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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Your first time playing a pre-war flathead


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johnbodle - Posted - 02/28/2013:  10:43:22



While in the navy, stationed at Norfolk Virginia, I used to go to a schoolhouse in Syringa VA. and play @ once every month or so. Usually the East river boys with the amazing Eugene Crabtree on his Stanleytone (#18 I believe) would be up there since He lived in Glouster VA.



 Eugene introduced me to a Fellow named Pat while I was there one time.



It was after I got off stage ( with my Earl Scruggs #1244) that Pat handed me a Granada that had a clamshell tailpiece and asked me to play it.



 I remarked that I didn't know that Gibson was reissuing the Granada with a clamshell tailpiece and that that was kinda neat.



Pat said "no its original, not a reissue" I said "oh an original tailpiece"? (I'm so slow on the uptake) Pat said "no, Its an original Granada Plectrum with a conversion neck". I handed it back very quickly!!! It was a bit of a "Holy Grail moment" along with "Holy Crap"!!!!



 Later that night, we all went over to Eugene Grandpas place to do an all nighter pickin session and Pat came over and handed me the Granada again and said "enjoy this, its meant to be played"!



so I did.... I never played something that clear and with such complex tones... I learned immediately what tone I had been looking for.. It was all there. I just had to do my part. I remember playing Sally Ann and a number of Scruggs tunes and sending chills down my own spine. My friend Mike Beaver looked on with approval, cause He knew tone and would tell you if you were getting it.



Pat also had a flathead style 6 that night as well that I never did get around to playing cause I couldn't seem to lay that Granada down.......



Mike Beaver (now of Virginia's "Code Blue" bluegrass) was doing his usual impeccable job of making that style 6 talk that night.



 I'll never forget that. There is something about those banjos that we can't describe. We spend a lifetime trying to. They just have "It"



I believe I sold that Earl Scruggs model within 2 weeks and had a hell of a time finding something close....



I sure miss Eugene and am so glad that I was a part of that scene for a brief period.....


CraigK - Posted - 02/28/2013:  11:05:54



If anyone is coming to Wintergrass in Seattle this weekend, you are welcome to come and play my banjo. My wife Julie and I have a booth there for our camp in Canada called NimbleFingers and I will have it out for anyone to play. It's a 1942 Gibson top tension original flathead 5 string that used to belong to Sammy Shelor. I will also have a 1923 Gibson F5  and a cool maple Gibson 1943 banner J45 there as well. Last year I put them out on stands and jammed with whoever came along and wanted to play them. I had a wonderful time and no problems. I met some nice people and had a lot of fun. We are on the second floor outside the Grand Ballroom.


pick it - Posted - 02/28/2013:  12:26:16



quote:


Originally posted by CraigK




If anyone is coming to Wintergrass in Seattle this weekend, you are welcome to come and play my banjo. My wife Julie and I have a booth there for our camp in Canada called NimbleFingers and I will have it out for anyone to play. It's a 1942 Gibson top tension original flathead 5 string that used to belong to Sammy Shelor. I will also have a 1923 Gibson F5  and a cool maple Gibson 1943 banner J45 there as well. Last year I put them out on stands and jammed with whoever came along and wanted to play them. I had a wonderful time and no problems. I met some nice people and had a lot of fun. We are on the second floor outside the Grand Ballroom.






 that banjo has a sound all its own,Sammy hasn't sounded the same sense he quit picking it. IMO one of the most recognizable banjos out there. so you'er the one that got it,I have wondered



Edited by - pick it on 02/28/2013 12:28:22

CraigK - Posted - 02/28/2013:  12:34:13



I bought it from Sammy in 2001 and have loved every minute I have had with it. It is a wonderful banjo.


The Pope - Posted - 02/28/2013:  12:34:22



Anybody know why he sold the T-T?


sunburst - Posted - 02/28/2013:  16:57:34



quote:


Originally posted by The Pope




Anybody know why he sold the T-T?






To heavy.



When he got the 75 he kept the TT for a while but he found he wasn't playing it. He said he got used to the lighter weight of the 75. Also, he likes the sound of the mahogany banjo better.


