Gibson TB-3 Mastertone #8824-47, the “Lee Mayo”

#8824-47 dates to 1927 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) and is for the most part a catalog-standard TB-3 with two-piece flange, notched tension hoop, diamonds–inlay, and a fiddle-shaped peghead.  The wood is straight-grain maple with a uniform reddish-brown finish and binding on both edges of the resonator. The raised-head tone ring is the no-hole type frequently associated with 1927 production.

The previous owner of this style 3 Mastertone tenor was Lee Mayo (August 15, 1915–October 18, 2006), a lifelong resident of Corsica, Pennsylvania.  Mr. Mayo’s grandson relates, “several of his siblings were also musicians, and I believe they were in at least two bands. . . he bought a fancy Kay with his war bonus, but it disappeared, although I have the case.  He played daily until arthritis forced him to stop when he was in his eighties.”  A photo above shows Mr. Mayo playing #8824-47 while serving in the military; in this photo, the banjo retains its original diamonds-and-squares fingerboard inlays, but the banjo now features a bowtie-inlay fingerboard as seen on Gibson banjos of the 1950s and 1960s. The likely explanation is that Mr. Mayo returned the banjo to Gibson for repair once the frets became too worn, and Gibson followed their usual practice of simply replacing the entire fingerboard with whatever was in use at the factory at the time. Mr. Mayo owned a number of other Gibson banjos, including PB-00 #FG-2539.

Photos courtesy of the family of Lee Mayo.