Emile Grimshaw, Noted Banjo
Composer, Player, Instructor and Builder
Click here for a sample of Tune Tonic by Emile Grimshaw and his Quartet!
Click here for a sample of “A Swanee Sing Song (Medley): Oh! Susanna & Ring, Ring de Banjo“.
Emile Grimshaw was a noted English banjo player who played for many years in a quartet in the early part of the 1900s and eventually extended his contributions to composition and instruction. He also formed a company with his son that manufactured both banjos and guitars, including the highly valued “Grimshaw Guitar”. Many of Emile’s classical banjo compositions are played to this day. He is credited with about 70 compositions.
Emile was born October 7, 1880 in Accrington and died December 12, 1943 in London. He apparently lived in Burnley until about 1933, when he moved to London and set up shop with his son. It is not known which line of Grimshaws Emile was descended from.
Thanks go to Michael Meaney for providing photos of the Grimshaw Guitar in 2004 and 2006. And to David Wade for providing information on the works of Emile Grimshaw as well as considerable personal data.
|Emile Grimshaw’s Banjo Playing Career|
Emile apparently played extensively with the Emile Grimshaw Quartet from the early 1900s into the 1930s in various venues in England. He also participated in at least 38 recording sessions between 1918 and 1929 according to the Jazz Discography as shown below. His son, Emile Jr., participated in two sessions in 1920.
The JAZZ Discography contains details on over 136,000 recording sessions include location, date, musicians, instruments, tunes, matrix numbers and album/CD releases. This page is a small excerpt from the list of over 115,000 musicians.
Page G11 – Dave Griggs to Nicolas Gueret
Emile Grinshaw, Jr.
|Background Information on Emile Grimshaw and His Works|
David Wade provided a brief but excellent biography of Emile Grimshaw. Written by W.M. Brewer3, it appeared in the “B.M.G. Magazine” (described further down on this webpage) in April 1955 and is provided below.
Considerable information on Emile and his works (and his brother, Monty Grimshaw) is available in “The Banjo on Record: a Bio-discography1” (p. 178-179) and is provided below. Thanks again to David Wade for providing this information.
|What Grimshaw Family Is Emile Grimshaw Descended From?|
Emile was born in Accrington, Lancashire on October 7, 1880 and died on December 7, 1943 in London. It is not currently known by the webpage author which Grimshaw family line that Emile is descended from. The information on this webpage indicates he had a brother, Monty, and a son, Emile, Jr. His wife’s name was Florence.
|What Did Emile Grimshaw Compose for the Banjo?|
David Price has collected the complete banjo works of Emile Grimshaw under one cover; this publication is described on a companion webpage. A total of 71 songs are included in this work; they are listed below:
|1. At Sunset||37. Jack’s Return|
|2. Avenue Parade||38. Kentucky Memories|
|3. Banjo Blues||39. Kilties, The|
|4. Banjoliers||40. Lancashire Clogs|
|5. Banjo Rag||41. Life in Louisiana|
|6. Banjo Vamp, A.||42. Listen to This|
|7. Banshee, The||43. Mexican Ride. A|
|8. Beat as You Go||44. Mister Jollyboy|
|9. Beat of the Drum||45. Minstrel Man, The|
|10. Big Boot Dance||46. Moonlight and You|
|11. Black and Blue||47. Night Club Parade|
|12. Black Coquette||48. Out West|
|13. Bunch O’Keys||49. Pick Me Up|
|14. Campbell Kids, The||50. Pierrot’s Serenade, A|
|15. Celtic Morn||51. Plantation Episode, A|
|16. Chop Suey||52. Prairie Life|
|17. Comical Coons||53. Pro Patria|
|18. Crazy Dance||54. Return of the Regiment|
|19. Daddy Longlegs||55. Sailors Don’t Care|
|20. Darkey’s Romance||56. Scotch Broth|
|21. Dream Song||57. Spanish Romance, A|
|22. Duct Study||58. Speedwell|
|23. Dusky Belle, A.||59. Spick and Spanish|
|24. Dusky Dandy, The||60. Stars Are Shining|
|25. Evening Reverie, An||61. Tattoo|
|26. Florida Flo’||62. Tired Tim|
|27. Fooling the Frets||63. Tropical Life|
|28. Footlight Favourite, A||64. Tune Tonic|
|29. For the Flag||65. Twilight Melody. A|
|30. Fretwork||66. Two in a Bar|
|31. Fun in Dahomey||67. Valse Sympathie|
|32. Happy go Lucky||68. Vodka|
|33. Here’s How||69. When Lights Are Low|
|34. Hibernians, The||70. Whistling Nig, The|
|35. High Jinks||71. You and a Canoe|
|36. Indian Patrol|
The following descriptions from websites on the internet provide some idea of the importance of Emile Grimshaw’s works.
