The "Stromberg Story"
(excerpts) By Jim Speros
In the jazz arch top world of guitars, the name Stromberg and "Made in Boston" are synonymous.
Elmer Stromberg was a master craftsman
who created some of the finest rhythm acoustic arch top guitars ever made.
The Stromberg business was started in 1905 by Charles Stromberg, Elmer's father, a master luthier. Charles specialized his craft in banjo,drum,mandolin,and guitars after working for Thompson and Odell, a Boston based firm for 10 years.
He was one of the country's leading repairers of harps with his masterful ability in carving headstocks and replacing soundboards. His reputation among Boston's early engravers,violin,drum,banjo and piano makers was highly respected. Charles also repaired violins, cellos and basses.
His youngest son, Elmer, apprenticed
with his father and older brother Harry in the shop from July of 1910 until
March of 1917, when Elmer left the business to serve in World War 1.
Elmer returned to the business in March of 1919 after serving two years in France. At that time,the shop was located at 40 Sudbury St., an area in the heart of Boston's famous Scollay Square, and a close proximity to other makers,including the Vega Co., at the time located at 62 Sudbury St.
Throughout the 1920's during the Jazz
Age of banjo music,the Stromberg's produced custom tenor banjos. They competed
with other banjo manufacturers,and were part of the eastern corridor in
banjo manufacturing. The Stromberg reputation was very strong in Boston
and the New England area At the time, banjoists who desired a custom made
instrument that was highly decorative, and had a sound that would carry
in large dance halls often chose the Stromberg banjo.
of 1928, Elmer Stromberg patented a series of tubes around the tone chamber
of the banjo just under the head. This created a new sustaining sound and
more volume, and was called the "Cuppo-phone"
This tone ring shows up in the earliest openbacks,(produced from 1910-1920) which are quite rare, even more so than the later models. Less than 200 are believed to exist, of these early examples
They also have a larger rim diameter, from
11-1/2 to 11-13/16 inches, and are flattops
Stromberg banjos have no serial numbers, and cannot be accurately dated, except by the hardware used at the time.
The Stromberg "cuppo-phone" banjo consisted
of 41 hollow perforated metal tubes 13/16 high and 13/16 in diameter fitted
to a wooden rim to produce a louder and clearer tone.This was an option
for the banjos. The "cuppo-phone" feature made the Stromberg one of the
loudest and heaviest in the country.The 2 models offered at this time were
the "Deluxe" and "Marimba"models
Although there are no exact records, these banjos are believed to number no more than 500, in the entire life of the company, with less than 200 being Deluxe models.
By the late 1920's,banjo players were
beginning to switch from banjo to guitar to create deeper sounding rhythm
sections in orchestras.As the style of music changed, the guitar needed
to be better heard.
As the musicians needs focused towards the guitar and the banjo's popularity declined, Elmer began producing arch top guitars for Boston musicians.By June of 1927, the shop relocated to 40 Hanover St. and they began producing guitars
One of the earliest players and endorsers
of Stromberg guitars was Frank Mondello (My Granpa)
who played with the Burt Lowe,Morey Pearl, and Billy Mc Bride orchestras.
His brother Victor Mondello, played with the Mal Hallett Orchestra using
Stromberg guitars and banjos.
Frank and Victor used Stromberg instruments exclusively throughout their careers. Frank Mondello was one of the first Boston banjoists to join the Local 9 union in Boston.
Both Frank and Victor influenced many players in the Boston area.
Many thanks to Jim Speros for his efforts in recreating the legacy of Chas A. Stromberg and Sons
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