Prewar Gibson literature promised that the mandolin-banjo combined “a certain portion of the mandolin sweetness with brilliancy, volume and tone quality of the banjo into one marvelous instrument.” Gibson had heavily promoted mandolin orchestras in its earlier years, and with the increased popularity of banjo ensembles in the 1920s the mandolin-banjo was touted as providing an essential “sweet soprano voice in the banjo band.”
#DG-3644 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is a style 00 mandolin-banjo shipped on October 27, 1938 to Dr. A.L. Brown of San Francisco in care of the Sherman Clay company, one of the west coast’s leading music retailers of the period. Dr. Brown (1897-1961) was a graduate of the University of California and Harvard Medical School who served as a Navy pilot in World War I and as Chief Medical Officer and Surgeon on the Pacific island of Bougainville during World War II. Dr. Brown practiced as a thoracic surgeon in San Francisco from 1926 until his death in 1961 and was an avid flyfisherman and outdoorsman; his son does not remember ever seeing him with this MB-00, which would account for the instrument’s remarkable state of preservation.
This example conforms to standard specifications for the MB-00 and remains in fully original, unplayed condition in its #122 “Challenge” case by Geib.
Check out a video of this banjo in action!