Style 11 was introduced in November 1931. It was distinguished by the use of pearloid decorated with red, blue, 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”. The pot of this banjo conforms to standard style 11 specifications, with a one-piece pot metal flange and nickel-plated hardware. Like other sub-Mastertone models, style 11 banjos bear an oval “The Gibson” label inside the rim, similar to, but distinct from, the Mastertone label. This example’s silkscreened peghead ornamentation is not that normally seen on style 11 banjos, but is the same as the mother-of-pearl inlay used on style 1 banjos of the same period.
The original owner of this banjo was Lillie Linebarrier, who lived in Kannapolis, North Carolina at the time she was given this banjo by her husband Wade in 1931. The story goes that Mr. Linebarrier brought home two banjos for his wife to pick from, and she chose this TB-11. Wade and Lillie had a family band along with Wade’s brother Rob and his wife Mary; in 1932, at the urging of World War I veteran Steve Mesker, the group traveled to Washington, D.C. with Mesker to entertain the “Bonus Army“–approximately 20,000 World War I veterans, their families, and supporters who were seeking immediate payment of a bonus granted by the Adjusted Service Certificate Law of 1924 for payment in 1945. The Bonus Army was also known as the Bonus Expeditionary Force, and for this trip the Linebarriers named their group The Friendly B.E.F. String Band. Photos above show the band just before their departure for Washington in 1932 and at a reunion in 1966. Lillie Linebarrier is also pictured with the banjo in 2005.
Photos courtesy of Bill Linebarrier.