One of Gibson’s earliest banjo designs has become known to collectors and players as the “trap door”, after the hinged back that could be opened for greater volume. This style 1 plectrum banjo dates to 1924, the year before the company switched to the more familiar flange-and-resonator design. Plectrum banjos were tuned the same as five-string or “regular” banjos, but lacked the short, high-pitched drone string of the five-string banjo and thus were more suited to chord-melody styles played with a flatpick. This early version of Gibson’s PB-1 features a “moccasin” peghead shape with no inlay other than a “The Gibson” logo; the dot-inlaid fingerboard has twenty-four frets. The banjo is equipped with an ivoroid pickguard, an available factory option at the time.
#11055A-31 remains in excellent original condition with one replaced hook and nut. The original owner of this banjo was Frank Gray (1876-1957), a native of Mere in the English county of Wiltshire; his grandson Graham Willcocks currently plays the banjo in a folk band in Wales.
Photos courtesy of Graham Willcocks.