Gibson described the TB-18 as “the headliner of all modern tenor banjos” in its Catalog BB of 1942. “Modern” seems to have been the operative word in Gibson’s conception of their new line of top-tension banjos, introduced in 1937. Art Deco styling, flathead tone rings, radiused fingerboards, and solid lathe-turned resonator backs, along with the new and more convenient head-tensioning system, were clearly meant to help the banjo shed its old-fashioned image and regain popularity in a popular music world that was increasingly dominated by the guitar. As the top model in Gibson’s new banjo line, style 18 was the only gold-plated Mastertone in production from the late 1930s until banjo production was suspended during World War II.
#E2753-1 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) dates to 1941 and although catalog descriptions of the model specified curly maple, this example is one of a number of style 18 banjos produced with “bird’s-eye” maple; the fleur-de-lis peghead inlay is sometimes seen on style 75, style 7, and style 18 Mastertones beginning in the early 1940s; it can also be seen on PB-7 Mastertone #E3281-4, PB-7 Mastertone #E3281-6, RB-7 Mastertone #5820-1, and TB-18 Mastertone #E3794-3. #E2753-1 is accompanied by its original #509 Geib plush-lined case and has been set up with a five-string conversion neck by Robin Smith.
Photos courtesy of Craig Korth.