UK Luthiers

Past British Luthiers

Emile Grimshaw Sr


The Savoy Quartet, an important transitional syncopated group, that bridged the gap between the more formal structure of ragtime and the freer, uninhibited abandon of the early Jazz Bands. They played at both Murray’s Club & the Savoy Hotel in London from 1916-20, and in that period recorded prolifically on the His Master’s Voice label. Their lively repertoire of popular songs and the latest Dance hits from the USA nearly all feature the pleasant Vocalising of the American Light Tenor & Banjoist Joe Wilbur (with Spats), along with some interesting drum work from black American drummer Alex Williams. The 2 other Band members in this photograph are pianist Claude Ivy (who appears to be wearing a Regimental Badge – probably a reservist) and the legendary Banjo Soloist & Composer Emile Grimshaw Senior next to Williams.

GrimshawHead GrimshawColour

Early Grimshaw – ‘Vibrato. Tailpiece had Ball Bearing action and note the added DeArmond Pick-up


Jack Toogood’s Grimshaw Guitars

Emile Grimshaw Sr, the famous author, composer, arranger and banjoist, severed connections with the Clifford Essex Company to form his own Firm in conjunction with his son in 1933. Previous to this date he had sold banjos to his private pupils which he had made for him by Robert (Bob) Blake of Finchley, London.  These Instruments bore the mark ” E G” or “Hartford“.

When Emile Grimshaw & Son came into existence in Piccadilly, London, in 1933 Bob Blake was responsible for the prototypes and early model banjos sold by them but when demand increased these instruments were copied and made in Houghton‘s Factory in Birmingham. The “Vivavox” models in the Grimshaw range (based on the type of instrument made in America by Vega and called by them “Vegavox” were made for them by Sidney Young. Starting their own workshops in 1940 (to meet the demand for Guitars), Grimshaw & Son employed Will Mitchell from 1942 (after the closure of the Clifford Essex Workshops) and he was responsible for many Grimshaw Banjos (often made from parts acquired from the Essex Workshops) until his death in 1947. Since that date the Firm has been noted for its Guitars for over 20-yrs, but started to make an occasional Banjo again from 1965.

GrimshawSS_BassAfter the death of Emile Snr in 1943 the Business was continued by Emile Jnr and Guitar production was increased, at this time all subsequent production received the ‘Grimshaw’ signature logo on the head. In the 1950s (some also received this style in the 1960s) it was hand written/painted signature on the head , it is very likely that the signature was actually done by Emile Grimshaw personally. Interestingly, over the years Emile,s signature changed slightly and it is possible to date a Guitar by signature. In the 1960s the Signature was a manufactured wire type Badge, and in the final years the signature was a transfer type. Post War, the resonator back Guitars were discontinued in favour of the electric pickup which solved the volume problem. Grimshaw Snr was Editor for the BMG Magazine 1911-33

During the 50’s they made many Archtops, acoustic and electric models including the G3, G5, G6, and Plectric single cut away Jazz style electric, all were archtop styles some with Pick-ups built into the Fretboard (Grimshaw patented this type of Pick-up in USA & GB) Grimshaw called these invisible Pick-ups, tone/volume controls added to the Scratch-plate.

The most popular model of the 1950s was the SS (short scale) Deluxe & Custom Models, the later having humbucker pickups, the styling on this model was a cross between a Gibson 335 and a Gretsch White Falcon, with an individual Grimshaw style of un-equal cutaways. These were good substitutes for the American Guitars which were not imported into the UK (due to austerity measures Post War). Some had a Grimshaw patented Tremolo system.  The SS Models were very pretty Guitars and played well, Grimshaw should have had more success with this model than they did. During the 60’s in line with the boom in Guitar Groups they manufactured solid bodied electric Models, some were based on the Fender/Gibson designs.  I also believe that Grimshaw were granted a Licence by Gibson to produce the humbucker pickup, if this is correct then it would be the only occasion Gibson have done thissDeLuxe1s. (Seth Lover the inventor of the humbucking Pick-up mentions this in his biography).

Grimshaw Guitars – History
Grimshaw Guitar Players
Grimshaw Origins

John Bailey (1931–2011) was a British Luthier who made and repaired Guitars and other stringed Instruments during the 1960s revival of English Folk Music and beyond. Bailey lived in London until 1972 when he moved to Dartmouth in Devon. He continued to make Instruments there into the 1990s.  John was originally a Woodwork Teacher at a school in Hendon and made instruments in his spare time. His Business card from the early 70s said “Albert John Bailey – Violin Maker”