Gibson TB-1 #9464-79, the “Bernard Crittenden”

Beginning in 1925, non-Mastertone Gibson banjos featured a “bracket shoe” type of construction while Mastertone models incorporated a two-piece, “tube and plate” flange.  In 1929, all Gibson banjo models made the transition to the die-cast, one-piece flange; after a small number of prototypes of various models had been produced, the new one-piece-flange construction entered production in earnest with lot #9464, which consisted of at least ninety style 1 tenor banjos.  The first one-piece flanges produced for Gibson by Doehler Die Casting proved, in many cases, to be too lightly constructed to stand up well to the tension of the head-tightening brackets; the flange design was soon reworked into a sturdier configuration.  #9464-79 features a “first-generation” one-piece flange with a corresponding rim thickness below the flange of approximately .640″ as opposed to the approximately .600″ seen on banjos with the second-generation flange.

#9464-79 incorporates other features of the redesigned style 1, including a double-bound maple resonator, fleur-de-lis inlay pattern, and modified fiddle-shape peghead.  The fiddle-shape peghead had been used on Mastertone banjos beginning in 1925 and was slightly modified for use on the revamped style 1; the two small indentations in the sides of the peghead below the first- and fourth-string tuners seen on this banjo are a holdover from the 1920s design but did not appear on later examples.

This TB-1 remains in original condition with the exception of a refinished resonator, which now has a slightly lighter color and reveals more figure in the maple than that normally seen on style 1 banjos.  The original flange is pulled up due to bracket tension but is stable and free of cracks.  There are two patched holes in the rim which probably accommodated wiring for the lights frequently mounted inside the pot by banjoists in earlier decades; the rim also features an added outer strip of very thin maple, a factory modification which has been observed on some other examples and was apparently intended to provide a tighter fight of the flange to the rim.  Unlike most style 1 banjos, #9464-79 features four resonator screws rather than three.  Whereas most style 1 banjos were equipped with the Grover “first model” or “window” tailpiece, this example features a Grover Presto.

The longtime owner of #9464-79 was Bernard Crittenden (May 20, 1919-January 30, 1996) of Rockford, Illinois; the banjo remained in the Crittenden family until April 2017.