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.
By the time this banjo was made in the late 1930s or early 1940s, the Grover tuners used by Gibson in earlier years had in many cases been replaced by the 2:1 Klusons with Catalin buttons seen here. Another later 1930s characteristic of this banjo is the archtop appearance caused by the placement of the brass hoop on the inner edge of the rim rather than the outer edge, referred to in Gibson’s Catalog Y of 1937 as a “new type rim construction” which would provide “more brilliancy”. The truss rod cover is the slightly larger type frequently seen on late prewar and wartime Gibson banjos; this TB-11 is housed in its original red-line hardshell case and remains in near-mint condition.
#F2258-8 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) was shipped on March 6, 1941 to the Belleville Music Company (location unknown); TB-11 #F2258-6 was shipped on the same day to Wittich’s Music in Pennsylvania.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.