Prewar Gibson Banjos
We will start with the pre war Gibson banjo. This means that these banjos were made prior to 1947. The models during this time frame were the RB-1, (Straight Maple) RB-2, (Walnut) RB-3, (Mahogany), RB-75 (Mahogany) RB-4 (Burl Walnut) and the Granada (Curly Maple). These were also available in Tenor & Plectrum as well. which would be TB for Tenor and PB for Plectrum. They were produced with two different tone ring styles, the arch top (raised head) and the highly sought after flat head.
Metal was in short supply during World War II, so production was suspended during this time, although a small number of banjos were produced using the parts already made. Also in April 1947 Gibson changed their logo from script to block lettering for identification purposes. This was also the beginning of the Bowtie banjos, which lasted until 1969, but with a peg head change in 1968. The Bowtie banjos were available in arch top or flat head, and some of the flat head tone rings had 20 holes and some had 19 holes. Also the resonators were sunburst with concentric rings.
After this period Gibson reverted back to the two-piece flange banjo that they had used prior to 1930. These banjos are not favored as much as the one piece flange models. This lasted until the mid 1980’s.
The late 1980s Gibson Banjos
In 1988 Gibson started the one-piece flange models again. Between 1988 and 1994 the banjos are referred to as the Greg Rich era banjos. This design remained in place until Gibson stopped banjo production right after the flood of the Cumberland River in 2010.
The models during this time frame include the RB-250, RB-3, RB-75 (JD Crowe), The Earl Scruggs Standard, RB-4, Granada, and the RB-7, RB-12, & RB-18, which are top tension models. They also had some specialty models like the RB-5 and RB-6, Earl Scruggs deluxe and the Blackjack Model.
The inlay patterns on these banjos were the RB-250 with leaves and bows, the RB-3 was available with the wreath pattern, leaves and bows and the flying eagle Reno pattern. The RB-75 (Crowe) had the flying eagle pattern, the RB-4 had the flying eagle pattern, the Earl Scruggs Model had hearts and flowers (also had an ebony fret board). The Granada was available with flying eagle or hearts and flowers. All had rosewood fret boards except the Scruggs model.
The Gibson banjo has had a strong legacy with bluegrass musicians. It seems that when you attend a bluegrass festival or convention, mostly what you seen are Gibson banjos or Gibson look a like banjos.
There are many Gibson look a like banjos. Many built by very good builders, and some have the Gibson logo and some have the builder’s name. Also, you can find some that are not so good.
Many other companies with slight changes have copied Gibson here and there. There is probably more Gibson style banjos made by other builders than any other banjo style.
Does Banjo.com Carry Any Gibson Banjos?
The short answer is no, but occasionally you’ll find one in our store on consignment. We don’t put consignment banjos on our website, so if you are trying to track down a Gibson and curious if we have one, please send us a note.
What do we have that’s most similar to a Prewar Gibson?
We have a few banjos that we’ll say are “inspired by Prewar Gibsons” and are definitely worth a close look if you love the look and sound of Prewar Gibson banjos.
The Rustic Wreath is a stunning and affordable walnut-stained maple banjo that honors the heritage of the instrument while taking on a sleek, minimalist feel. Click here to see a custom Rustic Wreath Openback.
The Golden Wreath is a traditional design of the classic banjos made in the 1930's. A mahogany prewar style bluegrass banjo with that J.D. Crowe sound, the Golden Wreath is a banjo made of higher quality materials and workmanship.
A maple, prewar style bluegrass banjo made like the classic banjos of the 1930's with the same materials and the same weight, design and features, the Golden Era is one of our most popular banjos for traditional bluegrass bands.
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The owner of Banjo.com is professional musician Barry Waldrep. Barry has toured professionally for the past 30 years. Raised on traditional Bluegrass, and a forerunner on the Jam Band circuit. He has toured and recorded with many artists such as The Zac Brown Band, Randy Travis, Joey & Rory and also has performed with bluegrass greats like John Cowan, Tony Trischka, Scott Vestal & Tony Rice. Read more.