1960s/2018 Kay/Wildwood Electrified 5-String Banjo

I put this contraption together a month or two ago, I think, but never snapped some pictures. My bandmate wanted something a bit beyond his one-pickup 5-string electric, so I actually took a simpler route this time around and retrofitted a "normal" banjo with an adapted head to make it go electric. This one happens to be an early-'60s Kay with a long, 27" scale length and a cool, sunburst resonator.

Work was pretty extensive: I gave the coordinator-rod setup my going-over including a neck-bolt and repositioning its adjusting portion below the tailpiece hanger (rather than part of it). I then planed and refretted the neck with jumbo stock (as it was warped), installed a geared 5th peg, railroad spikes, and set to work on the head.

It's the original Remo-style synthetic head, but I've backed it with masonite that's trimmed to fit the lip of the rim and then glued to the back of the head. That part was my only "fail" -- as the glue gave the head a grey color where it meets the masonite. Oh well! It's folk art. We'll change it at some point. Once the head was back in position with the masonite, I could cut my pickup holes, install my wiring harness, and set it up. As you might expect with a refret and going-over, it plays effortlessly and sounds substantial.

The masonite backing effectively makes this work like a "hollowbody electric guitar" in the Danelectro (Danelanjo?) fashion... which is appropriate as the "main pickup" is a neck-position lipstick type. The bridge pickup is a somewhat-snarly, fairly-clean mini-humbucker with a brighter sound to it. Between that and the neck one can go from sweet/clean/bell-like to a little more aggressive to twangy, country-sounding lead picking.

I love the Kay badge on the headstock. I had to reglue one wing of the headstock and while I was at it, I swapped the junky original tuners for these Kluson-style repros.

The compensated bridge works nicely. I have this strung with 9s because of the long scale and they sustain oh-so-sweetly. One can almost get a pedal-steel sort of sound from time to time because of that long scale and the fingerpicked approach to playing it.

Here's inside.

Note that even though the neck has a big bolt and an "adjustable neck angle" gizmo, I've locked both in place with a simple bolt. This is more practical. Now light action adjustments can be made on the other side of the coordinator rod where it meets the rim under the tailpiece.