In the world of prewar Gibson banjos, there is no model more legendary than the original five-string Granada with one-piece flange and flathead tone ring. Fewer than twenty of these banjos were produced, making them many times rarer than Martin’s famed prewar D-45 guitars. The mystique surrounding this handful of instruments has been enhanced by their association with players such as Earl Scruggs and Sonny Osborne.
RB-Granada #9530-1 dates to 1930 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) but, like many higher-end Gibson instruments, remained unsold at the factory for a number of years. The banjo was shipped on July 9, 1936 to the Charles Music Company (location unknown); the Charles Music Company returned the banjo to Gibson and it was shipped a second time on October 6, 1936 to Francis, Day and Hunter, a large music retailer in London, England. #9530-1 was reportedly bought for one of three daughters of a Scottish family named Woods, but was never played to any extent and therefore remains in as-new condition. The banjo conforms to standard specifications for the RB-Granada of the period with the exception of the armrest engraving, which is the pattern used on Gibson’s style 5 of the 1920s rather than the pattern normally used on the Granada. The original Grover tuners feature large Catalin buttons; in common with most instruments shipped outside the United States from the Gibson factory, there is a “Made in the U.S.A.” stamp on the back of the peghead and a “Made in U.S.A.” sticker inside the resonator. A rare additional “Made in the U.S.A.” stamp also appears inside the rim. The back of the peghead features a mother-of-pearl inlay engraved with the original owner’s initials.
#9530-1 was returned to the United States in 1987 and is the most pristine known example of the most sought-after of all prewar Gibson banjos. Other banjos from this lot include RB-Granada Mastertone #9530-4, the “Jack Cozart”; and RB-Granada Mastertone #9530-5, the “Wade Mainer”.
Photos by Lynn Dudenbostel courtesy of an anonymous owner.