Gibson TB-1 #234-13, the “Bob Bontekoe”

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 fiddle-shaped peghead of the 1920s Mastertone line was retained on the style 1, with a slight simplification in shape.  The rosewood fingerboard was typically inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as “bats” and “flying birds”.

#234-13 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) dates to 1932 and remains in fully original condition; no armrest is present and, like a number of style 1 banjos, this example may have been shipped without one.  The banjo is still equipped with a vintage calfskin head personalized by original owner Bob Bontekoe with his first name.  The old head has a small hole in it under the tailpiece, but with a new set of strings the banjo still sounds great:


#234-13 remained in the family of Bob Bontekoe until December 2013.

This banjo has now been converted to five-string flathead with a mahogany neck by Frank Neat and an eighteen-hole tone ring by Bill Blaylock.  A prewar armrest, modern Presto tailpiece, and modern “two-band” tuners complete this prewar conversion: