Gibson RB-00, the “Kentucky Slim”

“So that anyone may own a genuine Gibson regular banjo, we have created this fine model for only $27.50”, said the 1937 Gibson catalog of the RB-00. Introduced circa 1935 and in production through World War II, style 00 was the least expensive banjo bearing the Gibson name in the 1930s and early 1940s.  A thinner maple rim, no tone ring, lighter-gauge hardware, plain dot inlays in an unbound fingerboard, and a silkscreened, rather than mother-of-pearl, peghead logo allowed Gibson to produce this model at an extremely low price while retaining the adjustable truss rod which separated Gibson-brand instruments from the company’s budget-brand offerings.

The example seen here bears no factory order number or serial number, although the presence of Phillips-head screws, Kluson tuners with Catalin buttons, and a large truss-rod cover indicate a date of 1940 or later.  The banjo shows signs of extensive use and personalization, including the letters “KY SLIM” added to the peghead, period decals on the back of the resonator, and damage to both the resonator and the flange.  The identity of the “Kentucky Slim” who owned the banjo has not been determined; the stenciled peghead logo differs slightly from that usually seen on style 00 banjos and is actually the same as used on L-00 guitars and A-00 mandolins of the period.

Photos courtesy of Mike Hutchison.