The Violin is Dead
Long Live the Violin
VEGA ELECTRIC VIOLIN (1939)
The Vega Company was one of an illustrious group of musical instrument manufacturers trading in Boston, Massachusetts at the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century. A 1939 Vega Electric Instruments catalogue lists amps, guitars, steels plus electric basses, violins, a doubleneck steel and more. It is not yet known who actually designed and/or made the Vega Electric Violin.
In the late 1940s Nat Brusiloff, an American violinist was earning some money from advertising Vega Electric Violins:
“Nat Brusiloff Prominent Stage and Radio Conductor Prefers the Vega Electric Violin…
Band Leaders! The Vega Electric Violin will add new color and distinctioni to your ensemble and command public attention. Be among the first to take advantage of its sensational effects. Eddie Rosenwald, prominent Boston leader, upon first hearing it immediately featured it on the stage with his Keith Boston Orchestra. Scotty MacLean at the Hotel Victoria, New York, immediately featured it with his orchestra and on his broadcasts.
... Vega is the first really perfected instrument. Using your own choice of strings it has true clear violin quality with tremendous volume whether playing single string, pizzicato or double stops.New opportunities are ahead of you with this new instrument to bring you new prominence with its sensational volume and tonal color. Ask your local dealer, or writie or wire direct toady. No obligation”
Unfortunately it appears that the prominent violinist was only posing as an Electric violinist. A living relative of Brusiloff has made a collection of information regarding their Great-Uncle. "However, the only reference I know of him and the Vega electric was that ad in Downbeat...and presumably Metronome etc..." And, that "at the time of the advertisement Nat was either at WMCA or WOR. He had a rather rocky career as a broadcasting musical director. It was probably just a scheme for him to make a few bucks and for Vega to get somewhat of a "name" to pose for their ads...Nat's star was fading quickly. I don't think he played the instrument...but I'm not sure."
It is currently thought that Stephan Grapelli played the Vega Violin at some point in his career. A known photograph from The New Musical Express in 1952 certainly tallies with this being the case. Considering this date would suggest that Vega instruments were still being played, however the distinct lack in any format of publicly available information on these instruments poses the possibility that Vega Violins never really ever caught on during the time they were made.
The Vega Electric Violin photographed here was found in a pawn shop in Norman, Oklahoma and recently sold by auction online. Nothing more of its history is known. The following was taken from the online advert:
This one is in great shape. The only defect is a corner of the bottom bout was broken off at some time and repaired. The break was a clean one and the repair looks good. Everything else is present and looks original.
I have seen a lot of musical instruments but I've never seen another one of these. It is a pretty wild design being such a minimalist approach to a violin body. The body is hollow and a (working) pickup of some type sits under the bridge with volume and tone knobs on one side and a Ľ inch output jack on the opposite side. This violin is of excellent quality and finish. It is surprisingly close to designs you see now for electric violins.
Included with the violin is its original case, detachable shoulder rest, some old extra strings, and what is probably the original hook-up cord, which has one end detached but here. The case is beautifully made as well and in great shape. Both latches work and the handle, though taped, looks original. No bow was with the violin when I found it so no bow is included with it.
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