1966 Fender Banjoline Rossmeisl Prototype

The Banjoline is for sale. You can contact me through this site.

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Introduction

I was able to get confirmation from Phil Kubicki as well as a Certificate of Authenticity validating the instrument’s origin. The information I accumulated may be further amended or added to if I find out more, but at this point, I have the provenance I was looking for.

The research to validate this instrument took several weeks. Through contacts made at Fender, I was able to get a hold of Phil Kubicki who was the apprentice to Roger Rossmeisl at Fender from ’64 until ’72. We had a fun conversation about Fender in the old days, about Roger’s work, about the prototypes and Leo’s involvement in the process and how Leo did not like to let prototypes leave the factory. He told me that this was one of Roger’s pieces and that he was surprised to see it outside of the factory.

Phil said that Roger brought quite a few ideas over from his days at Rickenbacker and that this was just one of them. He said that Roger loved gold pick guards and that you could see that on his acoustics at Fender and it hearkened back to his work at Rickenbacker as well. This very statement was also made by Tim Shaw to me via a correspondence with George Gruhn regarding the gold guards.

The seller, Tom’s Guitar Warehouse, had this instrument on consignment. The owner said that her father received this instrument as a gift from Buddy Kendrick. I used Buddy Kendrick’s name as a big clue in my hunt for information. Through a contact at Fender, my information was forwarded to Mark Kendrick, nephew of Buddy. Mark set the record straight about his uncle, saying that Buddy was in “Field Services” which was later renamed “Research and Development” in the mid to late ’60s. Mark said that he believes the piece be Fender, but there were some oddities which were a bit unsettling. Another person, who wishes to remain unnamed, says that she is certain this is Rossmeisl’s work and that she had seen a lot of very strange stuff come out of his workshop.

I brought this instrument to Emerald City Guitars and had them look it over. They too had no doubt it was a Fender and were rather baffled and amazed by it. Eric, the guitar tech at Emerald City Guitars, knew it was a Banjoline right away as his dad was a banjo player and he owned several Eddie Peabody records. After pointing out the similarities of the Ric mandolin and Combo 600/800s, they were in accordance with my assessment that this was likely a Rossmeisl instrument.

Next to Roger Rossmeisl, you can see what is called a guitar version of my Fender Banjoline. It’s unknown if this ever left the Fender factory.


 

Rossmeisl features

  • Body shape: highly resembles the 1958 Rickenbacker 5002 mandolin: image 01
  • German carve: resembles the 1950s Rickenbacker Combo 600/800 models: image 01
  • Headstock shaped like Rossmeisl’s Fender Coronado: image 01image 02

Hard Fender Features

  • Fender “F” Tuners: image
  • Fender pickups, 2 pole: image
  • Resized Fender XII or Mustang Bass pickup covers: image
  • Fender pickup wire – mid ‘60s purple: image
  • Shielding material: image
  • Pick guard material: image
  • Body binding material: image
  • Fret markers: image
  • Frets
  • Bronco style bridge, Mustang saddles: image 01, image 02
  • Fender connector wire: image
  • ’65 Stackpole pots: image
  • Fender type body screws
  • Fender type neck screws

 

Professional Factory details

  • Internal routing quality – high grade CNC machine
  • Neck shape and quality
  • Manufactured neck plate

Process

I got wind of the instrument on the Offset Guitar Forum (OSG). Somebody posted the instrument noting that the German carve was reminiscent of Rossmeisl’s Rickenbacker creations. I took one look and my gut told me that he was right, so I pulled the trigger on the purchase. At the same time, another OSG member, who identified the mystery piece not as a bouzouki but rather as a banjoline, was also negotiating for the instrument. Rather than buying it outright, he had offered a low price. The seller was unwilling to part with it at that rate. I ended up with it, but knew what the seller was willing to part with it for, as the other OSG member shared the seller’s counter-offer.
Before receiving the instrument, I decided to test the waters. I sent the images of the piece to George Gruhn who in turn forwarded the photos to Tim Shaw. Gruhn’s email said that he was skeptical and Tim sent it on to another person in the Fender company.
The other person said that the gold paint of the pick guard was not something Fender ever used. This turned out to be untrue: the gold pick guards were used most notably on the Coronado series as well as late ‘60s Fender acoustic guitars. He also stated that the gold was not applied to multi-ply pick guard material, which is again not accurate, as I have found multiple examples on Coronados, Coronado IIs and acoustics. While much of this was determined through the low quality images given to me by the seller, after acquiring the instrument, I was able to take better detailed images.