5stringJim - Posted - 02/28/2013:  17:43:44



Well, time to roll out the photo again !! Bill Keith & Jim Rooney stayed at my parent's house for 3 days in the 70's. I'd only been playing a year or so, and had a Windsor zither banjo. But I got to pick the TB7 conversion with the H&F neck....guess you can tell by the look on my face how good I thought it sounded....




1974 with Bill Keith and his top-tension

   

sunburst - Posted - 02/28/2013:  21:40:50


I got to baby sit that Keith TT for a weekend once... after he sold it and before I got mine.

Jim Britton - Posted - 03/01/2013:  07:44:41


My first memory of playing a "prewar" was around 1990 at John Battle High School, Bristol VA. Some of my very first exposure to live bluegrass was at this venue. Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse did a show there every year for quite a while. Dana Cupp was playing with Monroe this time having replaced Blake Williams. Classrooms served as tuning/warming up areas and I "eased" in for a closer look. Dana asked me if I played and handed me his banjo. I can't remember what it was exactly (Pretty sure a 3) BUT I'll never forget the sound! Also a few years before in the same room Allen Shelton handed me his Granada Reissue (no. 3 i think). I couldn't even play a roll yet. Allen and Don McHan spent a lot of time talkin about Earl, rolls, separation, etc. NOT a "Prewar moment" but a great memory none the less.

Jim Britton

MBCrawford - Posted - 03/01/2013:  08:28:55



I played an RB4 at a music shop in Bristol TN. I don't recall the exact year the banjo was made, but it was a 30's model. I was just looking and I asked the guy behind the counter if I could play it, at first it didn't seem all the great, the strings were in need of replacing and the head seemed a little loose, but after I played it for about 10 minutes it was like the it warmed up and was ready to cut loose, I wished that I had the money to buy that banjo, but at the time I didn't, and when I stopped back by there about a month later it was gone and the guy at the store didn't know who had bought it. One thing that I do remember was the neck on it, even with the fret wore it still played very easy and with very little effort.


BanjoLink - Posted - 03/01/2013:  10:05:24


quote:
Originally posted by 5stringJim


Well, time to roll out the photo again !! Bill Keith & Jim Rooney stayed at my parent's house for 3 days in the 70's. I'd only been playing a year or so, and had a Windsor zither banjo. But I got to pick the TB7 conversion with the H&F neck....guess you can tell by the look on my face how good I thought it sounded....






Jim:

I know where that banjo is now!

The Pope - Posted - 03/01/2013:  10:33:10



Was Sammy's TT a 7 or a 12?


sunburst - Posted - 03/01/2013:  12:27:08


It's a "floor sweep". Maple 7 neck, walnut 12 resonator, newer brass flange to replace the broken (4 pieces, still with the banjo last I knew) original.

banjo_nz - Posted - 03/01/2013:  15:59:50



quote:


Originally posted by BanjoDaddio




My first time on an original was when a guy came over to my house in 1975 or so, saying he had an old Gibson banjo for sale. He opened the case and took out his 30's Gibson flathead checkerboard#6 with a very nice reproduction neck. I played it, I wanted it, I bought it, I loved it, then I sold it to Ben Eldridge. He played it, he loved it, he bought it, then he sold it. I kick myself daily but it was either the mortgage or that banjo. They do sound good, no doubt about it...






 



I remember well that checkerboard banjo. Ben loaned it to me for a while and I loved the sound of it. Unfortunately I did not have the $$'s to buy it from him but he was OK about that and I had it home for several months. I spent hours playing with the setup on it and got it to feel and sound pretty good.



When my conscience got the better of me, I returned it to Ben. He had a pick on on it, liked what I'd done to it and took it off to the Birchmere that night. I recall John Duffey, in his inimitable fashion,  giving him a hard time on stage about the look of the checkerboard binding. That was around the time Ben was retiring 'Harvey' and he was trying different banjos. I guess he sold it shortly after that.



 



Bryan


mikehalloran - Posted - 03/01/2013:  18:17:16



In 1990, I played an RB-7 at Pioneer Music in Portland. No question about its originality. 



Absolutely jaw-dropping. most incredible banjo experience ever.



George Gruhn told me that there was no way it would ever be worth the $10K they wanted. Having a new baby, I couldn't have afforded it anyway.



