Gibson TB-2 #9691-22, the “Helen Knighton”

Gibson’s 1930 catalog described the TB-2, the highest-priced non-Mastertone tenor banjo offered by the company at the time, as “a real ‘pal’ for the banjo lover”, providing “a snappy, brilliant tone, powerful volume, reliable trueness and a world of ‘good looks'”.  The style 2 of the 1930s was, like style 11, a lower-priced model which dressed itself up through the use of a pearloid fingerboard and peghead overlay with stenciled designs.  Unlike style 11, however, style 2 limited its pearloid veneers to the neck; the resonator was walnut with single white binding on both edges.  The hardware was nickel-plated.  Style 2 banjos were not Mastertones and had no true tone ring, but did have the same three-ply maple rim and one-piece flange as the Mastertone models of the period.

#9691-22 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) dates to 1930 and was found in York, Pennsylvania in the 1970s.  A business card for Warren Dean’s Banjo, Mandolin, and Guitar Orchestra was in the case pocket and the banjo was also accompanied by sheet music written by Dean.  This banjo is believed to be the one formerly owned by Miss Helen Knighton, pictured above with a TB-2 in a 1933 photograph with Dean’s ensemble.

#9691-22 has been converted with a five-string neck by Randy Stewart and a Janzegar flathead tone ring and is now owned by Joan Eliyesil of the Harvard, Massachusetts-based bluegrass band Still River.

Photos courtesy of Joan Eliyesil.