Gibson Style GB Guitar Banjo , c. 1921
Gibson Style GB Model Guitar Banjo, c. 1921, made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 895, red sunburst varnish finish, laminated maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case. Item # 6953
This imposing 1920's creation remains one of Gibson's more unusual instruments, and a something of a rarity. The original "Style GB" banjo guitar is not only an extremely impressive looking find 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 single adjustable coordinator rod and dates to 1921-2, pre-dating both the "trapdoor" resonator and the ball-bearing Mastertone tone ring that would later appear on these instruments. This early rim is 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 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-lys. 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 a sort of ethereal plunk!
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.). Very nice playing original condition; recently set up with a refret, new skin head and silk-and-steel strings. Most of the hardware is original including the tuners, tailpiece and coordinator rod. The distinctive arched wooden bridge is an exact repro, some small pieces of rod hardware are changed and 14 of the hooks are modern Gibson style. Some repairs evident-there are 3 small cracks sealed on the rim bottom by the neck joint, and a few other small cracks to the veneer. The instrument shows moderate play wear, mostly to the back of the neck in the lower positions. This is a nice example of an early GB, the best player we have had with a great plunky sound. Very Good + Condition.
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