Gibson TB-3 Mastertone #8830-2, the “Edmund Martin”

For a brief period circa 1927, Gibson’s Mastertone banjos featured a raised-head tone ring with no holes, which appears to have been a transitional design between the ball-bearing tone ring assembly seen on 1925 and 1926 Mastertones and the forty-hole raised-head tone ring seen starting circa 1928.  #8830-2 is a catalog-standard TB-3 with two-piece flange, notched tension hoop, diamonds and squares inlay, and a fiddle-shaped peghead.  The wood is straight-grain maple with a dark brown finish and binding on both edges of the resonator, as opposed to the cordovan stain with resonator binding on the back edge only as seen on the earlier ball-bearing style 3 banjos.

A previous owner wrote his name, “K. Rivers”, the address “Central St. / West Brookfield” and the date May 28, 1934 on the underside of the Joseph Rogers calfskin head.  No further information is known about K. Rivers.  The banjo’s next owner was Edmund Martin (August 11, 1919–October 6, 2009) of Webster, Massachusetts.  Mr. Martin’s nephew relates that “He was a World War II Navy vet serving in the Pacific; he played with Ray Stone’s Orchestra that was well known in this small town, as well as many of the small bars here.  He loved his music and always played at our family gatherings”.

The banjo remains in its original hardshell case with accessories including a vintage Fender strap, a DeArmond pickup, and Mr. Martin’s songbook.  While many prewar banjo aficionados love the distinctive aroma these instruments often develop over the decades, the air freshener inside the resonator of #8830-2 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) suggests that Edmund Martin preferred his banjo to be heard rather than smelled.