The style 1 of the 1930s was a non-Mastertone model and therefore had no true tone ring–only a small-diameter brass hoop on top of the rim. It did, however, feature the same pot metal one-piece flange and three-ply maple rim as the Mastertones of the same period. Style 1 had nickel-plated hardware and a dark-finished maple neck and resonator, with white binding on the neck and both edges of the resonator. Even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape, the fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on style 1, with a minor modification–the two small indentations normally found under the fourth- and first-string tuners were absent. The rosewood fingerboard was inlaid with the fleur-de-lis pattern seen here until circa 1937 when the fingerboard inlay was changed to a simple dot pattern, although the “inverted bud” peghead inlay remained (see TB-1 #133-22, the “Roy Francis Gorman”).
#9559-41 is a plectrum-necked style 1 dating to 1930 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) and is housed in its original #521 Geib and Schaefer “Masterkraft” case with green flannel lining. The semicircular holes in the outside of the rim (hidden by the flange when the banjo is assembled) are also seen on this banjo’s littermate #9559-40 and indicate that these rims were originally prepped for use with bracket shoes. Also in common with other observed banjos from lot #9559, this banjo is equipped with four resonator lugs rather than the typical three lugs of style 1. When it surfaced in 2014, #9559-41 remains in excellent original condition with a vintage calfskin head.
This banjo has now been converted to five-string flathead with a mahogany neck by Frank Neat and a Sullivan Vintage-35 tone ring. The five-string neck is inlaid with a variation of Gibson’s prewar style 75 inlay pattern as seen on Curtis McPeake’s famous RB-75 “Betsy”. A prewar armrest, unpunched prewar Presto tailpiece, and modern “two-band” tuners with reproduction amber buttons complete this beautiful prewar conversion.
Here are some sound samples of #9559-41 in its new incarnation as a five-string flathead: