Gibson MB-00 #E3004-4, the “Charles James Lewis”

The mandolin-banjo reached its peak of popularity in the 1920s, but as late as 1942 the Gibson catalog was proclaiming this odd hybrid “a necessity in every banjo band for lead or obbligato–ideal for solo playing”.  Style 00 was the bottom of the Gibson banjo line and was introduced in 1935; this plain model remained in the Gibson catalog even after fancier models such as style 4 and the Granada had been discontinued.

#E3004-4 was one of six MB-00s shipped to South African Gibson dealer H. Polliack and Co., Ltd. on May 16, 1941.  The curly maple veneer on the back of the resonator is unusual for a style 00 banjo, which would normally feature a very straight-grained veneer; such anomalies became more common in the early 1940s due to the increasingly sporadic availability of materials.  Another irregularity is the peghead overlay, featuring a mother-of-pearl “The Gibson” logo and inlay as used on style 2 banjos of the 1920s, rather than the silkscreened white “Gibson” logo with no inlay normally seen on the MB-00.  The maple rim is of the 1/2″ thickness typical of style 00.  The “Made in U.S.A.” sticker inside the resonator and “Made in the U.S.A.” stamp on the back of the peghead above the factory order number were placed by Gibson on instruments destined for export. 

The original owner of this mandolin-banjo was Charles James Lewis, a resident of the town of Benoni in Gauteng province, South Africa.  #E3004-4 remains in excellent original condition, with the exception of deteriorated tuner buttons, in its #122 case by Geib.

Photos courtesy of Alan Lewis.