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**2. To start an automatic slide show of all the other photos, go to the the bottom left-hand corner of the photo and click once on the middle icon.

GIBSON RB-4 5-String Banjo (1925). (Now with updated photographs since I replaced the head). From my own private collection, this is a beautiful, incredibly rare and very early example of a pre-war Gibson ‘Mastertone’ RB-4 5-string banjo in gorgeous original condition. Very few pre-war Gibson RB-4’s were made but they remain a huge favourite amongst banjo players, and this one comes from their first year of manufacture in 1925. This banjo is in genuinely stunning original condition including its original Gibson 5-string neck with the ‘hearts and flowers’ inlay. Made of British Honduras mahogany with Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. Eleven inch rim. Straight neck with virtually no wear to frets or to fingerboard. Serial number 8134-2. Original tailpiece (shown in Gibson’s original catalogue photographs and used until mid-1926), original ‘hot dog’ armrest and original Grover tuning pegs (four geared ones on the peghead plus the matching fifth string peg on the neck). Original hooks and nuts, and it comes with a selection of old picks (some tortoiseshell), old bridges and strings, plus the original ‘Gibson’ tension key and mute. Banjo players who have seen it and played it have all been amazed by its condition, its playability and the superb quality of the sound that it produces. It comes with a more recent hard shaped ‘Gibson’ banjo case.

I bought this banjo from a man whose uncle had owned it ever since purchasing it from a music shop in Croydon (near London) on the 7th of January 1948. The uncle played the 5-string banjo (often referred to in England as a ‘G’ banjo and elsewhere as a ‘Regular’ banjo) and he told his family that he had always wanted to own and play a ‘Gibson’ banjo, so when he saw this Gibson banjo in the window of the music shop in Croydon he decided to buy it whatever the cost. This he did, by paying a £5 deposit and paying off the remaining £19 pounds 19 shillings (£19.95p) by instalments. I have the original receipt from the music shop for this sale and all the details are clearly written on it in ink, including the words ‘Gibson Mastertone G Banjo’. The receipt is dated and it has the signature of the shop owner on it.

During the purchase, the uncle asked the shop owner where the banjo  had come from? He was told that in either late 1943 or early 1944 an American Serviceman had walked into his shop and asked if he would do him a great favour. Knowing that he would not be able to take his banjo with him when he was sent off to do battle in Europe, he asked the shop owner if he would be prepared to keep his banjo safely for him until at least two years after the war ended, and if he survived the conflict he would definitely return to collect his banjo and give the shop owner something for all his help. If he didn’t return by the end of this period he told the shop owner to sell his banjo and keep the money. The shop owner was happy to agreed to do this and the American Serviceman left this banjo with him.

The war ended in 1945, and the owner of the music shop kept his word over this banjo, but by the new year in 1948 the American Serviceman had still not returned to collect it. So, in January 1948, the shop owner reluctantly decided to put this Gibson banjo up for sale, and it was sold to the uncle on the 7th of January.

The uncle loved his Gibson banjo and kept it for the remainder of his life, playing it for at least a few minutes almost every day. In July 1949 he purchased some picks from Emile Grimshaw’s shop in London and the original advert and original receipt for that sale still survive with this instrument - as do the picks themselves. Upon the death of the uncle in 1983, ownership of the banjo passed to the uncle’s nephew - who couldn’t play a note, and the old Gibson got forgotten about until the nephew and his family were preparing to move house, when they found it again as they were clearing out the loft. This banjo was subsequently sold to me.

Although in many respects this is a sad story, I’m sure that the American Serviceman who owned this banjo before world war two would be very happy to know that his old Gibson banjo had survived right the way through to the present day in such wonderful original condition.

Please Note: Given the rarity of this banjo it is easy to understand why some people will find it very hard to believe that this banjo is what it is, but I can assure everyone that this instrument is definitely a genuine ORIGINAL pre-war GIBSON RB-4 5-string Banjo and NOT a converted tenor or a converted plectrum. I have read a lot of debate about this instrument, including some complete nonsense and downright rubbish, but none of the people who have written any of this claptrap have ever been here to see it or to play it. So, if any of you are ever in my area please contact me and I will be delighted to meet you and show it to you so that you can see it - and play it - for yourself. Everyone who has seen it and played it have been absolutely amazed by its stunning original condition and they have all been blown away by its sound and playability. Please email or phone me for further details.

JOHN GREY ‘COLOGRAVURE’ Plectrum Banjo (c.1928). John Grey’s higher order models were great sounding banjos and this is no exception. Straight neck & no wear to frets or to fingerboard. Beautifully inlaid ebony peghead & fingerboard. Gold-plated ‘Planet’ style 4-to-1 geared pegs. Spliced neck. Gorgeous carved heel. Scalloped bezel. Patterned cutouts in the flange with embossed pattern on the side of the pot and on the back of resonator. This is a fabulous looking and really great sounding plectrum banjo. Comes complete with a hard shaped case. £750.


JOHN GREY ‘AUTOCRAT’ Tenor Banjo (c.1929). Another fantastic example of a top John Grey banjo. Straight neck & no wear to frets or to fingerboard. This model was unusual in that the pot, scalloped bezel and top-tension bolts were imported from ‘Leedy’ in America, and John Grey added the neck, the resonator and all the trimmings. The result was a fantastic tenor banjo. Original 4-to-1 geared pegs. Spliced neck. ‘The Autocrat’ hot dog style armrest. Original ‘John Grey & Son tailpiece. Engine turned pattern on side of bezel and side of pot. Multiple patterned engraving upon side of pot and back of resonator. Inlaid ebony peghead (both sides) and fingerboard. ‘John Grey’ metal badge at top of peghead. Patterned cutouts in flange and mahogany back on resonator. Truly brilliant tone. Comes complete with its original hard shaped case. £825.

PARAMOUNT Style ‘E’ Tenor Banjo (1924). A fabulous example of William Lange’s ‘Paramount’ Style ‘E’. Gold-plated and engraved, with geared tuning pegs, a carved heel, and extensive inlays throughout. An early example, with matching serial numbers (2211) that date it to 1924. Fabulous condition inside and out and I’m going to let the photos do the talking. There is a genuinely very small bow in the neck, but it in no way prevents this banjo from played easily all the way up the fingerboard. It comes complete with its original hard shaped case with internal zip cover (in need of a new zip) and large internal pocket. Fabulous looking and wonderful sounding. £2,000.



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Over 45 years of Experience and Expertise with Ukuleles and Banjo Ukes

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John Croft, Glan Tanat, Llanyblodwel, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY10 8NQ, England.

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