Emile Grimshaw composed dozens of pieces for the soloist as well as the banjo orchestra. He recorded many of his compositions with The Emile Grimshaw Quartet. A fine composer of music in the sentimental style, Grimshaw also published several popular methods for the five-string and plectrum banjos as well as those for mandolin and guitar.
The History of the Classical Banjo
The banjo had been in existence long before it was rediscovered in America at the beginning of the 19th century. During the 19th. century the classical five string banjo as we know it today was developed in America and Britain, by various players and musical instrument makers. (For a detailed history of the banjo see the links listed on the classical banjo links page.) During the late 19th. century and early part of the 20th. century, the classical banjo became one of the most popular musical instruments to play, hence a large amount of music was composed for it, by performers and composers, such as Joe Morley, Emile Grimshaw, Olly Oakley, Alfred Cammeyer, Vess Ossman and Parke Hunter etc. By the second part of the 20th. century, the classical banjo had started to decline in popularity, and by the end of the 20th. century it would have disappeared for ever, had it not been for the efforts and enthusiasm of a few people worldwide who still listen to, and play the classical banjo.
Contrary to some belief, the banjo is a serious instrument popular in many guises, including jazz and even has its own repertoire. In addition to the music especially written for the instrument by such luminaries as Emile Grimshaw, Joe Morley, Arthur Stanley, Alfred Cammeyer (which often takes the form of marches, miniatures and light classical), virtually everything is possible on the banjo including much of the guitar repertoire, early and lute music. In the banjo’s heyday, transcriptions were published of every style of music.
As well as serious musical study, the banjo is a useful tool to demonstrate wonderful legato melody, harmony, rhythm, duo-style (melody with accompaniment on one instrument), and jazz.
The banjo’s rich, full tone can be used to great effect as a self-accompanying solo instrument incorporating melody, harmony and chords all at once to produce a complete and exciting solo pieces.
The following websites show specific compositions attributed to Emile Grimshaw
Banjo and How to Play It, The; a complete guide to plectrum playing Clifford Essex Publications (Music Sales). 63pp. ISBN: 0-86001-098-8 includes finger-picking for 5-string, notation with fingering instructions, flat-picking C section
College Rag, The
Home Sweet Home
Minstrel Man, The
A: lists of tunes found in Ray’s banjo case, and elsewhere
Classic banjo tunes and arrangements
Dusky Dandy Polka
Grimshaw, Emile Appearance as principal performer
Banjo Bounce, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p44
Flapjack, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p47
Hot Dog, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p46a
Kilties, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p52
Lazy Rhythm, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p54
Minorette, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p45
Minstrel Man, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p59
Ragman, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p46
Slap-Happy, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p44b
Sunflower Dance, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p26
Twilight Melody, Banjo and How to Play It, Clifford Essex, sof (196?), p62
|Academic Article on the Importance of Emile Grimshaw’s Work in Banjo|
The importance of Emile Grimshaw’s contributions in his field is emphasized in a 1994 article2 in the journal, American Music. The first page, and an excerpt from page 22, where Emile Grimshaw and Joe Morley are mentioned specifically, are shown below. A picture of Joe Morley is also shown.
