The FLATHEAD banjo was originally designed and produced in the late 1920’s and 30’s by the Gibson Guitar Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan. At that time, dance bands were the craze, and 4-string banjos were widely used as rhythm band instruments. To compete with the other big band instruments of the day, these 4-string banjos needed to be loud and cutting and the FLATHEAD design produced the required volume and penetration needed. A few years later, several creative banjo players started using rare 5-string Flathead banjos in a new type of music called “Bluegrass”. This music was a success, and to this day, the “Flathead” design remains the heart and soul of the most sought after Bluegrass banjos. Because the “prewar” 5-String Flathead instruments used by the first popular bluegrass musicians were rare at the time, there has developed a colorful and often misleading mythology surrounding “prewar” Flathead banjos, giving rise to the “Prewar Charlatan” phenomena.
There are several essential elements which give the Flathead banjo its distinctive and desirable tone. A heavy bell-bronze flat-top tone ring, a solid 3-ply maple rim, a one-piece die-cast zinc alloy resonator flange, two adjustable rim rods and overall quality. OME incorporates all of these elements in the Megatone Flathead 5-string banjos which we have been building in various forms since 1965. When it comes to Flathead banjos, there is simply “NONE FINER” than the OME. We also now offer a Vintage Series Flathead banjo that utilizes our lighter “Vintage” tone ring for an unusually clear and responsive tone.