Overview of Granada Mastertone Banjos
 

Gibson's "Mastertone" line of higher-end banjos debuted in 1925 with the Granada as its next-to-highest-priced model; only the style 5 of the time was more ornate.  As Gibson sought to compete with the ultra-fancy banjos produced by other makers of the 1920s, the style 6, Bella Voce, Florentine, and All American would surpass the Granada in deluxe appointments as well as in price, but the Granada remained a mainstay of Gibson's banjo line until its discontinuation in 1937.

The Granada's original specifications included curly maple with a dark brown stain; there were two concentric rings of alternating light and dark wood purfling on the back of the resonator, and the neck and resonator were bound with multi-ply white and black binding:


Some very early Granadas featured diamond-patterned purfling. . .


 

. . . as well as marquetry on the back of the peghead very similar to that seen on style 5:


 

As with the other Mastertone models of the time, the first Granadas featured a two-piece, or "tube-and-plate" flange, and a grooved tension hoop with flat hooks.  From the beginning, the hardware was gold-plated and the tension hoop was engraved with the distinctive Granada "arch" pattern:


 

The armrest was also engraved with a pattern unique to the Granada:




In 1925 and 1926, all Mastertone models including the Granada featured a ball-bearing tone ring with sixty holes.  The inner components of the tone ring were not plated, while the outer tone ring skirt was gold-plated and on 1925 examples featured the holes visible from the exterior.


Granada Mastertone banjos from 1925 to 1928 featured a fiddle-shaped peghead and the "hearts and flowers" inlay pattern in a rosewood fingerboard:


 

The earliest version, seen primarily on examples from 1925, had the word "Mastertone" inlaid in small individual letters on the peghead just under the script "Gibson" logo:


Circa 1926, the word "Mastertone" moved to a mother-of-pearl block at the end of the fingerboard:


Circa 1927, all Mastertone models including Granada changed from the ball-bearing tone ring to a cast metal raised-head, or archtop, tone ring.  While the exterior "beveled" appearance of the head remained the same, the new tone ring construction is evident inside the body, with some of the earlier raised-head rings having no holes, while the forty-hole variety soon became the standard on all Mastertone models:


With the change to cast raised-head tone rings also came a change to notched, rather than grooved, tension hoops with round, rather than flat, hooks:


Granada Mastertones of the 1920s were typically equipped with an engraved Kerschner tailpiece:


In 1929, Gibson redesigned its Mastertone line.  For the Granada, this meant a change from the two-piece "tube-and-plate" flange to a one-piece flange made of die-cast "pot metal":


The neck and resonator remained curly maple, but the resonator gained a sunburst finish and (in most cases) lost the two concentric rings of purfling on the back:


The peghead shape changed to the "double-cut" design and the standard inlay pattern was changed to the "flying eagle" design:

 

The standard tailpiece was now the Grover "clamshell", sometimes engraved "Granada" and sometimes not:


 


The forty-hole raised-head tone ring remained standard on Granada tenor banjos in the 1930s, but Granada plectrum and five-string banjos were now routinely fitted with the new flathead tone ring which, according to Gibson literature of the time, imparted "greater brilliancy, sweeter tone, more volume and easier respone" to plectrum Mastertones and "extra twang and ring" to "regular", or five-string, models.  The flathead tone ring allowed the entire surface area of the head to vibrate freely.  Inside the banjo, its sloping inner face is clearly visible; some early examples were made with no holes, but the factory soon settled on a twenty-hole design:


Granada banjos featured the guarantee label found inside the rim of all Mastertone models (see above) as well as a factory order number stamped inside the rim. . .


. . . and written inside the resonator:


By 1937, declining banjo sales prompted Gibson to drastically overhaul its banjo line; three new top-tension Mastertone models were introduced and all existing Mastertone models from style 4 up were discontinued.  The Granada would remain out of production until being reintroduced by Gibson in 1987.

 


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