Harry George and Velma Truett were the power behind a West
Coast movement to tune the 4-string plectrum banjo like the top
four strings of a guitar.
Based in San Francisco, Velma was the beauty and most
of the musical talent, while Harry George was both the
mechanical and business brains.
The name "Trujo" is the combination of their last
names, Truett & George.
Harry George, a machinist who also played guitar and steel
guitar, first experimented with modifying Gibson banjos, but by
1927 Trujo banjos were entirely made by Gibson.
The very deep shell and heavy cast metal internal
"megaphone" were designed to give Trujo's a deep, resonant tone
more suited to the low tuning Velma promoted.
1927 was also the year Harry and Velma had their first, and
biggest, hits as recording artists.
"Ghost Dance", featuring banjo and steel guitar, was
released on Columbia.
You can hear it on YouTube, and most listeners agree
that it lives up to its name.
They had another hit in '27 with "Wabash Blues," and thanks
to these recordings and lots of advertising Harry and Velma's
banjo instruction business was booming.
But the rise of the tenor guitar essentially put an end to
trying to make the banjo sound like something it wasn't, and by
1929 Harry George split for Oregon (the duo had never married)
Velma sold Trujo to two employees of their Oakland
teaching studio and went back to the family ranch in Nevada.
By late 1934/'35, Trujo was essentially out of
business, and would soon be just another footnote in the history
of the jazz-age banjo.
(Mfg by Gibson)
19 fret tenor
Very rare instrument
Only 2-3 plectrum
versions of this design have surfaced, to my knowledge.
I owned one of them. (Shown below)
We have not been shown another tenor to date.
These Truett's pre- date the "Trujo" banjo , which
evolved from the Truett, that was made in higher numbers.
Made by The Gibson Co., this example utilized the shoe
bracket Gibson 3 ply rim of the 1920's but cut to the
specification of the Truett-George design tone ring and
It is the most complicated design of the era and nothing else
compares to it in sheer size and depth.
I had mine apart for fretting so thought I would share some
pics of it while it is apart.
It is not for sale.
I have searched for an
example in tenor since 2000 when I had the plectrum.
Hearts Home Acoustics in Boerne Texas acquired this example
and my good friends Cheney and Tyler allowed me to purchase
1000s of banjos pass thru my hands and for me to want to own
something other than the 2 banjos I already have is a big
Thanks HH, for make my dream a reality.
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I owned that one as well before it went for conversion
When this case of this magnitude is on the bench, you know its
not something "Mainstream"
What goes in there? a Street Howitzer?
After fret work
All finish is original
All Hardware is original
Head is vintage, from BD Silver Bell
A nice thick vellum, that is what I want for this setup.
This model uses the early non grooved tension hoop seen on
11" rim diameter
Gibson factory markings
You can see a similarity with these flanges and the Bacon and
Day flanges of the era.
Velma Truett can be seen in early BD catalogs, so this design
factor is probably brought along with her.
I used a vintage Bacon Banjo head on it, to keep the mood going.
And I like vintage hide heads when its suitable and this is one
of those times.
4-3/4" total depth
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