Gibson TB-1 #3-21

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 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”, as seen on TB-1 #9543-47, TB-1 #9559-41, PB-1 #9560-9, and RB-1 #213-4; 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.  This style 1 tenor banjo was found in excellent original condition with its original hardshell case; the only alteration it had seen since leaving the Gibson factory was the addition of the rose decal to the back of the resonator, which apparently was done early in the banjo’s life.  A matching rose decal is found on the case lid. 

I acquired this banjo in February 2007 from the family of the original owner in Montana.  The banjo was reportedly bought new in Seattle as that was the location of the nearest Gibson dealer in the early 1930s.  #3-21 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) has now been converted to five-string with a neck by Frank Neat (pictured below with the banjo in his shop in Russell Springs, Kentucky), a no-hole unplated flathead tone ring by Bill Blaylock, and a setup by Charlie Cushman: