Kel Kroydon KK-10, the “Willard Goss”

Instruments under the odd brand name Kel Kroydon were made by Gibson for the J.W. Jenkins Music Company of Kansas City, Missouri between 1929 and 1931 (Gibson would also use the Kel Kroydon brand name on a line of wooden toys from 1931 to 1933).  The two Kel Kroydon banjo models were the KK-10 and the KK-11, which later appeared in the Gibson-brand line as style 11.  Kel Kroydon banjos featured pearloid on the peghead, fingerboard, and resonator back, while the rim, resonator sides, and neck were maple typically painted black on the KK-10 and blue on the KK-11.  Stenciled designs take the place of fingerboard inlay.  Kel Kroydon banjos had no Mastertone tone ring, but only a small-diameter brass hoop sitting on top of the rim; the thick maple rim and one-piece flange, however, were the same as those used on the more expensive Mastertone models of the period.  Kel Kroydon banjos did not feature the adjustable truss rod common to all Gibson-brand banjos; interestingly, a rod is present in the neck of these banjos but no cavity was routed out to provide access at the peghead.

As is common for Kel Kroydon banjos, there is no factory order number stamped inside the wooden rim or written inside the resonator.  This example remains in excellent original condition and is accompanied by a rare 1930s price sheet for Gibson “Mona-Steel” strings as well as a package of strings sold under the “Recording King” brand name used by Montgomery Ward for their fretted instruments, some of which were also manufactured by Gibson.  The banjo is housed in its original flannel-lined case which resembles a #511 Geib and Schaefer but does not bear a Geib and Schaefer stamp on the bottom; it may be one of the cases produced by Gibson in-house during the period 1929 to 1931 as identified by researcher Joe Spann.  The case key remains tied to the handle with a piece of string, which may have been a practice of the Gibson factory.  The banjo’s calfskin head exhibits a many-decades-old repair using a piece of newspaper; when the instrument surfaced in 2015 its armrest was positioned for left-handed playing although the banjo was strung right-handed.

The original owner of this Kel Kroydon banjo was Willard Goss, who was born on January 6, 1895 in West Decatur, Pennsylvania and died on September 5, 1972 in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania.  Mr. Goss was a farmer and miner who played this banjo recreationally; the banjo remained in his family until the summer of 2015.