Click here for a PDF download of the complete article.
Joe Morley, page 19:
|Emile Grimshaw’s Banjo Instruction Books|
Emile also published several books on how best to play the classical (5-string or plectrum) banjo. Apparently he advocated playing with the fingertips rather than fingernails. The following website provide information on two of his publications. Another was entitled “Black Coquette”.
Grimshaw, Emile [1880-1943]. How to Excel on the Banjo. Clifford Essex Publications (?)
Grimshaw, Emile [1880-1943]. The Banjo and How to Play It; a complete guide to plectrum playing. Clifford Essex Publications (Music Sales), 63pp.. includes finger-picking for 5-string, notation with fingering instructions, flat-picking C section. CONTENTS.
In May 2005, a listing for three of Emile Girmshaw’s banjo instruction books appeared on E-bay with the following description and image:
A SET of 3 OLD AND RARE TITLES FROM EMILE GRIMSHAW
1, The Banjo and How to Play It. Complete but the back cover is missing
2, How to Excel on the Banjo. Complete
3, Plectrum Playing for modern Banjo. Complete
All a bit delicate but in quite good condition considering the age and the fact that they have actually been used quite a lot. All published by Clifford Essex Music Co. Ltd of London.
A must for all Banjo players or music historians.
The following information on the E-bay lister and location was also provided:
Lister: linda3444 Location: Staffordshire, UK
|Editor of BMG Magazine|
The BMG (Banjo, Mandolin, and Guitar) Federation is a champion of the cause of furthering the use of these instruments. According to the following website, Emile was once editor of its magazine.
Ray Andrews’ repertoire was probably typical of many players who were involved in the classic banjo world and members of a BMG club. The English composers on his tune list include:
Joe Morley 1861-1937, who was a protege of Clifford Essex from about 1891.Born in Meriden,Warwickshire, he became like his father a boxer in prize fighting tents at the seaside. Morley senior played banjo as a minstrel on the streets, and his son Joe played later in Moore and Burgess’s minstrels. He was said to have been ‘discovered’ by Essex whilst busking at the seaside. Essex then recruited him for his Pierrots. According to an article by Michael Kretzmer in the Birmingham Evening Telegraph (24th June 1983) the reason that Morley was such a prolific tune writer was in order to pay for his betting on racehorses. According to Mike Redman, one of his tunes, Zarana, was named after a racehorse. Clifford Essex published Morley’s tunes, but he was said to have received little in the way of royalties. He made only one recording. BBC Radio 4 broadcast a biography of Morley, presented by Gwyn Richards on 28th June 1983. Morley was buried in an unmarked grave in Streatham, London. In September 2001,several banjo enthusiasts clubbed together to placea named headstone to his grave.
Emile Grimshaw 1880-1943, who was a stalwart of the BMG movement, and one-time editor of BMG magazine. He published a banjo tutor,and his tunes, like Humouresque, often have an Edwardian ‘parlour’ quality.
Olly Oakley who recorded dozens of 78 rpm records in the 1920s and 1930s. Herbert J Ellis who was one of the most prolific earlier banjo composers, often with piano accompaniment.
Also on the list are Alfred Davies Cammeyer (USA) 1862-1949, Kerry Mills (USA), Sam Payne, Arthur Tilley, A Nassau- Kennedy (Canadian), Clifford Essex (as arranger), Albert P Monk, Frank Lawes (1895-1949), Sanders Papworth, A V Middleton, M Rossiter, F Hinds, Abe Holzman, Arthur Stanley, and F.Dorward.
|Emile Grimshaw & Son – Firm That Manufactured Banjos and Guitars|
Emile was involved in the manufacture of banjos on an informal basis for his students, but in 1933 formed a company with his son for more formal manufacturing operations. Subsequently the firm also made guitars and, apparently, other instruments. Operations continued for at least 20 years after Emile’s death in 1943, as indicated by the following website quotations. Pictures of the Grimshaw Guitar are shown in Figure 1, and photos of the Grimshaw Banjo are provided in Figure 2.
Emile Grimshaw, 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 twenty years, but started to make an occasional banjo again from 1965.
“British Banjo Makers” was abstracted from the The Banjo Story by A.P. Sharpe, serialised in the B.M.G. Magazine 1971-1973.
Emile Grimshaw was an English teacher/performer of classical 5-string banjo music. In 1933 he began manufacturing banjos in Piccadilly under the name Emile Grimshaw & Son. The company later made guitars (Pete Townshend of The Who briefly owned a Grimshaw guitar) and, according to one report, an electric mandolin owned by Charles O’Connor of the Horslips.
Figure 1. Photos of the Grimshaw Guitar. Provided August 2004 by Michael Meaney (upper two photos) and again in November 2006 (lower three pictures).
Figure 2. Photos of the Grimshaw Banjo. Found November 2004 on E-bay advertisement. Description provided with the photos on the ad.
Emile Grimshaw was one of the most famous British instrument makers and instructors, even today his tutor books are regarded as some of the best ever written. For a while Emile worked at the Clifford Essex factory in London before leaving to start his own business. The “Grand” I have for sale here is a wonderful example of the work Grimshaw produced at his own factory.
Stained maple construction throughout with a beautiful hand carved heel and decorated resonator. The ebony fingerboard and peghead overlay are profusely inlaid with Art Deco designs, made from genuine mother of pearl. The nickel plated metalwork is “as new” and engraved. The original tuners and tailpiece are still fitted. A large arch top tone ring gives this banjo a very powerful and clear tone. This is a high grade instrument in stunning original condition. Set up and ready to play. My “Buy It Now” price represents amazing value so buy now before it’s to late.
|The Grimshaw Guitar – Used By Several Notable Musicians|
Guitars made by the firm Emile Grimshaw & Son were used by noted musicians, including Peter Townshend of “The Who” and Alvin Lee of “The Jaybirds” as described below (see also Figures 2, 3, and 4).
Although no instruments were sold in his name, Sidney W. H. Youngs unmistakable craftsmanship can be found on instruments bearing other names. He was first heard of in the banjo-making world as a member of the team of craftsmen making banjos and zither-banjos in the Essex & Cammeyer workshops at13 Greek Street, Soho, London.
When Clifford Essex and Alfred D. Cammeyer dissolved partnership in 1900, Sidney Young was appointed manager of the Cammeyer workshops and it was he who was mainly responsible for the design and manufacture of the ‘Vibranite,” “Vibrante Royal” and “New Era” instruments (as well as the many other cheaper grades of zither banjos) sold under the Cammeyer name. When Cammeyer retired in 1939, Sidney Young, took over the small workshop at Richmond Buildings, Soho , where he continued to make instruments for private customers until the outbreak of World War II (it was during this period that he designed and made the “Vivavox” models for Emile Grimshaw & Son.) After the war he established a workshop at70 New Oxford Street, London, W.C. Here he worked in conjunction with John Alvey Turner Ltd., (their premises being next door) until his retirement in 1956. He had acquired a good stock of Cammeyer “parts” and timber, and turned out many “Vibrantes” etc., but these do not bear the facsimile signature of Cammeyer on the heel butt.
In 1937 Turner acquired Alfred Weaver’s stock of half-completed hoops, arms, fittings, etc., and Mr. Young’s skill fashioned them into instruments almost indistinguishable from the genuine article except that they bore no maker’s name.
He died on December 11th,1964.
Pete Townshend used a three-pickup Grimshaw semi-hollow guitar from December 1965 to January 1966. He began using this guitar for stage work soon after the first use of the Marshall 100w amps and 8×12 speaker cabinets were delivered in November 1965.
