1923 Gibson TB-Jr Tenor Banjo

A customer sent this instrument in for resale and it's quite a nice little thing. Gibson banjos always have that alluring, poppy-bright sound no matter what tonering they've got under the hood. Better yet: the lack of a tonering on this guy does not hold it back in that department. It's got a woody, dry, poppy, direct voice and it's also loud. I can easily see this cranking it during folksy jams.

What's interesting about this banjo is that it looks like it started-out as two of the same TB-Jr models from 1923 but along the way rims were switched (it has two serial numbers on it -- both of which figure-in at 1923) and it lost its trap-door resonator-back (though the two-screw mounting holes on the rear of the rim are extant). Still, unless you checked the serial numbers, you wouldn't know that it was mixed.

Work included: a fret level/dress, side dots install, cleaning, new bridge, and a good setup. This has a rugged, coordinator-rod system plus a dowel-stick, so it's the kind of instrument you don't have to worry about dragging-along everywhere and having the setup go wonky on you. It's solid. The neck is straight, the action is spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret, and I have it strung with 32w, 20w, 13, 9 gauges for standard CGDA tuning. Because of the short scale, one could string this as a baritone uke, too, or go for lowered-pitch GDAE "Celtic" tuning with fast fingering -- though I think the brightness of these instruments really suits CGDA-range pitches better.

Specs are: 20 3/4" scale length, 1 1/4" nut width, 1 1/16" string spacing at the nut, 1 7/16" spacing at the bridge, 10 1/2" head diameter, 2 5/8" side depth. The neck has a flat profile and a medium, fatter C/V shape to its rear profile. I like the extra board width and neck depth on this -- they make it reliable and suit it better for lead picking or fingerpicking vs. lots of chord-melody work.

Materials are: dark-stained ply maple rim, maple neck, ebony fretboard, ebonized headstock veneer, guitar-style tuners (a plus!), and nickel-plated hardware throughout. The bridge is maple/ebony.

Condition notes: it's definitely a "player's" instrument in that it has lots of minor scratching/uswear but is relatively clean, otherwise. All the hardware is "Gibson original" from 1923 save the tailpiece, one hook/nut set, the Remo Renaissance head, a newer bone nut, and the bridge. It is missing the very-cool trap-door resonator that would've been on it originally, however.

It comes with: an oversize, vintage brown hard case.

Oops -- one tuner ferrule is a replacement from my bins, too. I can't tell you how much nicer it is to have proper, geared tuners on an instrument like this vs. the friction pegs that were standard for every other make at the time. Even Gibson went back to banjo-style pegs shortly after this instrument was made. Why?! We'll never know.

I love the rounded flange on these instruments. It's easy on the legs and the eyes, too.

The original, Waverly tuners are still going strong.

I have a pad of foam under the dowel/head to mute overtones just a hair.

Note the extra hole in the dowel where it meets the rim at the heel -- someone had installed a homemade neck brace that was, frankly, unnecessary -- because right above it is a coordinator rod setup which holds the neck to the rim tight as heck and with perfect alignment.

The serial on the dowel is 11551 while the pot has 11828 (I think) on it. Both these serials correlate to 1923.

The No-Knot tailpiece is not original but it works nicely for ball or loop-end strings. I have a pad of leather near it to damp the string-afterlength, too.


Bob said…
Looks and sounds sweet! Let me know if you run into a fanatic collector who wants a Gibson mandolin banjo MB Jr from the same era. :-)