Gibson TB-6 Mastertone #9301-13

   

                           

#9301-13 shipping 21 October 1940

#9301-13 shipping 7 February 1949

In 1928 Gibson introduced a new gold-plated, engraved banjo named style 6.  The next year a variation of the style 6 with gold-sparkle binding, a flathead tone ring, and a scale length in between that of the tenor banjo and the plectrum banjo was introduced as the Royal P-T.  Although Gibson touted the Royal P-T as "two banjos in one" and called it "a triumph of banjo discovery", its reception among banjoists was lukewarm at best.  As a result, some surplus Royal P-T components remained unsold at the factory for a number of years, sometimes leaving the factory in unusual configurations in the later prewar and wartime periods.

#9301-13 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is an example of such a banjo; lot #9301 dates to 1929, but this example did not leave the factory until 1940, when it was shipped on October 21st to Eastern Musical Supply in Portland, Maine.  The banjo was repaired at the Gibson factory in 1949 and returned to Sandberg Studios (location unknown) on February 7th of that year.  The pot conforms for the most part to standard specifications for the Royal P-T, with a curly maple resonator, gold sparkle binding, tube and plate flange, gold-plated, engraved hardware, and a high-profile flathead tone ring of unknown weight.  The armrest, however, is engraved in the pattern used on some examples of the All American, introduced as Gibson's most expensive banjo at the onset of the Great Depression and therefore doomed to be even more of a commercial failure than the Royal P-T.

The neck of #9301-13 stands in stark contrast to the pot's high-end appointments.  The neck most closely resembles style 75, the budget-model Mastertone model of the late 1930s and early 1940s; the wood is mahogany and the double-cut peghead is inlaid with the diamonds and squares pattern that had been used on the style 3 circa 1925 to 1929.  The fingerboard, however, is inlaid with the fleur-de-lis pattern used on the style 1 non-Mastertone banjos of the 1930s.

The factory order number is written inside the resonator in the manner used beginning in the late 1930s, with the large numbers running perpendicular to the strings and the small numbers written entirely in chalk.  There is also evidence of a previous factory order number having been rubbed out at the factory.  The banjo is accompanied by its original #511 flannel-lined hard case, also noted in the shipping ledger entry.  The current gold-sparkle style 6 five-string neck was made by Gibson during the tenure of Greg Rich.

Photos courtesy of Gary Sippin.

 


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