3/17/2018

1966 Gibson RB-175 Longneck 5-String Banjo




This same, Gibson-made, basic longneck banjo could be purchased in both an Epiphone-branded version and a Gibson-branded version. It's a simple build but good quality and rugged -- it has a multi-ply 11" rim with a round-hoop tonering, heavy-duty hardware, and a fast, comfortable, and stable neck. That's important when the 32" scale is so long. Many longneck banjos tend to have mild neck  twist or minor warping issues, but this one's dead-straight and has a truss rod that functions properly.

A customer brought this in for consignment, and like most '60s Gibson banjos, its needs were very minor before it was ready to go. I cleaned it up a bit, did a light level/dress job on the frets, replaced a broken tailpiece bracket with a shoe-style attachment instead, compensated the bridge, and set it up with a set of 9s. Its open strings are traditionally tuned E (or G/G#) for the drone and then BEG#B. When you slap a capo on the 3rd fret and put the sliding capo up correspondingly, this gets you normal G tuning.

Work included a fret level/dress, bridge compensation, tailpiece hanger-shoe install, cleaning, and general setup. It plays perfectly with hair-above 1/16" action at the 12th fret. While I'd normally set up a banjo for 1/16" across the board as a place to start from, the extra long scale means the long, skinny, low-tension strings need just a little more height. When you put the capo on the 3rd fret to get into G tuning, the "new" 12th fret is thus a perfect 1/16" action height. The rim is a hair out-of-round but stable.

Specs on this are as you'd expect -- a 32" scale coupled to an 11" rim. The nut is 1 3/16" and the string spacing at the nut is 15/16" and 1 11/16" at the bridge. The neck has a mild-to-medium D-shape profile and a flat fretboard. There's a hoop tonering and the sides have 3" depth. The consignor/owner installed detuners at the headstock for the low "D" and "B" strings and I'm sure the bridge is swapped, too. I also replaced a broken tail bracket that hung off of the coordinator rod mount with a shoe above it. The banjo appears to be original otherwise.


I wonder if the headstock was sanded and refinished as the Gibson logo is missing. The finish matches the vibe of the rest of the finish, though.


This has a rosewood fretboard and mahogany neck. I'm assuming the dark-stained pot is ply maple.











An original, hard case comes with it.

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