Gibson PB-1 #11055A-48, the “Frank Gray”

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.