Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack  Banjo Reviews

Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 5/24/2014

Submitter

The Old Timer (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

BHO Classifieds

Year Purchased

2014

Price Paid

$3000+ ($US) (bought USED)

Sound


It's my first mahogany banjo and it has EXCEEDED my expectations after very minor set up work. Loud. Quicker note decay than my 1990 Granada. POWERFUL up the neck on the 1st string. Great 4th string I play traditional bluegrass. There's nothing about its sound that I dislike. I think I like it more than my Granada.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


It was pretty good (used). I tightened the head just a bit to A. Put on a new Sullivan roasted 11/16" bridge, and an AMB tailpiece (the factory Presto had broken at the bend and was unusable, repaired with epoxy)

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


Mahogany is plain grain, not the "stripey" grain like you see on some new Asian Masterclones, thank goodness. Good old Gibson 1930s reddish-brown mahogany color. All inlays, bindings, marquetry, woodwork, etc typical very good Gibson. The copper flash under the gold (or maybe is it over the gold?) has aged very unevenly, with very dark areas (almost like tarnish) on some of the tension hoop, gold very faint on the tension hooks. Armrest looks really "old" with some wear on it, brass and copper showing through a little. Engraving is typical late Gibson "faint, cursory", not at all as good as the pre-war work. But you can see it. However, no complaints, I really like its looks.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


Hardware is excellent except there is "slop" in the ivoroid tuner buttons on the shafts. However, as is apparently typical, the original Presto tailpiece broke in half at the bend. Someone tried to repair it with epoxy which didn't work. I have put a gold over copper plated AMB tailpiece on it. Of course it's missing the Blackjack engraving n the cover. Finish is excellent. A thoroughly professional banjo.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


The seller was very friendly and communicative. We met in person to examine the banjo and do the deal. Of course Gibson is no longer any use at all on banjo issues, so I expect no support from them at all. After 45 years of picking I feel quite capable of taking care of this (or any) banjo.

Customer Service

not rated

Components


Late Gibson Presto tailpieces have a reputation of breaking I guess. Ivoroid tuner buttons don't fit the shafts tight and have slop. The Blackjack inlay is the first original thing in years in banjos and I like it a lot. The Crowe pot is really outstanding and feels, looks and sounds terrific.

Components Rating

10

Overall Comments


This banjo sounds, looks and plays better than I had any right to expect.   It may be slowly becoming my favorite over the Granada, which is saying a lot!   It "shrieks" up the neck on the 1st string like some prewars I've played.  Good "BONG!" on the open 4th string.  Intonation is excellent, neck very well made and the "V" is different but feels great.

If they're all as good as this one I'd have to recommend them whole-heartedly!

Overall Rating

10


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 6/15/2012

Submitter

Logtown (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Ebay

Year Purchased

2012

Price Paid

2925 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound


Has a very nice warm sound. Fast decay. Still got the classic Gibson ring to it. Came with stock Snuffy Smith Bridge. A very nice addition to the Scruggs Deluxe for great but different sound.

Sound Rating

9

Setup


Bridge was laid flat for shipping. Had to stand up the bridge and position. Head was tight (G#). Action is low....no buzzes.

Setup Rating

8

Appearance


Wood finish is great. Had slight ding on resonator side. The metal is wonderful, old looking antique. No tarnish, just a duller, more vintage look. I love the finish. If you want a shiny gold banjo then the 2004 Blackjack is not for you.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


Hard ware in excellent shape. Had some fret wear but nothing too serious. All other hardware holding up great.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


N/A - Bought used on Ebay. OHSC but no paperwork.

Customer Service

4

Components


Love the mahogony wood and finish. Also love the antique gold plating and metal work. This banjo is copper flashed under the gold plating. Looks like it was made in 1930 and stored until I opened the case yesterday!

Components Rating

10

Overall Comments


The 2004 Blackjack has that great, expected warm tone and decay to the notes. Kind of a dry sound but very nice. Again...it will be a great chance for a different sound than my Gibson Scruggs Deluxe.

Overall Rating

9


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 8/6/2010

Submitter

tbfnyc (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Musician's Friend

Year Purchased

2010

Price Paid

4,999 ($US)

Sound


I have owned two pre-war Gibson Granadas. I have not particularly liked the tone of either of those banjos. Shocking! I know. Sacriligeous even. All I can say is that perhaps the sound of maple banjos is not for me. Or perhaps I never set them up right.
All I know is this Blackjack has the sound I've been looking for all my life! Perhaps it is the mahogany, perhaps it is the Crowe tone ring.
The tone is extremely clear and even all the way up the neck. It really pops. The fourth string has a dark, powerful sound.
The 'V' shaped neck is the fastest and most comfortable I've ever played. I did not specify a "speed neck" but I can't imagine needing to go any faster and I can get around the neck and do licks with ease that were once difficult on previous banjos.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


The banjo, when I received it was set up very badly. I was really disappointed when I first played it and was afraid I'd wasted $5,000.
First of all, the head was too loose. No big deal - that was to be expected. But the strings buzzed horribly - the fifth string in particular sounded like a sitar. One of the nuts on the coordinator rods was completely loose and when I turned the banjo over to look at the back, one of the screws holding the resonator on simply fell to the floor!
Now most of this is classic Gibson sloppiness but Musician's Friend should have caught it and they didn't. They actually made it worse by taking OUT the neck relief that Gibson had set up. (They proudly told me this in an email).
After I got a lot of great advice here on Banjo Hangout to help me, I finally got it all straightened out and now the instrument sounds like it should, i.e. killer.

