Gibson MB-11 #F5635-5
The mandolin-banjo reached its peak of popularity in the 1920s, but as late as 1942 the Gibson catalog was proclaiming this odd hybrid "a necessity in every banjo band for lead or obbligato--ideal for solo playing". Style 11, introduced in 1931, was a lower-end, non-Mastertone model which, according to one Gibson catalog, offered banjoists "a touch of color and flash" with its pearloid veneers, stenciled "inlays", and blue finish. Besides lending "color" and "flash", the pearloid and paint provided Gibson with a way to use cosmetically flawed wood which might not have been suitable for more expensive models.
Lot #F5635 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) was one of the last batches of MB-11s to be produced during World War II. Gibson's original factory shipping ledgers record the shipment of three banjos from this lot, two in 1943 and one in 1944; while #F5635-5 is not recorded in the ledgers by number, history provided by the original owner's family makes it highly likely that this is the MB-11 listed as being shipped (with no factory order number recorded) to Gibson dealer Charles B. Megarity of Beaumont, Texas on December 13, 1943.
exhibits a number of features typical of wartime Gibson banjos, including a
slightly taller tension hoop, smaller bracket nuts, and Phillip-head screws
holding on the resonator brackets. The scarcity of banjo components at
Gibson by this point in the war is illustrated by the lack of an armrest and the
presence of Phillips-head machine screws, rather than the usual thumb screws,
holding on the resonator. This MB-11
remains in excellent original condition with the exception of replaced tuners
and is housed in its original "red-line" #385 case by Geib.