Gibson TB-1 #917-18, the “Gordon Florey”

This style 1 tenor banjo was shipped on December 18, 1936 to J.J. Billek, a Gibson teacher-agent in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Its original owner was Gordon Florey (September 18, 1925-April 1, 2014), a lifelong Scranton resident who went on to serve in the United States Navy during World War II as a radar sonar operator on a destroyer escort; judging by this TB-1s outstanding state of preservation, young Gordon must not have ever put in much playing time on the instrument.

The factory order number #917-18 is stamped inside the rim and written twice in the resonator, with the larger number written perpendicular to the strings and with the smaller number written entirely in chalk rather than having the lot number written in red enamel, both typical factory practices starting in the mid-1930s.  Another feature common to style 1 banjos of the mid- to late-1930s is the plain dot inlay on the fingerboard in place of the earlier fleur-de-lis pattern, although the “inverted bud” peghead inlay remained.

The tension hoop of #917-18 features a factory original bevel on its inside lower edge, a detail sometimes seen on Gibson banjos of this period and which was obviously intended to prevent a sharp edge from cutting into the calfskin heads then in use.  The banjo remains in the #511 Geib “Masterkraft” case in which it was shipped to J.J. Billek; “G. Florey” is engraved on the truss-rod cover.  #917-18 remained in the Florey family until March 2016.