Style 3 was the entry-level model in Gibson’s Mastertone banjo line from 1925 until the model’s designation was changed to style 75 in 1937. This original five-string RB-3 dates to 1928 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) and conforms to standard specifications for this model at the time with a dark-stained maple neck and resonator, a two-piece flange, forty-hole archtop tone ring, nickel plating, a Presto tailpiece, a fiddle-shaped peghead, Grover tuners, white binding on the neck and both edges of the resonator, and a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with diamonds and squares inlays.
Owner Randy Lucas of South Carolina, a longtime bandmate of the legendary Snuffy Jenkins, tells us the story of this fine old Mastertone:
“At some point back in the late 1970s I became interested in owning a prewar Gibson banjo and actually saw an ad, I believe in Frets magazine, about this banjo. Playing Snuffy’s banjo made me realize how wonderful these old Gibson banjos were and I often took Snuffy’s banjo home and would keep it until we played another gig. . . This banjo was actually located in Chesterfield, South Carolina. I was so excited that it was in driving distance that I could actually go and see it. I think the year was about 1979. I can’t remember the person’s name that was selling at the time, but I do remember the anticipation of opening the case and see if it was an original flathead that I had been dreaming about. It was in the original case and when I opened the case I was disappointed that it was a raised head banjo. It was totally original though and it even had the original skin head. Even though at the time it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, my dad and I made the decision to purchase it. I have never regretted even to this day buying this banjo. . . We actually purchased the banjo from the second owner. The banjo originally came from Cherryville, North Carolina. The original owner was R.E. Guffy. His name is written in pencil in the back of the resonator and there’s a date but I can’t remember what year he purchased the banjo. I think it was 1935, but I will have to take the resonator off and look at it again.“
Photos courtesy of Randy Lucas.