Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone #9584-3, the "Earl Scruggs"



In the world of prewar Gibson banjos, there is no model more legendary than the original five-string Granada with one-piece flange and flathead tone ring.  Fewer than twenty of these banjos were produced, making them many times rarer than Martin's famed prewar D-45 guitars.  The mystique surrounding this handful of instruments has been enhanced by their association with players such as Earl Scruggs and Sonny Osborne, and the Granada pictured here is the very one used by Earl Scruggs as his primary banjo since the late 1940s.

Used by Scruggs on virtually every recording done with Lester Flatt and the Foggy Mountain Boys as well as his later performances and recordings with the Earl Scruggs Revue and into the present day, this is easily the most famous Gibson banjo ever made.  This Granada had already had a distinguished series of owners before it came into Scruggs' hands; it was previously owned by influential banjoists Fisher Hendley and Snuffy Jenkins before being acquired by Don Reno.  Reno traded the Granada to Scruggs for the RB-75 Scruggs had obtained from Fisher Hendley, including a Martin D-18 guitar in the trade because the Granada was in poor condition.  The gold plating had been damaged by a cake of fiddle rosin left in the case, and shortly after acquiring the banjo Scruggs sent it back to Gibson where it was refitted with nickel-plated hardware and a new fingerboard with bowtie inlays.  The original neck warped and was replaced with a mahogany neck in the late 1950s; a curly maple neck with a smaller peghead was installed on the banjo in the late sixties.  These photographs were made when the banjo was returned to Gibson for restoration in 1988--an as-per-original curly maple neck was installed and the resonator, which had been refinished an amber color, was returned to its original sunburst finish.  The rim, tone ring, and resonator remain original.

Photos courtesy Greg Rich.