1927 Gibson TB 4 Conversion with 1970's Tom Morgan Neck
This Gibson TB-4 (now a RB-4 with the addition of a 1970s era Tom Morgan Neck) started out its life in 1927. It was made in Gibson's Kalamazoo, Michigan factory. It bears the serial # 8836-19. It has a natural mahogany finish, laminated maple /
mahogany rim and resonator. The Tom Morgan mahogany neck has the correct hearts and flowers inlay and has an ebony finger board. It is offered with an early, but not original, hard shell case. The Tailpiece and a mrest are modern replacements, but the banjo is offered with a 20s era four-string Kirshner tailpiece which would have been offered with this banjo in its tenor configuration. The outer coordinator rod is a typical of the period but may be a Gibson factory variation.
This banjo, as a TB Style 4 Tenor banjo, was bought in the 1960s by Ashevillle bluegrass veteran Tom Mckinney and was fitted with a 5-string conversion neck at that time. It passed to its current owner in the early 1970s.
The 1920's Mastertone TB-4 was one of Gibson's mid-line professional tenor banjos, a medium/fancy instrument and considered a Gibson classic. The model was next up the line above the TB-3 and has the full Mastertone flange, resonator, and tone ring hardware package. The resonator is multi-bound on both edges with two inlaid wood rings in the back. The 1927-era tone ring is a solid 40-hole arch-top piece, considered a huge improvement on the earlier ball bearing style. This is coupled with the 2-piece tube-and-plate flange in use at the time. While some players of vintage Mastertone instruments prefer the 1930s flat head one-piece flange, these instruments typically cost at least 2 to five times as much as a conversion with some examples of the original 5 string versions having brought more than $100,000. However this TB 4 conversion remains a higher quality example of meta lwork than the one piece cast unit that replaced it a couple of years later. There is no rarer iteration of the style 4 Mastertone than the version with tube and-plate flange and solid raised -head tone ring, only produced circa 1927-1928; such style 4 banjos with original five-string necks are so rare as to be practically nonexistent, with a total estimated production of no more than ten units.
The second model up in Gibson's Mastertone line, the style 4 of the late 1920s featured a mahogany resonator with two concentric circles of white/black/white purfling inlaid on the back, a mahogany neck, nickele plated hardware, a two-piece flange, and either a no-hole or forty-hole archtop tone ring. The peghead was fiddle-shaped and the inlays were in the hearts and flowers pattern.