12/31/2011

c.1930 Gibson-made Clark Tenor Banjo





Update: After checking with Spann's Guide to Gibson (a good read), the author lists the Oriole style TB model (which this is closely related to) as only from 1927. The construction methods used on this banjo tend to agree with a '20s Gibson banjo build more than a '30s one, so a '27 date would probably make sense for this fella as well. Just my $0.02 worth.

This tenor banjo was made by Gibson for (I think) Clark's Music Center and is very similar to '30s-era "Kalamazoo Oriole" (Gibson in-house brand) tenor banjos from the time but has a "mahoghany" finish rather than natural (which most Orioles had).

The scale on this is 20 3/4" which puts it in that "17 fret" tenor category, perfect for melody players and folks who want to retune to GDAE for Celtic or old-time fiddle tune playing. I prefer the "standard" CGDA or step-up DAEB lately, though, myself as it's more fiery like a mandolin and works just as well for Celtic or old-timey stuff.

This was in pretty good shape when I received it but needed the usual work -- new head (I installed a newer 10 1/2" Remo Renaissance from my parts bin), cleaning, setup, and whatnot. It's all original save one replacement (matched) nut and a replacement (vintage) maple bridge.


Ebony nut, looks like a plain-Jane ebony fretboard that's been stained further to give it a uniform black. Note the fretboard is bound and the dots are MOP. Frets are standard thin, low Gibson style frets from the period.


Action is EFFORTLESS on this instrument, which is often the case on pre-war Gibson instruments.


Cool old maple bridge has what looks like an early plastic-y saddle installed in it.


Fun mandolin-style cloud tailpiece. I love the look of these on banjos.


Renaissance heads are the best of both worlds -- very stable like a synthetic but with a crisp, warmer sound typical of really good skin heads.



Nice original, heavy-duty hardware.


Nice, simple friction pegs hold well.







The single-coordinator-rod construction elimnates the need for dowels and let Gibson make the heel of their banjo instruments thinner and smaller and thus less cumbersome vs. doweled instruments. It also eliminates the need for "dowel resets."


...so practical!



Tailpiece area.

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