Gibson TB-11 #127, the “Elsie and Woody”

“This model is alive with flash and color and yet is not gaudy”, proclaimed Gibson’s Catalog X of 1936 in describing the TB-11.  Introduced in 1931, style 11 used pearloid, blue paint, and silkscreened designs to dress up what was one of the company’s less-expensive banjo offerings.  Selling for $50, half the price of the least expensive Mastertone model, the style 11 proved to be quite popular and remained in production through the early 1940s.  Besides lending “color” and “flash”, the pearloid and paint provided Gibson with a way to use cosmetically flawed wood which might not have been suitable for more expensive models.

Many style 11 banjos were not marked with a factory order number or serial number.  This example has only the number 127 written in pencil on the neck heel; this would have been this banjo’s lot number and corresponds to gaps in documented lot numbers for the years 1934 and 1936.  “Elsie and Woody” is written on the vintage calfskin head; the banjo was acquired in 1948 by Virgie Helton of Springfield, Missouri and owned by her for many years.

Photos courtesy of Don Wiseman.