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Buketastic Formby
January 17, 2008 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Is it a banjo? Is it a ukulele? No, it's a banjolele!

It's goes by many names: banjolele, banjulele, banjuke, and banjo uke.

It's what inspired Peter Frampton to begin to play music and became popularized in the 30s and 40s by George Formby. And oh, how he could play.

You can buy one, or you could always make your own.

There were other various hybrids of the banjo, including the mandolin-banjo and the guitjo.
posted by MaryDellamorte (36 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love these damn things...I even have a small collection of my own which will certainly continue to grow.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:12 PM on January 17, 2008


yeah! - my dad had one of those - i think my brother has it now - silly, but fun - and of course you need one of those funny felt picks to play it properly

"i'm going back to my little grass shack ... oh hell, i can never remember the name of that damn place"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:24 PM on January 17, 2008


You don't really need a pick to play it properly, it's really all a matter of preference. I never use one.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:27 PM on January 17, 2008


My friend makes banjo mandolins and guitjos. I always figured the guitjo had come to him in some kind of whiskey-fueled fever-dream though.
posted by lekvar at 9:29 PM on January 17, 2008


Inexpert playing of the banjolele is known to drive away butlers of the finest quality. I strongly recommend weighing the strength of one's muse against the strength of one's desire to be buttled before taking this instrument into the household.
posted by psmith at 9:30 PM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


The last "e" is borked, but thank you so much for introducing me to George Formby. I'd always wondered whom that voice belonged to. And he shreds! I'm going to have to build one, too.

Crazy awesome post.
posted by not_on_display at 9:31 PM on January 17, 2008


My bad, the last e works fine now. Niiiiice.
posted by not_on_display at 9:32 PM on January 17, 2008


Damn, I just realized that the pictures to the "o" link are actually mandolin banjos, oops.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:36 PM on January 17, 2008


Formby kicks out the jams like he was in MC5. I've already got my eyes on the five-CD Formby set.

I really expected a banjolele to be as musical as a bassooncatinheat.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:39 PM on January 17, 2008


You don't really need a pick to play it properly

well, ok, but they do look awfully funny and it kind of just adds to the experience
posted by pyramid termite at 9:39 PM on January 17, 2008


You know who took up the banjolele at one point?
posted by tangerine at 9:42 PM on January 17, 2008


Surprised there's no mention of Brian May and his ukulele-banjo on Bring Back that Leroy Brown. He started on the ukulele, but it's damn close, and adds to his homebuilt-guitar/phd./straightedge mystique.
posted by tmcw at 9:47 PM on January 17, 2008


Youtube searches for the names of the instruments turn up great results.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:07 PM on January 17, 2008


Technically Jeeves was a valet, a 'gentleman's gentleman', not a butler. His Uncle Charlie Silversmith was a butler, and Jeeves did perform as a butler on some occasions, but Bertie's establishment was not extensive enough to warrant a true butler.
posted by winna at 11:07 PM on January 17, 2008


Well, that settles it. My next musical purchases will be an electric uke, a bass harmonica, and a banjo uke.
posted by davejay at 11:38 PM on January 17, 2008


George Fomby played one, but he just called it a ukulele.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 PM on January 17, 2008


Oh, duh, psmith -- winna's comment made me realize I'd missed your earlier one. And from you too, of all people. Sorry.
posted by tangerine at 11:44 PM on January 17, 2008


This is awesome. I've had a uke for about half a year now and it's brought me unbridled, almost scandalous, amounts of sonic pleasure. They're so much fun to compose stuff on, too. The banjolele and an electro-acoustic uke are now officially on my hit list. As in, I will go shoeless and beerless in order to make them mine.
posted by RokkitNite at 11:46 PM on January 17, 2008


Ah! I have one of those, and it's a lovely piece to bust out at parties. At my local library, I once taught a group of 9 year-old kids how to make one out of a cookie tin and a stick, so watch out for the next generation of banjolele masters....
posted by bradth27 at 11:58 PM on January 17, 2008


Oh, I somehow missed the Formby links earlier. To make up for it, here's a famous Formby story:

A mother was walking by a Formby poster with her son. He stopped and looked at it, and then said, Mother, what's wrong with that man's face."

"That's what you'll look like if you don't stop touching yourself," she retorted.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:06 AM on January 18, 2008


Ah! George Formby! This is good!

Also, anyone wanting more info on cookie tin banjos and their cousin, the cigar box guitar, may refer to this FPP I put together on the subject last year.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:01 AM on January 18, 2008


Oh, and also this FPP on high-octane ukulele plucker Roy Smeck.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:18 AM on January 18, 2008


I've been playing one of these since I was a kid. I never thought they were unusual. Also banjolin.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 1:25 AM on January 18, 2008


Ah! George Formby! This is good!

Turned out nice again! I've been thinking about doing a George Formby FPP for a while. Glad not to subject myself to the inevitable mockery for having done so.

My own favourite: Chinese Laundry Blues (Real Audio) from the George Formby Society website.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:14 AM on January 18, 2008


Mockery? No way! Formby is God!

And y'know, I'd thought about doing a Formby post meself!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:25 AM on January 18, 2008


Winna/psmith, Bertie did point out that when required, Jeeves could buttle with the best of them.

Until now I wondered wether PGW had invented the banjolele. Also, how feeble was it that ITV substituted a trombone in the Fry/Laurie TV series?
posted by surfdad at 2:58 AM on January 18, 2008


Crazy about Fanlight Fanny the frowsy nightclub queen. What fun! Thanks.

The banjolele is cute. On the other end of the scale, here's the world's biggest banjo. A miniature minstrel banjo on this page.

150,000 people went to Formby's funeral. He was naughty but nice. Interesting estate issues. Seems he was close to his dad. Reading that Formby came from Wigan, I was reminded in these Orwellian days of The Road to Wigan Pier.
posted by nickyskye at 4:08 AM on January 18, 2008


The only place I'd ever encountered the word was in the Wodehouse story, and I just sort of assumed that it bore the same relation to "banjo" as, for example, violoncello does to cello. Live and learn.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:52 AM on January 18, 2008


Cool! When I was in junior high, I joined the ukulele club. It was run by the science teacher (Hi, Mr. Record!) who taught us wacky old-timey tunes (Five Foot Two, Darktown Strutters Ball, etc.). And just recently, I picked up a new uke, and started playing again. Good times.

Also, my aunt has what I thought was a mandolin, but I'm told is a mandolin banjo ("banjolin"?). Or maybe a banjolele. Probably not.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:15 AM on January 18, 2008


Also, my aunt has what I thought was a mandolin, but I'm told is a mandolin banjo ("banjolin"?). Or maybe a banjolele. Probably not.

If it had 8 strings, then it was probably a mandolin banjo. If it was four then it was a banjolele. For some reason a lot of people like to ask me if my instruments are banjolins, I guess that word is more widespread than banjolele.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:35 AM on January 18, 2008


I've always called it a banjokelele. I'm in the midst of making a coffee can banjokelele which will, if completed, bring me untold fame and fortune.

Lovely post!
posted by dirtdirt at 7:20 AM on January 18, 2008


I require this instrument.
I do.
For the good of us all.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2008


Formby's like the perfect precursor to Pee-Wee Herman, only for music. He even has the short exoplosive laugh.

I'm in love.
posted by ORthey at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2008


I'm in love.

Then you'll no doubt want to become a card-carrying member of the George Formby Society.

That is, unless you're a little put off by George's actions in the whole Formby family vs. Formby fiancé inheritance brouhaha.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:34 PM on January 18, 2008


winna, did you think I would miss an opportunity to say "buttled" even if "valeted" would have been more correct? Someday if you're lucky I'll regale you with tales of the scripture competition in which I was the best performer many years ago.
posted by psmith at 12:04 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


tangerine: it's all good, yo.
posted by psmith at 12:09 AM on January 19, 2008


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