Still, I got to play it.


The Pope - Posted - 03/02/2013:  10:03:17



Thanks, Sunburst...  big


1935tb-11 - Posted - 03/02/2013:  20:15:25



my first was in 1990 or 91,,, was just window shopping at a local music store and the owner was watching pick and ask if i would like to see an old gibson he had.. of course i said yes sir,,, he goes back in the back and comes out with a custom leather tooled case and opens it up,,,,, and i distinctly remember the smell of the banjo,,, they have a smell about them when they have been put up a while,,



  he handed it to me,,,, it was a gibson granada ,, the strings were backed off a bit so i tuned it up and started pickin on it and it rattled my backbone,, and the power and tone that came out was unreal,,, i found out later it was 9584-1,, the famous lot of granadas the sonny and earls came out of...  i will never forget that one.



 



 



terry m


Bill Rogers - Posted - 03/03/2013:  01:11:08



I played an old TT shell with an off-beat conversion neck at Gryphon in the mid-70s.  Still the best-sounding bluegrass banjo I've played, preferred it to a couple of other Pre-War flatheads I played later.  Wish I'd bought it; although $3000 seemed a lot at the time, I could have afforded it.  Had I been a better player, I would have.


Ebanjo - Posted - 03/03/2013:  05:07:13


I've played the one you're talking about too Terry. That's a fine old banjo.
Eric Ellis

mikehalloran - Posted - 03/04/2013:  09:23:31


quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers


I played an old TT shell with an off-beat conversion neck at Gryphon in the mid-70s.  Still the best-sounding bluegrass banjo I've played, preferred it to a couple of other Pre-War flatheads I played later.  Wish I'd bought it; although $3000 seemed a lot at the time, I could have afforded it.  Had I been a better player, I would have.




I remember that banjo. It was nice but, for some reason, it didn't impress me like the RB 7 that I played in Oregon years later. Perhaps I wasn't aware yet.

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 03/09/2013:  03:10:03



I was at a Banjo Collectors Gathering in Williamsburg, VA, probably in the early 2000s.   Quite a few banjos from the mid and late 1800s were on display, but one table held a fine looking Gibson.  I was staring at it, drool quite probably forming at the corners of my mouth, when then owner, Bill Evans, strode up to the table, picked up the 1933 Flathead Granada, and handed it to me.  I stroked it a bit, played it a bit, and luxuriated in the sound.  And then a friend of Bills came along.  Bill and his Buddy stepped off a few inches and were taking about the banjo, and how Bill had acquired it.  I heard Bill mumble something about “mortgage payments,” “more than I paid for my first home,” etc, and I gently extricated myself from the strap and handed it back to Bill, thanking him profusely, but eagerly backing away from The Holy Grail with horrified visions of what might happen to the space/time continuum if gravity intervened while I held onto that fine banjo. 



 


jfb - Posted - 03/09/2013:  05:18:11



I really can't remember the first time I held and played ( if you call what I do playing ) an old flathead..but I remember the last time..it was last night..big



It may have been at my long time friend Harold..I do remember him telling me that it would be very hard to find one.  I found four, so I guess I did ok..



My first banjo was the Henry Williams style four raised head..I will never forget how happy and excited I was on the way home with it!  Ironic isn't it, I used to try to find the old guys with originals, now I have become the old guy, as we all do If we live long enough..so I try to be thankful for every day..


snuffdipper - Posted - 03/09/2013:  07:53:43



The first flathead Gibson I played I found hanging on the wall at Hoover music in Springfield Mo. in the early 80's if I remember right. It was a gold sparkle 6 with a flathead tone ring priced at 500.00. I didn't have 5 cents but I called the bank and took it home. It took a trip to Nashville to have Randy Wood at The Pickin' Parlor To build the neck before I had a chance to play it. I know now it had a high profile light weight ring in it and have played many banjos since that sounded better than it did. But it didn't matter it was a for real flat head Gibson and I really enjoyed the banjo while I had it. There's something about those old Gibsons that just set me a fire. I love the sound yes but it's the history, the look, the fact that my heros played them, the whole package that makes a Gibson a Gibson. I still love them just as much today as I did when I got my first one 40 some odd years ago........Snuffdipper


