Gibson GB-3 Mastertone #9441-1

“The finest of Guitar Banjos is exemplified in this Mastertone model.  Stirring tones–or soft, sweet and serious, always at your command”–this was what Gibson’s catalog “U” of 1932 had to say about the GB-3.  This 1929 guitar-banjo is from the next-to-the-last known lot of two-piece-flange style 3 banjos and may have been the only instrument in its lot.   While the pot conforms to standard style 3 specifications for the late 1920s, the fingerboard has dot inlays rather than the diamonds and squares pattern normally seen on the style 3 of this era, and the guitar-shaped peghead has no inlay other than the old-style “The Gibson” logo.  The tension hoop is the grooved type used on the earlier ball-bearing models, presumably because the neck notch in a notched hoop would not have been wide enough to accommodate six strings.

Owner Joel Burkhart tells us, “The story that came with the banjo was that it belonged to the guy’s mother who bought it in Dallas, Texas back in the 1930s to take lessons but the teacher made a pass at her and she never went back. Not much of a story but that’s what came with it. I bought the banjo in about 1965 and while in California had a guy named Bob Givens make a five-string neck for it (the one in the picture of the band). I played it that way for years but then put together a replica TB-12 that I thought sounded better so I reassembled the GB-3 the way you see it now. It’s great for ragtime finger picking and once I even strung it up to replicate Sonny Osborne’s six-string (without much success). The last picture is of a bluegrass band I played with in and around Marietta, Georgia back in ’67 when I was working at Lockheed. That’s me on the Dobro and the banjo player, Roland Turner, is playing the GB-3 when I had a five-string neck on it”.

Photos courtesy of Joel Burkhart.