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By the time this banjo was made in the late 1930s, the Grover tuners used by Gibson in earlier years had in many cases been replaced by the 2:1 Klusons with amber buttons seen here.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. This TB-11 also features a factory original pearloid pickguard. These items were common accessories on prewar Gibson banjos but in most cases have been removed or lost in the intervening decades.
This banjo bears a an usual double-letter-prefix factory order number on the back of the peghead (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers). It was shipped on April 10, 1940 to an “N. Kellmayer”; TB-11 #FG817-4 was shipped on the same day to Gibson teacher-agent Betty Reichenbach of Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
Photos courtesy of Douglas Vinayak.