wbelm - Posted - 03/09/2013:  08:42:05


Well said Steve the snuffdipper

myfavefive - Posted - 03/09/2013:  09:33:49


quote:
Originally posted by CraigK


If anyone is coming to Wintergrass in Seattle this weekend, you are welcome to come and play my banjo. My wife Julie and I have a booth there for our camp in Canada called NimbleFingers and I will have it out for anyone to play. It's a 1942 Gibson top tension original flathead 5 string that used to belong to Sammy Shelor. I will also have a 1923 Gibson F5  and a cool maple Gibson 1943 banner J45 there as well. Last year I put them out on stands and jammed with whoever came along and wanted to play them. I had a wonderful time and no problems. I met some nice people and had a lot of fun. We are on the second floor outside the Grand Ballroom.






I got to play Craig's banjo with him for quite a while at Wintergrass last weekend and that thing is beyond amazing. I've played a couple of other original flatheads but Sammy's old top tension is so sweet at every position on the neck. Thanks again Craig; that will leave a long lasting memory.

rockybottom16 - Posted - 03/09/2013:  10:13:23


The amazing thing about all this is the fact that a lot of the old flatheads were owned by some pretty heavy hitters when you folks got to play them. That's the wonderful thing about this genre of music. The "stars" are so approachable and almost always are happy to talk and even hand you their banjo if you pick. When I was playing back-up guitar for The Ronnie Prophet Show back in the eighties, we had a week off in Nashville. Having done some business with Curtis Mc Peake over the years, I thought I'd visit him since I was in the area. What a wonderful man and what a wonderful collection of old flatheads! I wasn't there 5 minutes before he handed me his old flathead Granada. The he said "try this one" as he handed me ANOTHER flathead Granada that he bought from Earl. Next was his flathead 75. Needless to say, my head was spinning by the time we parted company a couple hours later. It's a cherished memory indeed.

BlueRanchRider - Posted - 03/12/2013:  05:00:15


I'm ready to answer this thread before it closes and need some help! Anyone close by willing to let me give one a picking on? In the words of Earnest T Bass "I'll take really good care of ya!"

mdenny4 - Posted - 03/12/2013:  06:18:39



I remember being at Bass Mountain when I was 11 or 12 and a friend of mine who played guitar was there. He had a banjo that he "wanted me to play" that I had no idea he even owned. So, he gets it out of the case. Original flathead Granada (I think its the one steve dilling's playing now). He's such a nice guy that he holds an umbrella above me so I could play his banjo in the rain. First time playing or even seeing one of these banjos. The second time playing one would be 9584-1. Another great banjo for sure. 


wuzapicker - Posted - 03/12/2013:  08:08:27


Well, the ONLY genuine prewar Flathead I've ever played was Joe Deetz's "Ola Belle Reed" RB3 at Berkeley, CA about 1982. Thanks Joe! That is indeed a fine old Mastertone. But I thought I sounded just like myself on it, not like Joe, not like Earl.

Michael

Craigkorth - Posted - 03/12/2013:  14:36:30



In 1988 I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Academy, just before the bluegrass festival.  Bela Fleck as teaching a 5 day class and I was one of the lucky 7 that signed up for it. I had never played a prewar flathead until Bela let me play his. It was so much better than anything I had played before, so deep and clear.



It sparkled but wasn't shrill, and had a rich bass without being muddy. It really had an effect on me. I understood why people made such a fuss about old flathead Gibson banjos.


sunburst - Posted - 03/12/2013:  16:25:08


Craig, I remember you playing mine somewhere (ASIA symposium?), and I had your card with a note to call if I knew anyone selling a flathead. That was obviously before you got the one that was Sammy's.

banjoez - Posted - 03/13/2013:  05:59:49



I remember when I got TB-5 Flathead 9029-28 and opened up the case for the first time and got to smell that wonderful prewar aroma and look at the old worn gold patina and beautiful workmanship. Then I put a temporary 5 string neck on it while the repro. neck was being built and remember how clear and crisp the tone was compared to what I had been playing. It made me really appreciate the tube and plate high profile full weight flatheads for their clarity and clean tone.



