This Mastertone began its long career as a TB-3 tenor, and the serial number (actually a Factory Order Number or FON) pegs it to 1927. The shell and all its metal parts, including the solid archtop tone ring, are original. It was converted to a 5-string in the 1970s (about '77 but we can't be sure) by Dave Shaw, an excellent craftsman in Davis, Calif., who made both the neck and the resonator you see here. We don't know the fate of the original neck and resonator, as in those days those parts were rarely preserved when a tenor or plectrum Mastertone was converted to a 5-string (and most Style 3 models were upgraded to a more elaborate inlay pattern, like the "wreath" design seen here). Shaw turned the back of the resonator from bookmatched curly maple in the Top Tension style, which Gibson had only used on its banjos for a few years in the late 1930s/early '40s. The solid archtop tone ring, btw, was another feature Gibson only used for a short period before introducing the 40-hole archtop tone ring in 1928. The result of this combination of tone ring and carved, rather than laminated, resonator is a Mastertone with a unique tone.

Note the set of four Keith pegs, and that the tailpiece is a Kirschner re-issue. The neck was refretted in the 1990s when acquired by the current owner. Hardshell TKL case is also from the '90s.

We've known this banjo for about 40 years, as it was Derek Krogh's main instrument for many years. Derek was the banjo and pedal steel player for the Bluegrass/Western Swing band "Back in the Saddle", a group that gigged a lot back in the day so this Mastertone saw plenty of stage time. Except for the small indent in the neck heel from his ring, however, Derek didn't leave many signs of use as he was always careful with his instruments, but of course the back of the resonator shows its share of marks from jean rivets and shirt buttons, and maybe a brief encounter with a belt buckle now and then.

stock no. 52982

ModelRB-3 Conversion (solid archtop) 5 String
Neck materialCurly maple
Flangeoriginal 2-piece
Shell3-ply maple
Tone ringoriginal solid archtop
Resonatorsolid curly maple
Tuners4 Keith pegs
Finishlacquer
CaseHardshell
Serial No8700-17
Diameter11"