Gibson TB-75 Mastertone #EA-5337
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.
With the introduction of the top-tension models as the “flagship” Mastertones in the Gibson line, the retention of style 75 as a budget-model Mastertone gave the company an opportunity to use up leftover components from discontinued models. #EA-5337 has a Granada-engraved armrest, a feature seen on a small number of other style 75 instruments including TB-75 Mastertone #EG-3115 and TB-75 Mastertone #EG-7413; the forty-hole raised-head tone ring and tension hoop are chrome-plated (as used on the recently-discontinued style 4), while the remainder of the hardware conforms to standard style 75 specifications with nickel plating.
The "leaves and bows" inlay pattern seen here had been the standard pattern for style 3 Mastertones of the 1930s; the thicker, horizontal logo seen here is a common characteristic of style 75s. #EG-3115 was originally shipped on October 18, 1939 to Dale L. Cady, identified by researcher Joe Spann as a Gibson teacher-agent in Moline, Illinois.
The serial number is stamped on the back of the peghead as was standard practice by this time; the letter prefix "E" denotes a production date of 1939 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers). The rim is stamped with the factory order number #532-8; lot #532 consisted of fifteen TB-75s, all of which except for #532-8 were shipped between December 1937 and June 1938. For whatever reason, the -8 rim from the lot remained at the factory and was used to assemble this later TB-75.
The Kluson tuners with amber Catalin buttons were just coming into use on lower-end Gibson banjos at the time this example was shipped; EA-5337 remains in excellent original condition in its #509 case by Geib.
Photos courtesy of Lester