Edited by - banjoez on 03/13/2013 06:02:08

Billy Gillie - Posted - 03/13/2013:  14:35:47


New to this. For those who have 'heard all this before ' - my apology.

The 'Mastertone' I ever played was one that I purchased back in 1972-'73. Boy, was I disappointed! As for its sound and tone, am sure it was acceptable but after learning about it being an old Gibson 5-string, bubbling with anticipation of seeing it (1968), did see it - yes - I was indeed disappointed! Why? It was indeed an old an old Gibson 'Mastertone', 5-string as was told by the owner, but the fingerboard's pattern was some odd-job that I had never seen and certainly NOT like those on either Earl's, Don's, Ralph's and others', but still, I guess, worth exploring as to the possibility of maybe someday owning. Now I/we know it as the 'Leaves and Bows' and rather quite acceptable. It was indeed all 'original' save for the strings; maybe not the hide-head, but the bridge and the small frets, were there. Aside from the dirty head, and a few wear spots (not from buckle), it looked to me as 'brand new'! Yes, after all these years am most pleased to have been offered 'first refusal', was encouraged by my teacher, ('You'd better get that banjo!' - thank you Joe Enright - after hauling it over to his house to show) and in the early '70s was called and asked if whether or not I still was interested. I was and did 'get it'. to 'get' - so I did. What did I get? A 1936 (shipped on 30 March 1937) RB-3 Model, 'Leaves and Bows' -pattern. 'flat-head' - original and factory-issued. With at case from Gibson, but it fell away after some years with previous owner during his 35 years of owning the banjo.

Starting in about 1956-7, my first 5-string, a Monkey Wards gold-painted special (similar to Roscoe Holcomb's, I think - I but kept on the resonator). Then about 1958, a Gibson RB-100 from latter '50s, then in about 1961-'62 an OME with the aluminum pot and all. In college, was given a lovely Fairbanks 'parlor banjo' - then onto this Gibson 'RB-3'. Oh, some put-together open-back tenor that now has on it a 5-string neck and a hide-head.the finally the RB-3. Yes, I know, 'Who cares?' Ha!

Well, there I was with this old Gibson, was happy to have but really did not know much what to do with it. So, after a while of messing with it, not in a picking group of any sort, got more into playing the highland bagpipe, so just sort of 'retired' the banjo to its case and until recently, there it sat and hardly played. I do not know how many hours the original owner put on it (strummed it as a plectrum) but between the time he bought in the later '30s (maybe about 1938 or so) and when I finally was able to buy - hopefully a lot more that I put on it!

Now, as to the situation and my appreciation (or lack thereof) and what this banjo offered. 'My first getting to play a 'Mastertone': I suppose the first time was in the front room of the seller's home after my 'disappointment' that I took a bit of time to pick it. I am sure too that I did detect some differences in it from others I owned but it had on it the old (probably slacked) hide-head so was not a 'bright' as I was used to hearing. As I tell people, I was not blessed with the best 'ear' so did not react to it as would others when they, per these pages, they first got to pick one. Not much of a 'story', huh? Sorry.

It must have been at Winfield, KS, in 1973 (Nat'l Flat Picking Contest) that I had it with, and showed it to a few pickers there. Norman surprised me by playing it, Tut Taylor saw and seemed to get quite interested in it, but the one I recall the best, was Brian Lappin after he asked to see and try. He was under the seats and was comparing it to another. Harry Sparks was there as well , so they both messed with it. One of my favorite 'early' stories revolving about this banjo and it was the first indicator just what I had. Since then, Brian kept up with it and whether or not I 'still had' the banjo?'. Still though, I did not have hardly any grasp on the lore of these 'pre-war' Gibsons, but over the years (while it sat in its case and picked rarely) was told of their ever increasing value(s) - especially the 'originals' as is this one.

The 'eye-opener' came only a few years ago ('08) during a meeting with a couple of local lads (Berry St. Mane and Dan Foy), that I began to learn more. Then, in about 2008, Brian inquired yet again, we planned a meeting down in Rockford so he could see and play it again, and during that pleasant visit, I leaned a lot more as to how very special having a banjo such as this was. That led to 'Adlerthon' in 2011, onto Banjothon in '12 and '13. It was at BT - 2012 that it really 'hit me' as to its quality of sound and condition, its value, its acceptance within that lofty area of pre-wars. I was a happy man - and still am.

