Vega's and I can't see Vega working as OEM for a lot of the other firms who branded them. On top of these I have read that they were produced in Japan, Taiwan, Holland, (the Dutch Guitar maker Egmond crops up a lot but I can find no records of them ever having made a Ukulele), Germany or elsewhere in the US, (especially Chicago but not exclusively). It is noticeable that for the numbers that appear in the US, they don't appear in Europe and I would expect them to, were it a European manufacturer

My current best guess at the maker is Matsumoko, they certainly made Granada branded Guitars, (though I would have expected the made in Japan sticker?), and another name that crops up fairly regularly is Univox; and Univox got their Guitars and other Ukuleles from Matsumoko. Any firm and reliable information would be welcome.

Back to the branding and here are some names I have only seen used on this Baritone but have very little other information about
  • Californian
    I know nothing of this brand and but I'm guessing it's from California
  • Granada
    The Guitars of this brand are attributed to Matsumoko so it's possible the Ukuleles are too and I'm also told it is a Matsumoko house brand?
    nothing to do with the budget brand found in India
  • Lee Gibbs Concertone
    I have only seen Baritone Ukuleles and they were the same model as the other Baritones I talk about here. I have seen archtop and flat top Guitars, 5 string Banjos and amps all with this branding too, and in researching I see a lot, particularly from the Guitar fraternity saying that it is a Montgomery Ward brand as Concertone was a Montgomery Ward brand before WWII They also say that since the Guitar was made by Kay and Kay made some instruments for MW that this is the clincher(?) The Banjo and vintage amp Fraternities are much more sceptical of this claim as am I. MW used the Concertone branding on Banjos before WWII but not after as far as I can find out, I can find no evidence of this branding in any MW catalogue, plus Kay made instruments for lots of people and lots of people made instruments for MW there was no exclusivity in the deal. Aside from this I should mention that not all of the other instruments were made by Kay and some were clearly made in East Germany, (as was) so this is no evidence that Kay made this Baritone. As to Lee Gibbs? No one seems to have any idea who he was or if he even existed?.
  • Leo Masters
    A name used mainly on Guitars and Banjos. Seems to have started in the 1930's and continued after the war to at least the 1970's. It appears on lots of different US and later Japanese makers instruments so must have been a distributor brand. Nothing to do with Leo Fender
  • Luxor
    Before WWII Luxor was a Horenstein brand, but they folded in the early 30's and always had their name on the logo as well? So this is probably someone who resurrected the name to pretend they had a long history - Matsumoko were credited with making some if not all of the Luxor Range (not seen other Ukuleles but I have also seen Guitars and Mandolins branded with this logo)?
  • Rocket
    I know nothing here beyond the name?
    But nothing to do with Normans in the UK or the Ukulele lessons website - maybe the same firm who brands budget Ukuleles today?
  • US Strad
    I have read this was put out by the distributor Strad-o-lin. this could be the case as at this time Strad-o-lin had expanded their range to include Ukuleles, particularly imported ones but I have seen no definite link and think it more likely just because the names are similar
  • SR
  • The Baritone pictured is a rebadged Harmony, I include it here for contrast, (note the flat top, the smaller fret markers, the different bridge, the purling...) And because other than the supplier I'm in a similar situation with the brand I can find nothing about them?

    And here is a list of other people who I have seen include the Baritone in their catalogue, but along with other Ukuleles so I've written about elsewhere; (though I'm sure there are more).

    Airline + Bobby Henshaw + Custom Kraft + Globe + Hardel + K and K + Maxwell + Regal + Royalist + Stadium + Telleno + Tempo + Vega + Wabash
    click for more

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