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. The tailpiece was an inexpensive type referred to in Gibson catalogs as the “Grover first model” (the tailpiece on this example is a later replacement). The fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on the style 1 even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape. The rosewood fingerboard was normally inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as “bats” and “flying birds”; however, other inlay patterns are sometimes seen on style 1 banjos and this instrument features the “diamonds and squares” pattern that had been used on style 3 Mastertone banjos in the 1920s. Style 1 banjos have an oval “The Gibson” label inside the rim which is similar to the Mastertone label found on the higher models.
TB-1 #128-14 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is believed to have belonged to a performer at the Aragon Ballroom in Venice Beach, California, the long-time home of Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.