Style 00 was introduced in 1935 as the least-expensive banjo in the Gibson line. An initial price of $30 was lowered to $27.50 by 1937, and the model proved to be quite popular; after the company had discontinued many of its higher-end banjo styles, the humble 00 remained in the Gibson catalog into the World War II years.
#FG-2539 is a plectrum-necked style 00 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) shipped on February 22, 1940 to Beers Music House, identified by researcher Joe Spann as having been located in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. The Kluson tuners with amber Catalin buttons are typical of the period, as is the true serial number (as opposed to a factory order number) stamped on the back of the peghead. While most style 00 banjos were shipped either with no case or with an inexpensive chipboard case, #FG-2539 was shipped in a #521 hard case by Geib.
The previous owner of #FG-2539 was Lee Mayo (August 15, 1915–October 18, 2006), a lifelong resident of Corsica, Pennsylvania. Mr. Mayo’s grandson relates, “several of his siblings were also musicians, and I believe they were in at least two bands. . . he bought a fancy Kay with his war bonus, but it disappeared, although I have the case. He played daily until arthritis forced him to stop when he was in his eighties.” Mr. Mayo owned a number of other Gibson banjos, including TB-3 Mastertone #8824-47.
Photos courtesy of the family of Lee Mayo.