Gibson TB-75 Mastertone #664-7, the "Richard Harter"
1937 was a year of great change in Gibson's banjo line; Mastertone models 4, 6, Granada, Florentine, and All American were discontinued and replaced with the new top-tension styles 7, 12, and 18. Of the previous Mastertone models, only style 3 survived; its price was lowered from $100 to $75 and, in keeping with Gibson's new fashion for naming instruments after their prices, was renamed style 75.
TB-75 #664-7 was shipped on May 16, 1938 to Loser's Music Store in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Gibson's factory shipping ledgers also record the return of this banjo to Loser’s Music Store on August 1, 1939 following an unspecified repair; this repair evidently consisted of a neck replacement, as the neck currently on the banjo bears the serial number #EG-3110, dating to 1939, on the back of the peghead. A third ledger entry records the return of the banjo to Loser’s Music Store following another unspecified repair on June 26, 1941 (on this occasion the banjo was identified in the ledger by its peghead serial number).
#664-7 remains in excellent original condition with mahogany neck and resonator, nickel-plated hardware, forty-hole raised-head tone ring, and a variation of the “leaves and bows” inlay pattern with the first-fret inlay turned ninety degrees from its typical orientation. The banjo retains its original #401-N factory head guard and is housed in its original #509 plush-lined case by Geib, Inc. which has been embellished with two large bald eagle decals. The original Grover “pancake” tuners were installed on the 1939 replacement neck; close examination reveals that the Gibson factory plugged the eight small screw holes in the back of the peghead which had previously been drilled for installation of the then-current “two-tab” Kluson tuners. There is an old crack in the resonator sidewall and a repaired break at the neck heel.
The longtime owner of #664-7 was Richard Harter of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who is said to have bought the banjo in a pawn shop. The lid of the banjo case bears a gash which, according to family lore, was caused by Mr. Harter’s axe-wielding wife when he returned home late one night after an evening of playing the banjo in a local “joint”. The banjo remained in Mr. Harter’s family until February 2017.
Photos courtesy of Rock Bartley.