Style 11 was Gibson’s attempt to dress up a lower-priced banjo through the use of pearloid decorated with red and black silkscreened 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.
Although earlier style 11 banjos were not usually numbered, this banjo bears a factory order number stamped on the back of the peghead in keeping with Gibson practice in the later prewar period; the “E” prefix indicates a date of 1939 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers). By this time, the Grover tuners used by Gibson in earlier years had in many cases been replaced by the 2:1 Klusons with amber Catalin buttons seen here. Other typical late 1930s characteristics of this example include the archtop appearance caused by the placement of the brass hoop on the inner edge of the rim rather than the outer edge; the larger truss rod cover, and the lack of a handstop. The neck and resonator sides of this example have been refinished.
S.S. Stewart sold a banjo under its own brand in the 1930s which was manufactured by Gibson and was virtually identical to style 11. Gibson also offered a very similar banjo under its Kel Kroydon budget brand.