Style 11 was Gibson’s attempt to dress up a lower-priced banjo through the use of pearloid decorated with red and black silk-screened designs on the back of the resonator as well as the fingerboard and peghead, along with a colored finish on the rim, the sides of the resonator, and the back of the neck. Blue is the most commonly seen color for this finish, and style 11s are consequently sometimes referred to as “blue banjos”.
Style 11 banjos were not Mastertones and only had a small-diameter brass hoop sitting on top of the rim; they did, however, share the one-piece flange and maple rim of styles 3, 4, and Granada, and thus make excellent five-string conversions with the addition of a new neck and a tone ring. So many style 11 banjos have been converted in this way that there is a growing demand for examples in original, unaltered condition. This TB-11 is just such a banjo.
Gibson’s Catalog Y of 1937 mentioned style 11‘s “new type raised tone ring” which was purported to “improve tone and volume” and provide “more brilliancy”. The new design, seen on #DA-5007 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers), was not a heavy cast archtop tone ring as found on the Mastertone models; instead, the archtop appearance was caused by the placement of the brass hoop on the inner edge of the rim rather than the outer edge.
#DA-5007 was one of the first Gibson banjos to be shipped with a true serial number stamped on the back of the peghead, as opposed to a factory order number stamped inside the wooden rim as had been standard practice since the early 1920s. This example was shipped on June 29, 1938 to the Sherman Music Company in a high-end #509 Geib and Schaefer case, an unusual option for a non-Mastertone banjo. The banjo is still housed in this #509 case, personalized by #DA-5007’s original owner with the band name “Rocky Mountain Cowboys”. The banjo is also accompanied by the original sheet of setup and maintenance instructions from Gibson, as well as a photograph of the original owner with the banjo.
Photos courtesy of Bob Feldman/WeBuyStrats.com.