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. . . was born James Thomas Parslow in July 1848 to Joseph and Harriet Parslow in Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, England and in 1874 when he was 26, married Sarah Martha Prout.


He learned woodcraft as an apprentice at Burgoines, the Kingston, Surrey, motor-launch builders, famous for building royal barges. Sometime in the 1880’s he established a workshop complete with a lathe and forge at 28 Fairfield Road, Kingston-on-Thames and later used part as a showroom for his banjos, cases and sheet music.


All his machinery was steam-driven and until he added zither banjos to his output in the 1890's, every part of his banjo was made in house. There were two models: 11” hoop with generally a 26¼” scale and a 12” hoop with a 27¼” scale. The zither banjos had a regularised 8” encased hoop.


The necks of his instruments were laminated both vertically and horizontally depending on the style; and on many, pearl dots were also placed at the side of the neck. Parslow was a lover of decoration and he collected odd pieces of mother-of-pearl from which he would fashion his inlays.


No two Parslow banjos would be identical in this respect but in general he chose the 5th 7th 9th 12th and 17th fret positions for the main inlays.


He devised and patented his own non-slip pegs and used several styles of metal perch-pole which could be adjusted at one or both ends by screw-nuts. His earlier tailpieces were simply wire-tied to the end of the perch-pole and were either bone or ebony but the later open back banjos had cast brass or bronze ‘Lyre’ style tailpieces with copper lugs.  He often used the “split” second fret at the 1st string on his zither banjos and they also appeared on some of his regular models.


He never used serial numbers, so it is difficult to date the evolution and output of his instruments especially in the design of the headstock and the switch from stamped to engraved nameplate and the style of heel.


In addition to his instrument-making and carpentry he maintained a landing stage and boathouse business. To help advertise the Parslow instruments, he also ran a successful music studio and a banjo quartet with outstanding pupils appearing at local concerts.


He died aged 72 in the November of 1919 and it appears that the business then folded as he had no children; although his nephew Charlie Parslow played banjo professionally – it is said with The Palladium Minstrels and touring the world with Al Jolson – but there is no mention of him or any other family member thinking of continuing the banjo business.


Pictures courtesy of Steve Harrison, text & images courtesy of Ed Parslow, see Ed's site HERE

James "Jimmy" Parslow  1848 to 1920

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