This is a tricky page to write as there are a number of brands involved who in the past have had separate identities but over the years have changed hands a number of times and have all eventually been acquired by the same company. The company in question here is JAM Industries a Canadian multinational founded in 1972 as Erikson Music. Over the intervening years as well as changing their name, (and I have no idea if JAM is suppose to stand for something?), they have started or acquired a number of subsidiaries and through these have a number of instrument brand names in their stable, (plus they do a whole host of other things too that aren't ukulele related so I won't go into here)
My Oscar Schmidt Bell
Under their US Music Co. (or USM, a major US distributor), arm they do...
Oscar Schmidt was originally an maker from New Jersey, however it went bankrupt in the late 1930's and the dormant name passed through a number of hands until being resurrected by USM in the early 2000's. USM currently use the Oscar Schmidt brand name as the main brand for their Ukuleles but they mainly seem to sell them in North America. The range, which is made in Indonesia, includes all scales of Ukulele, except Sopranino, in a number of solid and laminate woods. There are all string combinations except 10 string Tiple, Banjoleles and some special body shapes too, like their homage to the old Lyon & Healy Bell they have started adding the brand name Aloha to the headstock of the lower end models making them Oscar Schmidt by Washburn Aloha When new, all Oscar Schmidts come with a brown Oscar Schmidt hard case too.
Washburn originally was the Lyon & Healy premium brand, then owned by Tonk Bros, then Regal and then Harmony). I don't know when it was acquired by USM but they have resurrected it and mainly seem to use it for Guitars. There are some more recent Ukuleles that are branded Washburn though, like the Disney "High School Musical by Washburn Ukulele and the Koa Laminate concert Ukulele with GWL on the headstock sold as by George Washburn Lyon Ltd., this was done as a special order brand for K-Mart, Sears and Wal-Mart, the US retail giants. They did the same thing but branded the Ukuleles Lyon by Washburn for Costco. I have also seen some Washburn Ukuleles that look very similar to the Oscar Schmidts on sale in Europe, (where they don't sell Oscar Schmidt's?).
This has been USM's range of strings with publicity claiming the brand was founded in 1953 and invented mechanically wounds strings. Maybe, but in 2012 they branded a small range of laminate Ukuleles, these were made in China and possibly aimed at the lower end of the market so Oscar Schmidt could go more upmarket? (this range seems to have disappeared by 2014 shortly after USM started to do some of the more Washburn orientated branding - same plan different names?)
This one is not a historical name resurrected, Jay Turser was founded in 1988 and is a range of Guitars and Bluegrass instruments branded by U.S.Music Corp. In their catalogue there is currently a Banjolele (score one more for the Dae Won Dub2R)
In 2013 USM introduced a small selection of colourful budget Sopranos with the branding Kai on the headstock. These are made in China and it say USM on the soundhole label. Everywhere I have seen them for sale the reseller says they are part of the Oscar Schmidt range but they aren't, they are just another US Music brand?
Going back to acquiring famous old brands though, USM also currently own the Framus brand name, the Hagstrom brand name, the Warwick brand name, the Marshall brand name and some others too? These though, they don't use on any Ukuleles and its all a little murky as to what they own and what they are just US distributors for?
Another US distribution firm JAM has taken over is KMC Music which amongst other things brought with it whatever remains of the old New York distributor C. Bruno &Son. I don't think they use any of these names though but they do have a few Ukulele brands of their own. These brands include Jasmine and Sierra, and possibly others as they own a number of other Guitar brands Including Hamar, (and one called Amigo; I have seen budget Amigo sopranos but I don't know if they are part of this range?) From the look of it, overall KMC is a bit lower budget that a lot of what USM do?
In Canada JAM Industries have another distribution subsidiary called Coast Music and this arm, as well as being the Canadian Distributor for some major music brands, (and the USM brands), has its own house brands too, including Alabama a range of folk instrument that does not include Ukuleles or Guitars but does include Banjos, and in the Banjo range there are a couple of re-branded Dae Won DUB Banjoleles
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