So, even though I could play it much better way earlier on, now have pretty much lost the ability to do any sort of justice to this one. That, of course, does not keep me from showing the banjo and then offering others to play - and watching and listening to them play it! NOt as satisfying personally, as if I were doing the picking, but I 'blew' my years away instead, now I can do little justice to the qualities this one offers. I still, however, find it very enjoyable to see others 'light up' as they take off on it to hear and feel its power. Happy too especially for those who had not, until then, had only maybe heard about these 'pre-war' banjos, and see their response. Heck, maybe it'll be about the only time in their life to do so, so happy to help.

I enjoyed reading all the above responses to the question and though mine is a bit odd for such, because of my lack of talent for it, is all I am able to offer. John B., I think yours was my favorite.
Ha - but you are still ahead of me on that. Well, you are in 'Banjoland' whereas I'm up here in the north so not as many old 'Mastertone's' for the seeking. I was, nonetheless, just flat lucky find this one! Oh, Mr. Porter (thanks again), I must check out the link you listed for John's find banjo and enjoy that.

Thanks to all the luminaries, on the BHO, enjoy your comments. To those who've already heard the above, have played this one or have heard it being played on YT, and have liked it, you are special to me and I do thank y'all for taking the time to offer your talent to play and enjoy it.


Ooops! Got to get out the bagpipe and get ready for the weekend!


Regards,

BG

BanjoLink - Posted - 03/13/2013:  15:33:46


Billie - that's a great post. I don't know how I missed it at this years Banjothon, but I did - and I wouldn't have been one of those who should have lit up your eyes with my playing! I think I get a bigger kick out watching an accomplished player play my banjos than I get playing them. Of course I love playing other folks banjos too.

country frank - Posted - 04/09/2013:  03:49:00


I can hardly believe that I am posting on this thread.... but I am.



Just this weekend I had the total good fortune to have my good friend Bill Evans stay over with us here in London. He had been up teaching on the Sore Fingers Camp and had a couple of days left in the UK prior to him returning home. To my surprise [and utter glee] he arrived with his stunning1930 Granada and I got a chance to play it......



This is my first and lasting impression;



As soon as I held that banjo I instantaneously felt that I knew it really, really well, almost uncannily well. Looking down at the banjo on my knee was like gazing upon your oldest friend, someone you have known and trusted intensely, a beloved and dear companion who knows from experience every facet of [my] creative mind.

To play the thing made me shake like a leaf, it was the most forgiving instrument I have ever touched, it ebbed and flowed with the full force of a natural tide, yet it moved tonally with the freedom and delicacy of a butterfly in flight. The sonic spectrum occupied by that instrument is otherworldly for sure. Its sound seems to come from the depths of time and memorial whilst at the same time being the absolute pinnacle of contemporary banjo sound and tonal desirability. I am a ham player for sure and this banjo just allowed me to ham it up, it forgave me, it steered me to better musical solutions, it drove me to play better and it did not once criticize me or show me up when I [very frequently] gaffed.

The best analogy for me to express what I feel is a visual one. I studied Fine Art [sculpture] and I work in education of the arts. This instrument was like holding the most perfect palette of colours you have ever witnessed. Imagine that you're about to paint a masterpiece and you look down at you palette, every colour on that palette is the exact right colour for your expressive state at that very moment. No matter how you chose to mix those colours up, you will always end up with the exact tone for your expressive self to flower and bloom fully.

Now i have never achieved that palette in reality and I doubted [until Sunday] that it could ever be realised, its always been a kind of 'ultimate' scenario because you know that if you can get those colours just right, then your painting might just turn out to be a masterpiece.



This banjo was all these things, the ultimate tool of the master craftsman, the oldest, dearest and most familiar friend you ever had, the greatest conversationalist you ever met and your keenest and most sensitive lover [Hope you don't mind me saying that Bill!].



