Gibson TB-11, the “Braden C. ‘Al’ Aljoe”

“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.

This TB-11 can roughly be dated to circa 1936 or 1937.  It features the smaller-diameter brass tone hoop which was introduced in Catalog X (see above) and purported to provide “more brilliancy”; it also lacks a factory order number or serial number which is seen stamped on the pegheads of most Gibson banjos beginning in 1938.

The longtime, and likely original, owner of this TB-11 was Braden C. “Al” Aljoe, born October 21, 1919 in Brookville, Pennsylvania.  Mr. Aljoe performed on a variety of instruments and, like many musicians, frequently bought, sold, and traded instruments, but kept this TB-11 throughout the years.  Mr. Aljoe died on September 18, 1979 in Erie, Pennsylvania; his son recalls that his father was “happiest when he was playing his banjo.”