Up until this point, data was speculative until I could receive the instrument. Needless to say, I was worried that I had just purchased a counterfeit. My worry was compounded when tracking the package, I found that the instrument had shown to be delivered at my apartment, yet there was no box to show for it. I immediately called the seller as well as visited the Post Office. After a few phone calls, the carrier remembered having the instrument and realized that he forgot to take it out of his vehicle the day prior, despite having marked it as delivered.

Upon unwrapping and holding the instrument, all doubt was lifted. There was no question in my mind that this was both made in the late sixties and that it had been created at the Fender factory. The workmanship was impeccable, as was the finish, the hardware and the overall appearance.

The next step was to find more evidence.

What I proceeded to do was slowly and carefully take the instrument apart, documenting the process. I started with loosening the strings. I taped them down to the Bronco style bridge so that they would not come loose and get tangled. After I removed them from the posts, I took one of the “F” tuners off to inspect the rear. I wanted to look for the machine casing inside to make sure it matched ‘60s “F” tuners, which they did. At this time, I noticed the break angle on the headstock – a feature normally not done on Fender instruments. Normally, the headstock is parallel but recessed with relation to the fret board.

Next, I removed the pick guard. Expecting the ground wire to be attached to the body, I was careful not to pull everything away too quickly. Fortunately, everything was self-contained on the plastic. The ground wire was actually affixed under the bridge and touched the aluminum shielding material of the mounting. Underneath, I found what were without a doubt, Fender sourced parts: mid ‘60s cloth wiring, a ceramic capacitor commonly used by Fender, Stackpole potentiometers made in ’65. Only the mini-toggle was out of place. It was, however, a USA made C&K – not a foreign sourced item.

Incidentally, that was what I was looking for in order to kill my hopes: an Asian or European part. I did not find one, though there was a bit of concern that the neck plate wasn’t legitimate. More discourse on that topic later.

After this, I began more carefully examining the pickups. Styled much like the Fender XII guitar pickups, my first thought was that they were made for a mandolin or a bass, as there were only two poles each. I knew that the Mustang Bass from the mid-sixties had similar pickups, but they were normally wider. On the other hand, the ‘60s Fender Mandolin normally only came with a single pickup, stylized more like the Duo-Sonic pickups.

I removed the mounting screws and springs and removed the top neck pickup from the plastic pick guard. I carefully lifted the pickup cover to see what I had hoped for underneath: mid-sixties purple colored coil wire. Underneath the pickup covers, I noticed some glue. I realized that these covers had been cut down from one of the aforementioned models to fit the specially made bobbins used on this banjoline. Not wanting to risk damage, I didn’t open up the other pickups.

The body routing was another interesting point. It was routed specifically for these pickups, meaning they were not an afterthought. The pickup routs were staggered like the pickups themselves and mirrored the routs of a Fender XII and Mustang Bass. Furthermore, only the mini-Stackpoles installed would fit in the control cavity rout, again pointing out that this had been intentionally created with these parts in mind in this shape and configuration.

I decided to pull off the neck to see if there were any markings in the cavity. The neck, like the body, were made from mahogany, another odd trait for a Fender to have. I noticed that the mounting screws were what I would expect from a ‘60s Fender and matched the other ‘60s Fenders I had. This was not hard evidence, but lent itself to the whole package.

The two major detractors were found here. The neck plate, which was obviously customized for this instrument to accommodate the width of the neck and the truss rod bolt, which was not the Phillip’s head style more commonly found during the period. I have not started down the path of researching standard Fender Banjo necks of the ‘60s, but will attempt to do so soon. Also lacking was any sort of marking in the cavity or heel of the neck. This was unfortunate, but not entirely damning. If this had been an instrument intended for mass production rather than a prototype, I would have had stronger negative feelings on this missing trait.

