George La Foley Hawaiian Guitar
by Gregg Miner, as part of
(all images copyright John Lathey)
|A fellow named John Lathey
submitted information and photos on this interesting Weissenborn-shaped
Hawaiian Guitar from London, probably circa 1920s. The clues at first
seemed to point to a date of 1900(!) but were clearly a false lead.
England's first glimpse of a Hawaiian guitar (and not this style) is
believed to have been 1919, when Joseph Kekuku toured there.
Note the European headstock shape and the unusual bridge and trapeze tailpiece. The soundhole seems to be positioned quite low also.
Presented below are comments by those helping John with his research.
John Lathey (the instrument's owner): "I came across a faint rubber stamp mark inside this guitar
- it says L A Foley maker London. I found it at a car boot sale, it's back had fallen off, there were no
machine heads, & the finish had deteriorated over time. The holes for the machine heads were large diameter when I bought it as
though it was supposed to have bone rollers like a classical guitar. I have
the impression someone modified it as the illustration in the catalogue looks like it had regular
machine heads. I've temporarily bushed the machine head drillings so I can use regular
machine heads. I've refinished it in shellac which I guess is right for the period.
Bruce Perrin (of Barnes & Mullins, still in business!): "Unfortunately the catalogue is not dated but there is a copy of a letter inside informing customers of the impending relocation of Barnes & Mullins from Bournemouth to London." (This is was in 1900. See below - GM)
John Croft, ukulele collector: "All I know about the La Foley company is that they produced beautiful sounding and beautifully made musical instruments (including guitars, ukuleles, and mandolins) in London up until about 1930. Jack Abbott senior who founded his own company in 1890 making instruments in Charing Cross Road in London, and whose banjo ukes were played by the late George Formby, always rated George La Foley's instruments as the best he had ever heard."
From "British Makers Ancient" from the The Banjo Story by A.P.Sharpe serialised in the B.M.G.Magazine 1971-1973. Posted online at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Terry_Holland/bjop1.htm
"Samuel Bowley Barnes and Edward Mullins were boyhood friends in their home town of Bournemouth. As young men they decide to join forces to become dealers in musical instruments; mainly selling, and mandolins in which they were particularly interested. Being- players of no mean ability. their public appearances helped them to sell their goods and soon they were dispatching instruments all over the country because of their advertising and the launching (in February 1894) of their monthly fretted Instrument magazine called "The 'Jo"(*) They started to sell their "own" make of banjo but these were made for them by J. G. Abbott, W, E. Temlett. Windsor, Matthews, etc. - the usual makers "to the trade" at that time. It was in 1897 they patented their "mute attachment" which was fitted to B. & M. zither-banjos and worked from under the vellum. At the end of 1900 they moved to London and established themselves at Rathbone Place, off London's Oxford Street, as a wholesale house in all musical instruments and merchandise and, soon after, started their own workshops at Harrow, Middx. which at first were under the supervision of John G Abbott. During the dance-band boom they marketed- their "Lyratone" banjos plectrum banjos and tenor-banjo which enjoyed considerable popularity. A feature of these instruments was the all-metal construction of the hoops. They ceased making banjos soon after the outbreak of World War 11. the instruments branded "B. & M". sold from about 1965, have been made for them in Germany. "The (*) "The 'Jo" title was changed to "The Troubadour" after a couple of years."
John King, Hawaiian music historian: "About the La Foley guitar I can only make some general observations, the
work of Weissenborn, Knutsen, et. al., not being my specialty. I couldn't
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