Gibson GB-1 Guitar Banjo (1927)
Gibson GB-1 Model Guitar Banjo (1927), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 8854, brown lacquer finish, laminated maple rim; maple neck with ebony fingerboard, black period hard shell case. Item # 7456
Here is a fine example of one of the Gibson company's more elusive creations: a six-string Mastertone-era banjo. This is an fairly rare instrument, even more so than the company's earlier 'trap-door' style large-rim guitar banjos built prior to 1925. This one carries a factory order number from late 1927 stamped in the rim and marked on the resonator, but the white paint "Gibson" logo on the headstock indicates it was likely assembled and sold sometime in the early 1930's. Very few batches of these were built in any given year, and in this period of declining sales Gibson banjos often show non-standard mixes of older and newer parts. The banjo is built on the standard 11" Mastertone-style rim, but without any elaborate tone ring; basically equivalent to the TB-1 from the same year. It carries the older-style two-piece tube-and-plate flange that would be superseded shortly by the cast one piece unit. The sound on this banjo is mellower than a Mastertone, still fairly loud but with less overring and snap.
The neck is a substantial round-backed affair with a bound dot inlaid ebony fingerboard and a guitar-shaped headstock with "Gibson" in white paint script. The headstock carries six Grover Simplex non-geared tuners and the typical Gibson truss rod. This GB-I was the less expensive sister to the Mastertone GB-3 that early country fingerpicker Sam McGee to back Uncle Dave Macon and record several of his most famous pieces with, and is basically the same instrument minus the tone ring. In more recent times the Gibson six-string banjo is most often associated with Neil Young. The GB-1 is a cool Gibson rarity and still one of the best Banjo-guitars extant. This is the first example of this model we have had the pleasure of offering, and it makes a cool player for a variety of styles.
Overall length is 36 3/8 in. (92.4 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 13/16 in. (46 mm.). Excellent playing condition-this is a primarily original instrument but fitted with a newer plastic head, tailpiece and bridge. The finish and plating show some light wear, with scratches and scuffs most notably to the resonator top edge and the sides of the neck. There are a couple of deeper scratches to the resonator back and some checking, but overall the finish is relatively clean. The plating is better preserved than most, with a good shine to the flange and hoop and a complete set of original hooks with only light loss to the nickel. The tuners are the original non-geared friction type, functional as intender but not a joy to use compared to internal gear pegs. This instrument is still plenty loud and plays very well with a tone midway between a Mastertone Gibson and an openback banjo, thanks to the use of the resonator/flange without the elaborate tone ring. A very cool and rare find, and a unique 6-string creation! Excellent - Condition.
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