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Vega       part 2

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The Vega Co. was offered the trading name and salvaged plant of Fairbanks and with their purchase Vega added the making of banjos to their growing activities.  David L Day was taken into the Vega company assuming managerial duties in the firms new banjo department.  From the Fairbanks company Vega also acquired some of the skilled banjo makers and, perhaps more importantly, the services of Herbert J Fandel , who started with the Fairbanks company in 1889 and was to play an important part in the design and promotion of Vega banjos.

 

When the Vega company became a fully-fledged corporation under the incorporating laws of the state of Massachusetts, David Day was elect Secretary of the company.  With the acquisition of the Fairbanks Company Vega not only started to make banjos with their own name but also continued to market the Fairbanks products.  For a time they used both names as trading companies: the Fairbanks Company being at 63 Sudbury Street and the Vega Company at 62.  All models in the Fairbanks range were also available as Vega instruments.  In addition to supervising the banjo making part of the factory David Day was “on the road” selling these high class instruments.

 

In 1908 the Fairbanks “Whyte Laydie” was redesigned by David Day and a year later Vega produced the famous “Tu-ba-phone” banjos, both of which were revolutionary in design.

 

Under the management of Carl Nelson (Treasurer) Julian Nelson (President and Factory Superintendent) and David Day (Secretary and Sales Manager) the new Vega company grew in size and prestige.  When he dance band boom started Vega instruments were eagerly sought by players everywhere and the company was hard put to it to keep up with the unprecedented demand.

 

Here it might be mentioned that in 1918 the company made the special extra-large hoop banjos with low G fifth string used by Brent Hayes in all his world tours.

 

In 1920 the factory was turning out eight models which ranged from the cheapest to the dearest: “Senator”, “Regent”, “Imperial Electric”, Whyte Laydie No. 2”, “Whyte Laydie No. 7”, “Tu-ba-phone No. 3”, “Tu-ba-phone No. 9” and the “Tu-ba-Phone Delux”, the latter three having 11” hoops and the others 10 ¾”.

 

In 1922, after an active business association with the form for eighteen years David Day resigned his position with the Vega company to become Vice-President and general Manager of the Bacon Banjo Company.  “Bert” Fandel replaced Day as Sales Manager and his high standards of instrument perfection did much to further the booming sales of Vega tenor-banjos and plectrum-banjos at that time.  It was under his aegis (with Julian Nelson having passed away 3 years earlier)  that in 1923 Vega re-designed most of their banjos and, in 1927, in addition, produced its “Vegaphone” model and, in 1927, its revolutionary “Vegavox”.  A modern version of an old ideas in banjo construction which found favour with many solo and orchestra players.

 

The discontinued banjo production when the USA entered WWII but recommenced production in the late 1960’s and continue to make a full range of banjos, including long necked “folk” banjos and models in the style of the pre-war  “Vegavox” Instruments.  

 

The Vega Co., Inc. is now (1967) located at 40 Leon Street Boston,  Mass. USA.  

 

Pictures courtesy of Steve Prior

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