Grimshaw guitars were manufactured in the U.K. by Emile Grimshaw and Son. Notable users of Grimshaw guitars from the late 50s/early 60s were Bruce Welch of The Shadows, Tony Sheridan, Marty Wilde, Joe Brown, and studio session player Joe Moretti (who recorded with Johnny Kidd & the Pirates of Shakin All Over fame among others).
Petes model is likely a late-1950s edition, and featured three toaster-style pickups, block inlays, trapeze tailpiece, tune-o-matic bridge. This guitar was fitted with a Rickenbacker truss-rod cover, thus causing considerable confusion about its provenance. How he acquired and lost this guitar is unknown.
Max the Mod: This guitar sounded absolutely amazing. Pete could toggle the pickups. Listen to Dancing in the Street Its played on the bass pickup and the selector switch is pushed to clip a high treble sound in tune to the beat. He did this by increasing the volume on the treble pickup It was fascinating watching!
Figure 2. The appearance of the Grimshaw Guitar is shown well in the following pictures of Peter Townshend.
Figure 3a. Alvin Lee of “The Jaybirds” also played a Grimshaw Guitar.
The guitar is a “Grimshaw”, made by the British firm Emile Grimshaw and Son, best known as banjo makers – but they also made guitars in the late forties, fifties, and early sixties. (Presumably they didn’t manufacture their own tremelo units, so put a Bigsby on. Then again, Alvin did a lot of tinkering with guitars from an early age, so he could conceivably have modified his own Grimshaw.)
Date needs correction though. Almost certainly 1963: if not, then one year either way allowed, maximum.
Figure 3b.Alvin Lee; the guitar is not a “Grimshaw”.
Picture taken 1960. Guitar is a Burns Tri-Sonic, first produced in 1960. Therefore, quite possibly Alvin posing with brand new guitar, probably bought as a present for him. Not a birthday present though – December 19th in the UK is not usually T-shirt weather.
Figure 4. Joe Moretti was another fan of the Grimshaw Guitar
Joe Moretti ‘s Gallery
Joe With the “Grimshaw” guitar
|Recording by Emile Banjo Quartet from E-Bay|
A record by the Emile Banjo Quartet with the songs “Tune Tonic” and “You and a Canoe” appeared for sale on E-Bay in February 2005 with the information shown below. The record was made by The Gramophone Company. It is not known how many records of this type were prepared or the date of this recording. A sample of “Tune Tonic” can be heard by clicking here.
‘Tune Tonic’ / ‘You And A Canoe’ – HMV B 2728, fair/poor condition. You And Canoe is in good condition, sadly, Tune Tonic has been grooved in a couple of places, causing it to skip slightly. This is an excellent tune though, with a notable arrangement worthy of appreciation.
EP, Maxi (10, 12-Inch)
A second record, “A Swanee Sing Song” and “Whistling Rufus” was advertised on e-Bay, also in February 2005, as shown below. A sample from “A Swanee Sing Song” can be heard by clicking here.
‘A Swanee Sing Song’ / ‘Whistling Rufus’ – both with vocals, HMV B.3377
Condition; very good / excellent.
EP, Maxi (10, 12-Inch)
|Eric Sandiford’s Website on Grimshaw Guitars|
As of 2006 Eric Sandiford has posted an outstanding website on Emile Grimshaw and his guitars at the following location:
The homepage of this website includes the information on Emile Grimshaw shown below. Eric has also posted many pictures of Grimshaw guitars and the musicians who used them.
Emile Grimshaw was a banjo player in the early 1900s, he played in his own quartet and also played with the Jack Hylton Orchestra. He also made many recordings and was well known for his music and tuition books.
In 1934 he formed a company with his son Emile Jnr to manufacture banjos and guitars (which were becoming popular) he also continued to produce music and also his very popular guitar tuition book.
