From his workshop in Hickory, N.C., banjo builder Warren Yates focuses his designs on reproducing that elusive "prewar sound." In fact, Yates banjos produce such inspiring tone and feel that 5-string-picker Ron Stewart (who played with J.D. Crowe, Dan Tyminski, the Seldom Scene and others) famously sold his 1933 TB-1 conversion in favor of his signature model Yates.
This 2008 Yates Ron Stewart model was originally purchased by Swedish banjo-player Jens Koch, who used it extensively until he sold it for a custom Yates build of his own. Jens had the "Ron Stewart" inlay replaced with a custom "Jens Koch" inlay, and the original inlay is included.
The Ron Stewart Model is essentially a modern recreation of a prewar mahogany banjo (think '30s RB-3), but it has its own Yates touches, including the signature Yates neck carve as well as Yates' stylings and inlays. It has a Maple rim, and it is equipped with a bronze no-hole flathead tone ring, which Yates calls the Venom V33. It produces powerful pop and classic driving sound that is authentic to the best prewar originals. Like every Yates banjo, it is distressed and "relic-ed", too, so that it captures the same vibe and feel. On stage, the audience might think you're playing a banjo from the '30s, but in your hands, there is nothing quite like the tone and feel of a good Yates.
What makes Yates unique to other banjo builders is how many of the parts are fabricated in his shop—tone ring, bridge, inlays, even the rims, coordinator rods, and resonators are all made right there in is shop in N.C. The Ron Stewart is set up standard with Keith tuners and a Presto tailpiece. In fact, Yates once tried making his own tailpieces, but he found the Presto design and quality more than sufficient, so he focuses on building the parts he can greatly improve upon.
This 2008 Yates RS-33 Ron Stewart has 5th string spikes installed on the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th frets. The frets show some minor wear, but they have plenty of life left. The original head has been replaced with a White Frosted 5-Star head, and it is set up with low, playable action. The current head tension and neck angle are ideal for producing that driving bluegrass sound. It includes its original case.