1937 was a year of great change in Gibson’s banjo line. Mastertone models 4, 6, Granada, Florentine, and All American were discontinued and replaced with the new top-tension styles 7, 12, and 18. Of the previous Mastertone models, only style 3 survived; its price was lowered from $100 to $75 and, in keeping with Gibson’s new fashion for naming instruments after their prices, was renamed style 75.
With the introduction of the top-tension models as the “flagship” Mastertones in the Gibson line, the retention of style 75 as a budget-model Mastertone gave the company an opportunity to use up leftover components from discontinued models. TB-75 #DA-5061 features the “leaves and bows” inlay pattern on the peghead as seen on style 3 Mastertones of the 1930s (although with the horizontal logo characteristic of style 75) while the fingerboard inlay is the “hearts and flowers” pattern which had been used on the recently-discontinued style 4 and Granada. Unusually for a tenor-necked style 75 banjo, the tone ring is a twenty-hole flathead rather than a forty-hole raised-head. There is no Mastertone decal in the rim and the five-string Presto tailpiece is original.
This banjo bears a true serial number stamped on the back of the peghead and written in chalk inside the resonator (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers); original Gibson factory ledgers show that TB-75 #DA-5061 was shipped on October 21, 1938 to Eastern Musical Supply, identified by researcher Joe Spann as having been located in Falmouth, Maine. TB-75s #DA-5060 and #DA-5062 were also shipped the same day to other Gibson dealers.
This banjo has now been converted to five-string with a neck by Frank Neat of Russell Springs, Kentucky.
Photos courtesy of Mike Scott.