Gibson / TB-5 Tenor Banjo / 1923 / Cremona Brown Sunburst / Stringed Instrument
This is a really cool & quite fancy 1923 Gibson TB-5 Tenor Banjo “Trap Door” top of the line model made in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Its Cremona Brown Sunburst finish is absolutely lovely w/its laminated maple rim, its laminated Curly maple neck w/an inlaid Ebony fingerboard. This is one of the earliest style TB-5’s, from perhaps the first batch made, or at least one of the first couple of batches of this new top-of-the-line creation. She has a very short-scale neck and smaller 10 5/8″ diameter rim these early Gibson tenor banjos have the feel of having been designed by and for mandolin players. While not particularly popular among orchestra tenor banjo players, they sold well for a time to Gibson’s mandolin orchestra clientele eager to pick up on the new trends. The TB-5 is by far the fanciest of these beautifully built instruments with an attractive nouveau aesthetic all its own, with a special appeal apart from the rest of the jazz-age 4-string pack. Gibson’s first banjos appeared in 1918 sporting unusual features including a hollow rim, guitar-type tuners, and further on a unique flat-plate “trap door” resonator. The TB-5 was a late addition to the line, added in 1923 at the same time the F-5 mandolin and L-5 guitar were developed. This early model TB-5 features a slim and very short 19″ scale neck w/a curly maple/ebony laminate w/an extended ebony fingerboard. This is decorated w/unusual shaped pearl inlays and bound in grained ivoroid. The triple-bound “moccasin” headstock is veneered with ebony and inlayed with a slanted “The Gibson” logo surrounded by a lovely floral motif in abalone. The extended fretboard with 10 additional frets was intended to attract tenor players who had crossed over from the mandolin, Lloyd Loar himself being one of these reluctant banjo plunkers. Its serial # 11984-16 is dated to 1923 & is a very early example. The back of the headstock has a black stinger neatly faired into the neck’s ebony stripe. The tuners are gold-plated two-on-a-plate decorated Waverly gears with real pearl buttons, as seen on all Style 5 Master Model instruments. The nut is genuine pearl, another characteristic of top-line Gibsons of this era. The hardware is gold plated; the rim maple coated on the outside with pearl Pyralin. It carries the then-new Lloyd Loar-designed perforated tubular tone ring resting on ball bearings that was used for Mastertones up through 1927. This is the earliest version with no springs under the bearings. The hook/nut bearing ring used here would become half of the “tube and plate” flange system when the “plate” flange was added. The flat plate “trap door” resonator can be opened or closed to alter the tone of the banjo, adding “piquancy” in Gibson’s phrasing. Inside the rim is a gold “Gibson Guarantee” label and impressed factory order number dating to later 1923. This banjo has the optional goodies offered; a wire armrest and elevated white ivoroid pickguard bound in black on the edge, which is a rare and elegant touch. This was quite an expensive instrument in its day, fully equivalent to the F-5 mandolin and was top of the banjo line until new “modern” 1925 Master Models were introduced. This early TB-5 is an eccentric but truly beautiful banjo and a fine playable piece of 1920s Gibson history. Overall this is one of the best all original TB-5’s in existence having all of its finish intact w/no repairs nor overspray in its near 100 years on this planet. Its excellent overall & comes in its very rare shaped Black hard case.