What an experience, I am really very grateful to you Bill for allowing me the opportunity to play such a fine instrument. Thanks for reading and here is a picture of me playing it.







 



Edited by - country frank on 04/09/2013 03:58:38



Bills Granada in my kitchen


Bills 1930 Granada and me

Oldtwanger - Posted - 04/09/2013:  04:57:37


In September of 1967 I went to see Crowe at Martin’s Place in Lexington, frothing at the mouth for a 5-string banjo.  Crowe was playing a different Gibson that night (RB-3, 116-3) that he was trying and wanted to buy from Harry Sparks.  In the backroom was another he had turned down, but it was spoken for by someone else.  I was dejected.



Crowe said “I have another at home that I’ll have to sell before I can buy this one I’m playing tonight.  Stick around and when I’m finished here we’ll go home and you can check it out.”



So after riding out to his trailer in his Mustang (like taxiing a P-51 across a plowed field), I got to check out the Banger (9467-5 with a rosewood neck), 116-3, and the parts banjo that I subsequently bought from him.  Now I couldn’t pick hardly anything yet, but I sure heard and felt that tone.  Crowe got his RB-3 and I got his spare banjo and a friend for life.

 

The next one was Billy Edwards’ RB-4, 9474-2, but that’s another story……… 


jfb - Posted - 04/09/2013:  05:15:49


I enjoyed reading your post Bill G..Thanks



 



Good thread..nice reading what others think when they get to have the ultimate banjo experience..for those who own them, we are indeed a lucky bunch..smiley


youdye - Posted - 04/09/2013:  05:24:57


Here is one I got to play.  Not an original flathead, but nonetheless a great prewar!!!  1928 Granada.



 




VIDEO: Fireball Mail
(click to view)

   

steve6500 - Posted - 04/09/2013:  08:35:32


Frank,



I for one, would like to hear the story of Billy Edwards' RB-4.


goldsparkle - Posted - 04/09/2013:  08:51:22


The first flathead I played was the first one I bought from a fine man, Harry West. It was a Goldsparkle PT-6 and since have obtained many flatheads. Also have many archtops, a number of which are original 5-strings. I have nothing but the prewar sound buzzing through my head. I have played some modern Gibsons, and own a few, and I venture to say you can't talk about them in the same breath. In my humble  opinion.



Edited by - goldsparkle on 04/09/2013 08:55:18

johnbodle - Posted - 04/09/2013:  09:20:56


I enjoyed reading all the above responses to the question and though mine is a bit odd for such, because of my lack of talent for it, is all I am able to offer. John B., I think yours was my favorite. ( posted by Bill Gilchrist)



Bill, It was an honor to warm up the RB3 807-1 for Jason Burlenson (sp?) at the bluegrass winter weekend. It is truly an amazing flathead. I am very grateful that You share this banjo with people


Oldtwanger - Posted - 04/09/2013:  13:30:31


quote:


Originally posted by steve6500

 

Frank,




I for one, would like to hear the story of Billy Edwards' RB-4.







Well, not that much of a story, but let’s see what I can remember after 45 years.



It was in 1968 and I was living in Richmond and traveling Virginia and North Carolina for GE.  I was playing music with mandolin player Bernie Wright who introduced me to Billy.  Every time I was in Roanoke for a few days we’d connect and I’d spend time at his place first in Hollins, then Troutville.  He and Tater Tate lived close and worked painting houses between picking jobs.



We spent many an evening picking and talking banjos.  He had a nice walnut RB-4 no-hole flathead 9474-2.  He said that before he had it, it had gone back to Gibson and a new bowtie board put on the neck which looked as though it had been narrowed some between the nut and fourth fret – probably due to the narrow boards Gibson was using in the early and mid-fifties.

Billy had a new original style Flying Eagle board put on it, I believe by C E Ward.  It had the original first generation flange that was bending upward a good bit near the neck heel.

The banjo was powerful and sounded great in his hands.



