Gibson TB-Bella Voce Mastertone #0121-31

Bella Voce is Italian for “beautiful voice”; this model was introduced in 1927 and remained in the Gibson line for only three years.   One of the most ornate banjos ever produced by Gibson, the Bella Voce was available with a variety of woods and trim options; the light color seen here was designated “white holly” by Gibson but the wood in this example, as with most “white holly” Gibson banjos, is actually maple that has been painted white.  The Bella Voce is a tour-de-force of carving, painting, multicolor sparkle “Christmas tree” binding, gold plating, and engraving.  The flange is two-piece and the tone ring is a forty-hole archtop; the Grover “two-hump” clamshell tailpiece is engraved “Bella Voce“.  The peghead overlay and rosewood fingerboard are inlaid with the most intricate inlay pattern of any catalogued Gibson banjo.  #0121-31 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is currently equipped with a reproduction five-string neck by Randy Wood.

Factory order numbers with leading zeroes are seen on prewar Gibson banjos only for a brief period in 1927-1928, concurrent with the introduction of the Bella Voce and Florentine models.

Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.