....Samuel Bowley Barnes (b 1872 in Wimborne, Dorset) and Albert Edward Mullins (b 1873 in Bristol) were boyhood friends in their home town of Wimborne where they worked together at the local grocers shop.
As young men they decide to join forces to become dealers in musical instruments; mainly selling banjos and mandolins in which they were particularly interested.
Being players of no mean ability their public appearances helped them to sell their goods and soon they were despatching instruments all over the country, also because of their advertising and the launching (in February 1894) of their monthly fretted Instrument magazine called “The 'Jo." ("The 'Jo" title was changed to “The Troubadour" after a couple of years.)
Both their sets of parents had died during the 1880's and while Mullins was living with his brother in law in 1891 neither appear on the 1901 census.
They started to sell their "own" make of banjo but these were made for them by J. G. Abbott, W. E. Temlett. Windsor, Matthew, etc. - the usual makers "to the trade" at that time.
It was in 1897 they patented their “mute attachment" which was fitted to B. & M. zither-banjos and worked from under the vellum. At the end of 1900 they moved to London and established themselves at Rathbone Place, off London's Oxford Street, as a wholesale house in all musical instruments and merchandise and, soon after, started their own workshops at Harrow, Middlesex. which at first were under the supervision of John G Abbott.
During the dance-band boom they marketed- their "Lyratone" banjos, plectrum banjos and tenor-banjo which enjoyed considerable popularity. A feature of these instruments was the all-metal construction of the hoops. In 1924 Barnes was granted a patent simplifying the tensioning of the skin on a zither banjo through a redesigned tension ring.
They ceased making banjos soon after the outbreak of World War II. the instruments branded "B. & M." sold from about 1965, have been made for them in Germany.