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Rubens Banjo Collection, London

Ross Campbell 12 Mar 09 - 11:12 PM
JohnInKansas 13 Mar 09 - 03:04 AM
Sugwash 13 Mar 09 - 04:34 AM
Roger the Skiffler 13 Mar 09 - 08:25 AM
The Sandman 13 Mar 09 - 02:03 PM
ClaireBear 13 Mar 09 - 03:16 PM
Ross Campbell 14 Mar 09 - 11:01 PM
The Borchester Echo 17 Mar 09 - 11:55 AM
Ross Campbell 17 Mar 09 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,nick clements 21 Sep 10 - 08:30 AM
GUEST,Carol 27 Oct 10 - 10:49 AM
Roger the Skiffler 28 Oct 10 - 06:34 AM
GUEST,guest - Jim Younger 28 Oct 10 - 07:29 AM
GUEST,JohnH 28 Oct 10 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Roger Knowles 28 Oct 10 - 02:08 PM
Charley Noble 28 Oct 10 - 05:22 PM
GUEST,Reuben 29 Oct 10 - 05:10 PM
GUEST,Ellie Reubens 04 Dec 10 - 09:31 PM
GUEST 02 Nov 14 - 06:20 AM
GUEST 02 Nov 14 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,Tom Farrow 04 Apr 17 - 02:04 PM
Roger the Skiffler 05 Apr 17 - 06:59 AM
GUEST,Guest 22 Sep 18 - 11:26 AM
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Subject: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 11:12 PM

In the seventies I used to haunt the antique stalls of Portobello Road in London at every available opportunity, looking for mandolins, concertinas and anything else I thought I might be able to play. In one basement cavern I bought a German lute-guitar from a dealer named Ruben Greene (later Ruben Rubens). Sometime after I was told that he had accumulated a huge collection of banjos. His connections in the antique trade meant that almost anybody finding a banjo would give him first refusal. I believe the collection could be viewed on request, but I never got the chance to do so. I often wondered what became of Ruben and his banjos.

I have only found one entry about this man via Google. There is an article by Lewis M. Stern of Arlington, Virginia on the British banjo-collecting scene in "The Banjoist's Broadsheet" here:-

Banjoist's Broadsheet No 198 October 2006 (pdf download - 10 pages)

The collection, apparently indiscriminately acquired without any record of background or provenance, comprised some 800 banjos, from junk to incredibly rare specimens. They were eventually disposed of (late eighties?), mostly to another collector, Akira Tsumura, who had earlier used examples from Ruben's collection to illustrate gaps in his own extensive collection for an illustrated catalogue of banjo types. Known as "The Red Book", it was originally published at $28 - still obtainable, but you would need to be keen:-

Banjos: The Tsumura Collection, Akira Tsumura
Hardcover: 132 pages
Publisher: Kodansha America; 1st edition (April 1984)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0870116053
ISBN-13: 978-0870116056

6 available on amazon.com from $375.00

There's also another book by him:-

"One Thousand and One Banjos, The Tsumura Collection", Akira Tsumura
Hardcover: 904 pages
Publisher: Kodansha International (JPN) (May 1994)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 477001421X
ISBN-13: 978-4770014214

apparently no longer available, but was selling for $1,000+

The more you dig, the more you find - comments on the Banjo Hangout forum suggest that Tsumura ran into tax problems and sold many of the banjos from his collection. Bernunzio Vintage Instruments (Rochester, NY) acquired 120 open-back banjos in October 2007.

Some of Ruben's banjos ended up in museums - the Kendall Whaling Museum (Sharon, Massachussets) has a unique scrimshaw-decorated whalebone banjo. There may be an illustration of it on Google Books (America's Instrument, the Banjo) but it would take some time to load (I didn't wait!)

I would be interested to know if anybody ever got to see Ruben's collection before it got split up, and if the whereabouts of other instruments are known.

Any Mudcatters near Sharon? (Their website is under construction, so can't access anything there). I would like a picture of the scrimshaw banjo if possible.

Ross


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 03:04 AM

A better link:

Banjoist's Broadsheet No 198 October 2006 (pdf download - 10 pages)

(The link above "localized" and included "http://www.mudcat.org/people.bath.ac.uk/ensjfvv/BB/BB198.pdf" in the URL. It happens sometimes with the "Make a link" button.)

John


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Sugwash
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 04:34 AM

I don't know what this German bloke is called, but he sure does have a collection of banjos: CLICKY

A vision of Heaven or Hell, depends on your standpoint.


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 08:25 AM

When I lived in Peckham, South London in the early 1970s there was one of those antique/junk shops that never seem to be open with dusty stock barely visible through a dirty window. I'm sure there was a poster advertising the Reuben's Banjo Museum (possibly Collection). I think I asked about it on the Mudcat some time ago. The spelling of Reuben is as I remember it.


