Gibson TB-1 #9543-47, the “Ed Brenot”

The style 1, priced at $50, was a mainstay of Gibson’s lower-priced non-Mastertone line of the 1930s.  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”.  Even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape, the fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on style 1, with a minor modification–the two small indentations normally found under the fourth- and first-string tuners were absent.  The rosewood fingerboard was normally inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as “gulls” and “flying birds”.

#9543-47 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) dates to 1930 and was originally owned by Ed Brenot of Meadville, Pennsylvania, who personalized his banjo with a letter “B” on the truss-rod cover.  The one-piece flange is of the smaller first-generation type normally associated with 1929 production, with a resulting rim thickness of .640″ below the flange.  This example has four resonator lugs rather than the three normally seen on style 1 and, like many four-lug style 1 banjos, was most likely shipped without an armrest.  #9543-47 remains in its original #509 case by Geib and Schaefer; this fine-sounding tenor banjo remained in the family of the original owner until June 2013.

#9543-47 sounded wonderful in its original tenor configuration:


It has now been converted to five-string flathead with a straight-grain maple neck by Frank Neat and an eighteen-hole, nickel-plated tone ring by Bill Blaylock, resulting in an extremely powerful, rich-sounding bluegrass banjo: