Gibson RB-75 Mastertone #DA-5055

1937 was a year of great change in Gibson’s banjo lineMastertone models 4, 6, Granada, Florentine, and All American were discontinued and replaced with the new toptension styles 7, 12, and 18.   Of the previous Mastertone models, only style 3 survived; its price was lowered from $100 to $75 and, in keeping with Gibson’s new fashion for naming instruments after their prices, was renamed style 75.  #DA-5055 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is a beautiful example of an RB-75; the date code “DA” indicates the year 1938.  It conforms to standard catalog specifications for style 75 with mahogany neck and resonator, one-piece flange, high-profile twenty-hole flathead tone ring, nickel-plated hardware, double-cut peghead, and rosewood fingerboard.  A variety of inlay patterns are seen on style 75 banjos, and #DA-5055 is inlaid with the full ten-piece leaves and bows pattern; the majority of leaves-and-bows RB-75s had a truncated inlay set with only eight pieces.

No original shipment information for #DA-5055 appears in Gibson’s shipping ledgers, although the banjo was logged on July 27, 1949 as being returned to Freeman’s Jewelry (location unknown) after an unspecified repair.  There is a decal on the back of the resonator bearing the name and phone number of, High Point Music Supply in High Point, North Carolina, possibly the original seller of the banjo.

I was fortunate to be able to record some sound samples of this tremendous old flathead Mastertone banjo at Banjothon 2009 in Maryville, Tennessee:

This banjo can be seen as well as heard in action on Fireball Mail in this YouTube video.

Photos courtesy of John Bowles.