Gibson Style GB Model Guitar Banjo (1919), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 553, red sunburst varnish finish, laminated maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case. This imposing over 100-year-old 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 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 hybrid. This early "Snakehead" banjo-guitar is a fabulous example of this instrument, with a couple of expertly done modifications but one of the best playing ones we have had.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 first-generation example has a traditional wooden dowel stick with no coordinator rod and dates to 1919. This "GB" actually pre-dates the introduction of "trapdoor" hinged plate resonator, but has been fitted with a very finely crafted replica that works more smoothly than an original. The early 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 has been expertly tweaked to be in especially fine playing condition, remaining largely original now well past its 100th birthday. Overall it shows some typical fairly light wear, mostly spots through the finish on the back of the neck and scratching/scuffing to the headstock. There are no visible cracks or structural damage.The instrument has been recently re-worked and set up with a very well-done refret, new calf skin head and silk-and-steel strings. Much of the hardware is original including the tuners, oft-missing tailpiece and amazingly the distinctive arched maple bridge. All of the hooks and nuts are a nicely matched set but of later vintage. Internally the original neck/rim securing bolt has been neatly replaced with a standard Vega-style piece, which offers a better more solid connection in this vital area. A beautifully crafted reproduction flat plate "trapdoor" resonator had been added, which actually works better than the original as it allows any setting between open and fully closed. As noted this banjo was never fitted with one of these originally as it pre-dated their introduction. Overall if no longer absolutely original this is a very nice gigging example of the early GB, absolutely the best player we have had of these somewhat finicky large rim banjos. It is housed in a very fine fitted modern touring case that protects it exceptionally well. Overall Excellent Condition.

Listed3 months ago
ConditionExcellent (Used)
Excellent items are almost entirely free from blemishes and other visual defects and have been played or used with the utmost care.learn more
Brand
Model
  • Style GB
Finish
  • Red Sunburst Varnish
Categories
Year
  • 1919

Retrofret Vintage Guitars

Brooklyn, NY, United States
Sales:1,172
Joined Reverb:2015

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