The early guitars were (not surprisingly) constructed in a similar fashion to the banjo, in that it had a separate detachable back. The main body of the guitar had a large hole in the back, this it was perceived would amplify the sound. It is open to debate if this form of construction worked or not, but they are very interesting and unique sounding guitars. This range of guitars were branded Revelation, they also made a range of standard format guitars under the Hartford brand. Both types were available as archtop “F” hole or flat top “round” hole.
After the death of Emile Snr in 1943, the business was continued by Emile Jnr and guitar production was increased and at this time all subsequent production received the ‘Grimshaw’ signature on the head , the resonator back guitars were discontinued in favour of the electric pickup which solved the volume problem.
During the fifties they made many archtop style acoustic and electric models including 12 string jumbo electrics. The most popular model of this period was the
SS (short scale) deluxe and custom models, the later having humbucker pickups. These were good substitutes for Gibson guitars which were not imported into the UK (due to austerity measures post war). During the sixties 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 this.
The Les Paul copy (GS30) were impressive guitars. During the sixties individual and custom built models were produced to customers order, leading to some very interesting guitars. The business continued until the early seventies. Emile Grimshaw Jnr died in 1984.
The purpose of this website is to discover more about Grimshaw guitars and to pay some respect to a very talented and accomplished musician. The Emile Grimshaw Plectrum Guitar Tutor was my first guitar book specified by the music teacher I had at the time. I first discovered Grimshaw guitars in 1968 when I purchased the GS30 (which I still own) from A1 Repairs, Oxford Road, Manchester. I entered the shop looking for a Gibson and the Grimshaw impressed me and its rarity fascinated me, (also I remembered the tuition book), this particular model is also branded ‘Park’, the amplifier company were midlands agents for Grimshaw and attached a badge beneath the Grimshaw signature on the head.
It is hoped that the content of this website will grow with contributions from anyone interested or who had associations with the Grimshaw company, or perhaps guitarists who played Grimshaw guitars, Maybe you still do? All contributions will be gratefully received and acknowledged.
|The Mudcat Cafe Thread on Grimshaw Guitars|
The Mudcat Cafe has posted a thread on Grimshaw Guitars at the following website:
This thread contains a good deal of information on the guitars and Emile Grimshaw. Because of its length, a companion webpage has been posted with the content of the thread.
|Sheet Music for “Banjo Vamp” by Emile Grimshaw|
The Pine Creek Weasels, according to their website, “is an old-time string band based in Sacramento, California. The Weasels feature a high energy old-timey sound that combines highly entertaining arrangements with tight harmony and dynamic musicianship. A typical performance by the Weasels will feature originals penned by band members, obscure Old Time tunes and a few well-known favorites. Performances often will often end with the audience howling like dogs along with the band”.
The website is at the following location:
This website also features a copy of the sheet music for Emile Grimshaw’s “Banjo Vamp”. The four pages of this music are shown full size at the bottom of this webpage. The full size is necessary to avoid deleting some of the lines in the image.
1Heier, Uli, and Rainer E Lotz, 1993, The Banjo on Record: a Bio-discography: Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 597 p.
2Winans, Robert B., and Elias J. Kaufman, 1994, Minstrel and Classic Banjo: American and English Connections: American Music, Vol. 12, No. 1. (Spring, 1994), pp. 1-30.
3Brewer, W.M., 1955, The Banjo in Britain. BMG Magazine, April 1955, pp. 177-178.
Webpage posted July 2004. Upgraded August 2004 with addition of guitar pictures from Michael Meaney. Upgraded November 2004 with addition of banjo pictures from E-bay. Upgraded February 2005 with info on Grimshaw Banjo Quartet recording. Upgraded May 2005 with addition of image and description of three of Emile’s instruction books. Upgraded November 2006 with addition of more guitar pictures from Michael Meaney, with link to Eric Sandiford’s website on Grimshaw Guitars, and with copies of sheet music, “Banjo Vamp” by Emile. Updated January 2008 with addition of biography in BMG provided by David Wade.