Serial number dates to 1954. This one could be enjoyed as is or it would make a fantastic conversion project.
These early tone hoop banjos bear some resemblance to the pre-war models. This one has the desirable chocolate brown rim. Also, it has three thumb screws, not four, like the pre wars. It also has that beautiful Gibson sunburst finish on the resonator.
HOW DOES IT PLAY?
I put a Deering SkinTone head on it and a 1/2 inch Snuffy Smith bridge (I believe this banjo would have come stock with a 1/2 inch bridge.). The action is low and the Skin Tone head really makes it lively. Action is dreamy, its one of those banjos you feel invincible on.
The sound is to die for. It has that pre-war-ish dry, empty, hollow growl with sustain for days. You can tell it’s a good shell. Unlike most tone hoop instruments this one doesn’t lack depth and it certainly doesn’t hurt for volume. In fact, it’s loud as can be. This one’s ready for the jam and I’d bet people wouldn’t know it doesn’t have a full weight tone ring.
Sounds great, plays great, light as a feather, and decent enough shape for a nearly 70 year old Gibson! I wouldn’t hesitate to take it to the stage or studio.
We’ll call it players grade due to the following.
Original neck has a break at both the heel and the peghead. Some repair work appears to have been done on the lower lag bolt as well.
A repair has been made to the fifth string peg hole area and the fifth string tuner has I believe been replaced. The logo is also missing from the peghead which was likely refinished at some point (NOT the entire neck, just the peghead.) Outside of a few nuts being replaced the hardware is all original and the flange, hooks, and tension hoop have been chrome plated at some point. The armrest looks to have been repaired. The tailpiece has been replaced with a modern presto and the frets look to be original and there is a little fretwear on the first few frets but no buzzes anywhere.
The original tuners turn a little hard but stay in place with no slipping.
To be clear, all repairs are stable and the banjo holds tune and plays fine. No buzzes, no bows, no issues. The truss rod is functional, and it plays great.
Given these repairs, one could decide to keep it as is and have a really cool lightweight second, festival, or campfire banjo with vintage mojo and vibe or you could put a tone ring and conversion neck with it and really have a fine, fine banjo that backs down from nobody.
Will be shipped in a new Road Runner hard shell case.