J. G. Abbott ‘Monarch’ banjo ukelele (1942)

Made in London, S/N 4650

While not a guitar this instrument holds a special place in my collection. It belonged to my father and was kept under his bed in its original case. I used to get it out occasionally when I was little and play around with it, so it was the first stringed instrument I ever played and probably somehow led to my love of guitars today. The banjo ukelele, also known as a banjo uke, or banjolele, has a banjo style body, but with the neck and tuning of a ukelele. The sound is generated by the vibration of the nylon strings through the bridge resonating in the vellum skin stretched across the body.

It has the same relative tuning as the 4 highest strings on a guitar, but in a different pitch (G C E A) and the 4th string is an octave higher. You can play it using the same chord shapes as for a guitar, only the pitch will be different (D shape becomes G, A becomes D etc).

The instrument was made famous by George Formby, who played the same model as this one. He was the reason why my father bought this banjo uke in 1942. George Formby’s sold at auction in England in 2008 for 72000 pounds!

You can hear me playing this banjo uke here