"Charles McNeil" Recording King model 1584 five-string banjo by Gibson #1920



In the 1930s, Gibson made a number of banjos for sale by other companies, including mail-order houses such as Montgomery Ward.  These banjos were labeled with a variety of brand names and normally bore no Gibson markings even though they were made at the Kalamazoo factory and in many cases were very similar to Gibson catalog models.  Some banjos made by Gibson for Montgomery Ward bore the brand name "Recording King"; this example is an original five-string Recording King model 1584.  Rather than the Recording King logo, however, the peghead features the name "Charles McNeil", a popular player of the time who originally ordered this banjo.

This banjo's original five-string neck features the typical Recording King peghead shape and fan-shaped inlays.  The tension hoop is the grooved type used on the ball-bearing banjos of the 1920s.  The sunburst-finished maple rim is slightly thinner than a standard Mastertone rim, and the placement of the serial number in the rim and resonator is unusual compared to Gibson-brand models.  There is a rudimentary hoop-type tone ring as used on the non-Mastertone Gibson models.

Photos courtesy of Players Vintage Instruments.