Gibson PB-7 Mastertone #DA-5057
1937 saw the introduction of three innovative new Mastertone models featuring "top-tension" pot construction and bold new Art Deco cosmetics. Gibson described the top-tension models as "the alarm clock that is going to wake up new possibilities in banjo playing" and hoped that they would revive flagging banjo sales in the face of the guitar's increasing popularity; while these new Mastertones were very well-designed instruments, they could not reverse prevailing musical trends and therefore sold in very small numbers. The lowest-priced of the three top-tension Mastertones, style 7, saw a total production of 124 units as calculated by researcher Joe Spann, with only twenty-one produced in the plectrum neck configuration seen here.
In the summer of 1938, Gibson began numbering their banjos with true serial numbers with two-letter prefixes, rather than factory order numbers, stamped on the back of the peghead. This PB-7's serial number, #DA-5057, does not appear in Gibson's original shipping ledgers, but a ledger entry of May 2, 1939 recording the shipment of PB-7 #DG-5057 to Sherman Clay and Company in Portland, Oregon is almost certainly referring to this banjo with the number entered incorrectly by Gibson's shipping clerk; all other banjos with serial numbers in the #DA-5051 through #DA-5063 sequence were Mastertones, including PB-7 #DA-5058 which was shipped on March 19, 1941 to Chehalis Music in Chehalis, Washington, while the entire DG-prefix series did not include a single documented Mastertone.
This PB-7 remains in fully original, excellent condition with its original plectrum neck and #521 flannel-lined "Masterkraft" case by Geib, as well as a straight-grain maple conversion five-string neck with radiused rosewood fingerboard by John Ramsey of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Mixed platings are quite common on top-tension banjos and this example features a chrome-plated flange while the rest of the hardware is nickel-plated per standard catalog specifications for style 7. The Mastertone label is uncut and the original twenty-hole flathead ring has a buffed inner face typical of the period. The original Grover clamshell tailpiece has been drilled to accommodate five strings and the original "two-band" Grover tuners are installed on the five-string neck; there is moderate fret wear in the lower positions.
Style 7 Mastertones with plectrum necks are even rarer than their five-string counterparts, with thirty-six RB-7s produced versus twenty-one PB-7s; #DA-5057 is not only an excellent, unaltered example of one of Gibson's rarest Mastertones, but it is an extremely powerful and rich-sounding prewar flathead as the following sound files will attest.
This banjo is sold. Please visit my page of Prewar Gibson Banjos for Sale to see what's available now.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
Weeping Willow Tree
Six White Horses
Banks of the Ohio
Big Rock Candy Mountain