About a year later I was in Roanoke at the Holiday Inn watching Billy and Red on the “Top of the Morning” show and Billy had a different banjo with Hearts and Flowers inlay that Red described as Billy’s “new” banjo.  I called him later in the day and we got together that evening.  He had bought Carl Hunt’s RB-3 (9473-3), also a no-hole flathead.  It was also a killer stick.  One interesting thing – someone had notched the inside top of the rim just under the tonering in every place where a hole would have been in a 20-hole tonering – probably Carl.  The neck was a  Clermon Ward replacement for the original that Carl broke driving his car over it.  CE fixed that broken neck and it lived, I believe, on Al Osteen’s banjo ‘til he died.



That RB-3 (9473-3) wound up in Ben Eldridge’s hands a number of years later and was stolen.  It has not been seen since.


Mike Greylak - Posted - 04/09/2013:  13:45:48


I played Ol' Betsy and Curtis Mcpeakes - Granada, what a great guy and what great banjos!!

banjobilly32 - Posted - 04/09/2013:  13:56:48


In about 1955-56 I used to visit a music store in Elmira NY.  The owner used to like to have me play tenor banjo with him.  He had and original All American flathead tenor, and a Paramount.  At this point I was just learning 5-string so didn't appreciate what an opportunity I was given.  The All American had all you could wish for as a tenor banjo!



In subsequent years  I think Dick Smith may have bought the All American and converted it?  Maybe someone out there has the scoop on it?  I never even entertained the thought of trying to buy the banjo at the time.  I didn't even know players were converting tenors to 5 string till some years later.


Joe Connor - Posted - 04/09/2013:  18:32:33


Keep these stories coming. They are fascinating.


dlottbanjo - Posted - 04/10/2013:  06:27:17


We opened for the Revue in 1974 (i think) at the University of Florida and i played Earls Granada back stage but i was so nervous and enamored at the man that the playing of the banjo was secondary,but i do remember the 4th string resonated like no other.In 1983 i played Sonny"s at a festival in Shelby Texas and i asked him if he would sell it to me and he said he would not take less than 25k (he might has well said 25 million).But it was a great sounding banjo and if i recall the strings seemed to be pretty heavy.But by the grace of God i was able to purchase my own Prewar flathead at Hubers suite at spgma this year and in my 45 years of playing and owning over 35 banjos at some point in time,i have finally reached utopia in banjo satisfaction.I can safely now begin to thin the herd.



Edited by - dlottbanjo on 04/10/2013 06:28:06

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 04/10/2013:  06:47:53


quote:

Originally posted by banjobilly32

 

In about 1955-56 I used to visit a music store in Elmira NY.  The owner used to like to have me play tenor banjo with him.  He had and original All American flathead tenor, and a Paramount.  At this point I was just learning 5-string so didn't appreciate what an opportunity I was given.  The All American had all you could wish for as a tenor banjo!



In subsequent years  I think Dick Smith may have bought the All American and converted it?  Maybe someone out there has the scoop on it?  I never even entertained the thought of trying to buy the banjo at the time.  I didn't even know players were converting tenors to 5 string till some years later.






 Dick Smith's banjo--if you're thinking of his main banjo these days--is a Florentine, IIRC. I think he got it in the mid-1960s. It's a hoss!


dlottbanjo - Posted - 04/12/2013:  07:23:53


By the way Ira we shared a taxi form the airport to Ibma several years ago to the Galt house (Iwas playing banjo for Jerry and Tammy Sullivan and we had Andy Griggs with us).


RockyLane - Posted - 04/17/2013:  22:38:43


Well I have to say , All the Hype is not just Hype ! After Picking a PW High Profile Flat Head One Piece Flange. There is no going back ! ! ! The Crisp , Bright , Dry Tone with All the Guts You want ! It is really something that has to be experienced like all the Collectors say ! No wonder all the Great Banjo builders are chasing that TONE ! It is hard to put down , It is Addictive ! ! ! And I am HOOKED !

The only thing that comes to mind to compare it to. Is like when You were a Virgin. And hearing How Great it is NOT to be one ! ! ! You just have no idea until You experience it ! ! ! ! ! ! !

country frank - Posted - 04/18/2013:  04:12:12


quote:

Originally posted by RockyLane

 



The only thing that comes to mind to compare it to. Is like when You were a Virgin. And hearing How Great it is NOT to be one ! ! ! You just have no idea until You experience it ! ! ! ! ! ! !







bigbigyou nailed it.


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