RtS


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 02:03 PM

I think he sold his collection of banjos ,some years ago,have a feeling he was very ill,Stephen Chambers on concertina net, might know [he knows everything],as might Chris Algar, Barleycorn concertinas ,Musical Instrument Dealers are your most likely source of information.
I have a feeling that he has been dead somer years,of course Icould be wrong


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: ClaireBear
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 03:16 PM

Thanks awfully for the ear worm...I keep hearing this in my head:

"Oh, poor old Reuben's banjos
(Banjos boys banjos)
Oh, poor old Reuben's banjos
(Banjos me boys banjos)

C


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 11:01 PM

Sorry about the clicky - I usually test them but must have missed it. The spelling seems to vary between Ruben, Rueben and Reuben. I have a vague memory of having seen a poster or flyer as described by RtS above. I bought my first decent anglo concertina from John Maldon and Sheila Park who had a stall across the aisle from Ruben Greene, possibly 1975 or thereabouts. Couldn't find either them or Ruben on later visits (early eighties).

Thanks for the laugh, ClaireBear - my favourite shanty will never be the same again! I can also foresee problems with "Hilo, my BanjoRay".

There is a certain ambivalence in the banjo world (or indeed any group of instrumental enthusiasts) about collectors. On the one hand, they may preserve instruments which might otherwise have gone to the tip, on the other hand every instrument hung on a wall is an instrument not being played and enjoyed as it ought to be (and I say this as the owner of far more things than I can seriously hope to play).

But collectors with a curatorial interest in the historical development and regional variations of instruments like Tsumura still depend on "random" collectors like Ruben Greene for the sheer quantity of indiscriminate material that their obsession has gathered. There seems to be no reason behind Ruben's Banjo Collection - he wasn't a player and had no apparent interest in the historical context of any of the banjos he found. Perhaps it was just chance that these instruments (mostly English, I believe) came his way in quantity when few others were seriously interested.

Ross


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 11:55 AM

Dick: Reuben Green is very much live and well.
I have his contact details if anyone would like to PM me for them.
I hesitate to post them on an open forum.


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 12:30 PM

Hi, Diane
Good to hear that. Will PM you

Ross


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,nick clements
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 08:30 AM

rubens rubens is very much alive and is still collecting banjos he is one of the most nicest people you will ever meet so if you would like to contact you can buy my email nickclements111@hotmail.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,Carol
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 10:49 AM

My grandfather Matthew Tobin was an antique dealer and was a great friend of Ruben as was my father. I was suprised to see articles about him on the web. We shared a boating holiday with Ruben and his wife Doreen and his son Rueben. He was a lovely man, very gentle, and his father was lovely, a real character. I remember one of them used to greet you with the words "Whacko!" If Ruben got wind of a new banjo being available for sale (however far he had to travel) he would hop excitedly from side to side. They lived near our shop 'M.D. Tobin & Son, in Consort Rd, Peckham. Then they moved to the mansion known as 'The White House'.
My father is still alive and in his late 70's. I will ask him for some more stories if you like.
Carol xx
vanvincent21@hotmail.com


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 06:34 AM

Consort Road! At the time I mentioned in my post we were living round the corner in Gordon Road!

RtS


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,guest - Jim Younger
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 07:29 AM

Back in the '90s a banjo expert told me that Reuben had given up banjos and was collecting gas stoves. He also said that R was a bus conductor for a while and used to stop the bus whenever he spied a banjo in a junk shop window.

I can't vouch for the truth of any of this!


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,JohnH
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 01:43 PM

Ruben is still around (I see him from time to time at Antiques Fairs)and
Deals in ethnographia now.


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,Roger Knowles
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 02:08 PM

You may care to contact Pete Stanley on this subject, as, I believe, he was in touch with the japanese gentleman from time to time.
He also visited Pete to see Pete's collection, if I remember correctly.


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 05:22 PM

Fascinating!

Charley "5-String" Noble


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,Reuben
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 05:10 PM

Dear Carol                                       
How lovely to hear from you after all these years m My Mobile Number is 07796011313 and Iam looking forward to hearing from you Love From Reuben xx


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,Ellie Reubens
Date: 04 Dec 10 - 09:31 PM

He is a wonderful collector and should really write a book.


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Nov 14 - 06:20 AM

The man is a con artist


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Nov 14 - 09:55 AM

So does the collection still exist?


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,Tom Farrow
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 02:04 PM

Just came across this 1979 video clip on Reuben and his banjos, recorded by the BBC. The presenter seems a little patronising, but great to get a glimpse of the collection! I presume that the building in the video is the 'White House' mansion that Carol mentioned above?

https://twitter.com/BBCArchive/status/714407456814809088

Also found this 1992 article on his later gas cooker collection. It lists his age as 52, meaning that he'd be 77 now if he's still around.
'The Gas Museum' in London which housed some of his collection closed in 1998 and parts of it were taken on by the 'National Gas Museum Trust', so they might possibly have some further information on him?

http://www.independent.co.uk/money/a-cooker-to-match-your-cast-iron-bath-reuben-reubens-shows-john-windsor-his-unique-collection-which-1550924.html


I've only just discovered the chap through the BBC video, so am very grateful to have found this thread. Once again, Mudcat saves the day!


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 06:59 AM

Clip shared to Mudcat Facebook page.
RtS


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Subject: RE: Rubens Banjo Collection, London
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 11:26 AM

I was telling a friend about Reuben yesterday and found this thread via Google. I gave him a home-made banjo in the 1970s and often wondered what happened to his intended book.


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