Like me, it's a mixture of old and new.
This banjo started out as a Kalamazoo tenor of unknown date, probably the mid 1930's. "Kalamazoo" was a lower-end Gibson brand (actually made by Gibson craftsmen working for a toy company Gibson owned.
The original 5/8" wood rim had 16 "shoe-style" brackets (the brackets attached directly to the rim, without a flange) — it still has the drilled holes all the way around.
The rim was sent to Bill Blaylock to have a custom, no hole, unplated tone ring built and fitted for it.
Blaylock is widely known as a builder of great tone rings, and this particular combination of rim and ring turned out to be especially good, in my opinion.
The resonator is also original. It's a flat back, which is common to Kalamazoos, but double bound, which is rarer.
The flange is made of pot metal; the tuners are Waverly two-band; the tailpiece, armrest, tension hoop, brackets and nuts are from Gibson, ca. 2000.
The neck is a Gibson mahogany with a "Reno" inlay pattern. It was cracked at the peghead several years ago and repaired by an unknown repairman. The original Kalamazoo tenor neck has been lost.
It is an excellent banjo that plays easily and sounds just right for Scruggs style banjo, which is what I play and teach. It also sounds good as a frailer.
I string it with Martin light gauge strings.
I'm very proud of this banjo. After playing a Japanese banjo since 1975, one can only imagine how excited I was to come across it.
My friend Bobby J. Rodgers here in Little Rock found it and put it together for me. He is well-known in banjo circles as the guy who first found the all-original 1938 Gibson RB-75 five-string flathead that JD Crowe made famous.
That banjo has an entire chapter devoted to it in Jim Mills' book on Gibson Mastertones.
Bob really knows how to find the right parts, put them together and set them up properly. I'm grateful to him for giving me the opportunity finally to own and play a very fine — if "put-together" — Gibson banjo.
Bob does setup and repair work and sells the occasional banjo. Contact me if you would like to get in touch with him.
He is always on the lookout for old banjos and parts, and may be able to help you if you're in the market for a really good banjo.
See the handwritten bill of sale >>
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