John Clamp Snr 1833 - 1907
.. born in Durham, Northumberland was a cabinet maker who in 1881 was living at 8 Sandyford Square in the centre of Newcastle, with five daughters and a son.
By 1891 he was registered as a Banjo Manufacturer working from home and 1898 he had moved to 22 Simpson Street in the St Andrews district still making banjos at home and by 1901 his 24 year old daughter Cecilia Clamp was a "Teacher of Banjo" and performer. No doubt her students provided a ready market for his banjos. His son John had by now married but carried on with his father’s original profession as a Cabinet Maker in the Tyne & Wear shipyards.
Among the banjos he made were ornately inlaid, high quality instruments with carved heels and heads. Initially fretless and subsequently fretted.
His early range of flush fret banjos across three styles were available in over 120 different options of pot size, scale length, materials and 5, 6 and 7 strings. They were named the Trick, Drawing Room and Stage models with pot sizes from 9-13" and priced between £3.0.0 and 12 Guineas.
He had been a banjo manufacturer for 25 years by the time he died and initially with a family of six to support. Hence the evidence is, contrary to the AP Sharpe article in BMG that he "made only 30 banjos in his lifetime", that he made many hundreds of banjos and it is likely that what was said was "30 banjos per year during his lifetime." It would appear he actually made 550+ during his lifetime.
Images courtesy of Gene Parsons at STRINGBENDER PRODUCTS. Clamp fretless images courtesy of Alec Somerville