Overall, the body of evidence points to this being an instrument made in the Fender factory. The experts who’ve held it in person agree. Those who’ve seen it in photos are skeptical but not entirely dismissive. I’m currently waiting for a response from people at Fender who’ve been with the company a long time. A big thanks to Rob Schwarz for taking my call and putting this under the eyes of others in the company.
The big questions:

  • If this were a fake, why would somebody go through all the trouble of using old Fender parts, cutting precise routs, etc, and make a non-standard one off rather than a more popular model? Kubicki confirmed that this isn’t fake.
  • For whom and why was this made? Did Eddie Peabody, who died in ’70, want another Banjoline?
  • Is Buddy Kendrick, the sales rep who gifted this to the seller in Medford, OR, still around to help corroborate this? Buddy Kendrick passed in ’78. I was able to speak with his nephew.
The original Fender Banjoline with Eddie Peabody and Leo Fender. This was made in ’65 or so. Roger Rossmeisl

History of Roger Rossmeisl

The son the German luthier Wenzel Rossmeisl, Roger immigrated to the United States in 1953 and worked briefly for Gibson guitar company. Rossmeisl then moved to Rickenbacker in the mid ’50s, he created many of the company’s most iconic designs, including several acoustic/electric models, the “cresting wave” body and head stock shape, and the 4001 bass guitar model. Rossmeisl was also responsible for several obscure models, including the 5002 Mandolin and the 6005 and 6006 Banjoline, to which this page is devoted. In 1962, Rossmeisl was hired by Fender and worked on various acoustic and solid body instruments.

Presumably due to Rossmeisl’s involvement with its production at Rickenbacker, Fender either approached or was approached by Eddie Peabody, a Vaudevillian multi-instrumentalist who invented the banjoline. Fender’s first production of the banjoline came in the familiar double-cutaway form, borrowing aspects from their other electric instruments, most notably, the Mustang. The original Fender banjoline is currently located at the Fullterton, CA Fender Museum.

Rossmeisl returned to Germany early in the 1970s and passed away there in 1979 at age 52. As Fender chafed under CBS rule throughout the decade, only the Japanese F-Series acoustics remained, to no particular acclaim. They too were eventually discontinued, in 1979.

Links

This is how I discovered the instrument: The Offset Guitar Forum: Vintage Offsets

The Rickenbacker Resource Forum was also discussing it: Rickenbacker Resource Forum: Weird German carved Fender one-off… Rossmeisl connection?

It also popped up on Guitarz.Blogspot.com: One-off Fender Weirdcaster – is it a bouzouki? a tenor guitar?

 


Parent page: Instruments and Amplifiers

6 Comments

  1. Bill Stewart says:

    Rickenbacker made a banjoline for me in 1969 or 1970 and it cost me about $900 Canadian.It was shipped ,I believe,to John Bellone Music in London,Ontario.I didn’t keep it very lonf and sold it to a guy in Nashville,who played banjo on riverboats.Sorry I can’t remember his name.It had the red finish.I;ve never seen another since.Bill Stewart

  2. Sean Moyses says:

    You may be interested in the new Banjoline albume called “Return of the Banjoline” now available on I-tunes, Napster, Spotify and as a physical Cd vie my website on CDBaby.com. Eddie Peabody was apparently not very keen on his Rickenbacker and preferred his banjo but pushed the sales for the company. I for one like the unique sound these make. Nice bit of detective work on your axe!!!

  3. jkk says:

    Sean,

    You and I spoke in June right after I purchased the instrument. You mentioned the album to me then too. Thanks again for the reminder. I’ll check it out.

    John

  4. jkk says:

    This instrument was sold.

  5. Ben says:

    John,

    Do you have contact information? (or can you contact me?)

    I know you sold it, but I have some questions to ask.

    I also own an instrument of similar origin (one-off Rossmeisl prototype made at Fender) that has been authenticated by Fender and Phil Kubicki. I just wanted to swap notes.

    -Ben

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