Sunday, February 17, 2019
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Gibson Style CB Cello Banjo (1921)
Gibson Style CB Model Cello Banjo (1921), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, red sunburst lacquer finish, laminated maple rim, maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.
Here's one of the rarest pieces we've seen in a while -- a 1921 Gibson Style CB Cello banjo. Physically the same as the Style GB guitar banjo except for only carrying four strings, the Cello Banjo was intended for banjo orchestras, playing the cello parts. While Gibson had enjoyed some long-term success with the mando-cello, used in mandolin orchestras, the banjo orchestra concept proved a harder sell and the Cello Banjo was built only in very small quantities. While the 4-string tenor and plectrum banjos became the most popular instruments of the 1920s, the Cello Banjo quickly faded into obscurity and very few were ever produced.
This Style CB dates to 1921, and has a mix of features seen only around that year. The large 14" rim is the early style without a tone ring, but equipped with the newer "trap-door" flat plate resonator added around this time. The instrument also has the unusual combination of a wooden dowel stick and a single coordinator rod, a transitional setup used before the now-familiar double rod system was perfected.
The CB has all the same features as the more common contemporary Style GB 6-string, including a laminated maple neck with a bound extended ebony fingerboard; grained ivoroid binding everywhere; a cherry red finish shaded to natural on the neck; and fancy bound, inlaid "moccasin head" headstock. The nut is pearl (a lovely touch on top-end Gibson's of the time) and the tuners are the classic openback Waverly strips typical of the era.
Until recently the Cello Banjo had lain mostly forgotten since the 1920s. There has been a revival of interest over the last decade, mostly thanks to the efforts of Marcy Marxer (hi Marcy!) who has played the instrument extensively and done much to promote it to contemporary players. The Cello Banjo has the same range as the mandocello, but of course with a banjo tone character. The sound on this one is dark and plunky, with more projection than one might expect and an almost flutey tone in the upper register. A totally unique and distinctive-sounding instrument, with a voice still waiting to be fully explored.
Overall length is 36 3/8 in. (92.4 cm.), 14 in. (35.6 cm.) diameter head, and 3 in. (7.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).
This Style CB is ALL original including the factory Rogers XXX skin head and the carved wooden bridge, which has been lowered slightly from the bottom. There is some light wear, but really for an instrument of this age and rarity it is in exceptional shape. The neck angle is excellent and it is a very fine-playing instrument, and includes the original HSC. Excellent - Condition.
Item # 6119
This item has been sold.
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