Gibson TB-6 Mastertone #9153-14, the “Jimmie Smith”

The November 24, 1928 issue of Music Trade Review magazine carried an article with a Philadelphia dateline announcing a “New Tenor Banjo in the Gibson, Inc., Line”:

“Following a round of the prominent musical organizations and orchestras of the Quaker City, Factory Representative E. Havenza, of Gibson, Inc., manufacturer of the Gibson banjos, has brought to the attention of the profession the latest model of tenor banjo which the firm is introducing.  It is known as Gibson tenor banjo No. 6, and is constructed with the improved attachment to the arm rest, which provides for a set or adjusted pressure of the arm, giving softened and expressive playing and when released allows for volume of tone.  The wood frame is of novel two-tone effect, making an artistic design.” 

Gibson’s”Vibrato Tone-Master” armrest-activated mute, which company literature promised would provide the player “tonal control like an organ”, was introduced on style 6 and would soon become available on other Mastertone models, but it seems never to have gained widespread popularity among players.  What the article described as a “two-tone effect” was the new sunburst finish which Gibson referred to as “Argentine grey.”  One model up in the line from the Granada, the style 6 featured curly maple and gold-plated, engraved hardware.  The example  seen here is actually engraved with the pattern used on the even more ornate Bella Voce model.  The larger Gibson logo in the peghead is an unusual feature seen only on some style 6 Mastertones of the period.

The original owner of #9153-14 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) was Jimmie Smith of New York City, who was a member of Harry Reser‘s Clicquot Club Eskimos.  Smith was a Gibson endorser and is pictured above with a TB-5 in a photograph from Gibson’s Catalog U of 1932.

Photographs courtesy of Bob Clarke.