Gibson Style GB Guitar Banjo (1921)

Gibson  Style GB Guitar Banjo  (1921)

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Item # 8157
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Gibson Style GB Model Guitar Banjo (1921), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 11510-2, red sunburst varnish finish, laminated maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This imposing early 1920s creation remains one of Gibson's more unusual instruments, and something of a rarity. The original "Style GB" banjo guitar is not only extremely impressive-looking in its own right, but is also remembered by aficionados as the instrument used extensively by pioneering African-American bluesman/songster "Papa" Charlie Jackson, the first self-accompanied solo performer to record in that idiom. Jackson's early Paramount records, highly influential in their time and still great listening today, are a showcase for the unique sound of this most interesting Gibson creation. This early "Snakehead" banjo-guitar is a fabulous example of this style instrument.

The "Style GB" was part of Gibson's initial banjo line, introduced in 1919 as follow-ups to the first "Style TB" tenor banjo which debuted in 1918. There were numerous variations of these instruments created over the next several years as Gibson continually experimented, trying to create a banjo line sonically on par with their mandolins and guitars.

This example has a both a traditional wooden dowel stick and a single adjustable coordinator rod and dates to the very end of 1921; this batch, #11510, is actually the very last number assigned to that year in the now widely accepted Spann dating system. This version pre-dates both the "trapdoor" hinged plate resonator and the ball-bearing Mastertone tone ring that would later appear on these instruments. This early-style rim is constructed as a double-walled wooden honeycomb with hollow tone chambers, ebony capped and bound inside and out on the bottom.

These early Gibson banjos were quite expensive instruments when new, and the construction and cosmetics are rather upscale. The neck is laminated maple with an ebony center strip, finished in a graduated cherry-to-natural from the heel up. Both the extended ebony fingerboard and headstock are bound, and the unique "moccasin head" headstock is faced with ebony inlaid with a pearl "The Gibson" logo and fleur-de-lis. The tuner buttons are amber celluloid and the nut is genuine pearl.

With a huge 14" rim, this early "GB" sounds quite unique with a darker tone than later models -- or most other 6-string banjos. This is actually quite a useful banjo-guitar; it sounds like neither instrument, exactly, but has a sort of ethereal plunk that sounds as if it is coming from somewhere long ago and far away!
Overall length is 36 1/2 in. (92.7 cm.), 14 in. (35.6 cm.) diameter head, and 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This banjo remains in very nice-playing original condition, approaching its 100th birthday with only some fairly light wear, mostly to the finish on the neck. It has been recently set up with a refret, new calf skin head, and silk-and-steel strings. Nearly all of the hardware is original including the tuners, wire armrest, and oft-missing tailpiece. The distinctive arched maple bridge is an exact repro, and one of the hooks is a more modern Gibson style.

There are some repairs evident; there are several small cracks sealed on the rim bottom by the neck joint, and a few other small cracks to the veneer. The seam on the back of the neck has been re-sealed along the center lamination and is completely solid. Overall this is a very nice example of the early GB, about the best player we have had. Includes the original HSC in quite functional condition. Excellent Condition.