Setup Rating

2

Appearance


The banjo is completely stock and that is OK because it is beautiful!
I must have gotten lucky because the finish is perfect and there are no problems with the hardware. The tuning pegs have no slop and are accurate.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


The finish is just fine - no flaws.
I'm sure the banjo will be reliable and last me a lifetime.
But see the components section.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


I only bought this banjo from Musicians Friend because they had one in stock. I would've MUCH preferred to purchase it from Janet Davis because they know what they are doing when it comes to banjos and would have set the instrument up right. But they did not have a Blackjack and now, probably never will again.
Musicians Friend assured me that their technician was "trained at the Gibson Factory" and that I was "in safe hands".
They WERE friendly so I'll rate them a "2".

Customer Service

2

Components


Addendum 2012: The "Antique Gold" plating sucks. In a year and a half, the gold is disappearing from the flange and is almost gone from the J-hooks and the resonator screws. The flange and hooks are nickel underneath and it is showing through. I never touch the flange and seldom touch the hooks. It is just fading off. The gold from the armrest is gone but it is brass so that's OK. The Stretcher band and tone ring are OK except for a few green spots.

Components Rating

6

Overall Comments


The best bluegrass banjo I've ever owned.
It gets better every day as it settles in. So far the head tension that I like best is about 91 on a DrumDial, but that could change over time.

Addendum 2012: The banjo's tone has gotten better and better, it is still the best sounding banjo I've ever owned.

Overall Rating

10


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 1/15/2010

Submitter

ac5aa (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Gibson Nashville Showcase

Year Purchased

2008

Price Paid

Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound


I played a Blackjack a year ago at FQMS and fell in love with it. At that time I couldn't afford to buy one, and had just gotten my Greenbrier to settle down and sound really great. This past December, FQMS didn't have one in stock, so when I went thru Nashville I stopped in and played the one at the Gibson showcase. Wow. Tone galore with notes just popping out, and with that dry tone with a bit of a hollow sound that somehow gives my playing better articulation. Tune after tune that I played sounded precise and super, though the 4th string was not as strong as my Greenbrier's. I think that will gain as the banjo settles in more. (UPDATE - 8 months later - the 4th string really barks now - incredible tone & volume.) I loved the tone, and couldn't pass it up.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


Setup was not the best - the strings are a bit high for me - set up for someone who really tears it up. Since it comes with Scruggs medium gauge strings, I'll try moving it back to my favorite GHS PF-145 med-lights and see if that drops the action a bit. Even though it's a bit high, it still plays well and intonation does not suffer. I really like that as my Sullivan is a little more sensitive to that. (UPDATE: I have never replaced the strings yet - I love the tone that much. I did find that the neck had too much bow, and I removed most of that, bringing the action down to a very liveable height now.)

Setup Rating

8

Appearance


Wow, this banjo looks sharp! The burnished gold is the only gold I'd want on a banjo, and it is very tastefully done on this one. I managed to get a better than usual discount on this one based on the really sloppy job on the resonator rings which are not level with the back and have bubbles in the finish. Finish on the neck is fine, and while the tuners are the ones specified, the 5th string tuner has slop in it that makes it a bit more difficult to tune, but not much. They forgot the JD Crowe signature truss rod cover, but quickly mailed me one once I pointed that out. I'll just store it in the case in the event that I ever want to sell it - not very likely, I'm thinking.

Appearance Rating

8

Reliability


OVerall, the hardware looks solid (except the 5th string tuner), and should last fine for years. At least that's my hope. My RB-250 looks and acts as solid as when I got it, and I expect this one to be as good.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


Dealing with DJ a the retail store has been a pleasure. I had had bad experiences in that store in the past, but this time easily made up for the earlier ones. He was very cordial and helpful, and has responded quickly to after-sale requests. Since he works for Gibson, I will let that reflect on the company.

Customer Service

10

Components


As mentioned above, the 5th string tuner is the only part that doesn't look sturdy and robust. However on a banjo in this price range, there should be zero issues of this type. I'm not sure Gibson's quality control is quite up to snuff when it comes to comparing with Sullivan, Huber, Stelling and the other wonderful makers.

Components Rating

8

Overall Comments


This is the finest sounding banjo I've ever played, and so it is a real pleasure to call it my own. I love my Sullivan Greenbrier also, but it has a completely different tone - richer, warmer. The Blackjack really captures the punch and drive of the pre-war sound that makes my ears pick up and say, "Wow, do I love that sound!"

Overall Rating

9


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 10/8/2007

Submitter

jdmatthew (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Maverick's Fine Banjos

Year Purchased

2007

Price Paid

3400 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound


This banjo has a great dry hollow bluegrassy sound. I think it sounds pretty close to some good pre-wars I've heard. To me the best in the Gibson line. It's not extremely loud, but it is precise, has pop, and excellent note separation.

Sound Rating

9

Setup


Banjo was set up well. I changed the Snuffy bridge to a KatEyz, but mainly to get Crowe spacing. Head tension was a little high for the sound I was looking for, so I lowered it some. Action was just right. Maverick had set this one up himself, I don't know how it cam from the factory. He did well with it.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


Nothing fancy on this one--concentric rings on the resonator, muddy mahogany wood. It's more for sound than looks. Has the usual Gibson gummy finish that you have to polish about twice a week.

Appearance Rating

5

Reliability


I've replaced the tuners with Keiths all around (excluding 5th). They were a little sticky and had some slop in them, rather surprising for a banjo less than a year old. The rest of the hardware is excellent.

Reliability Rating

7

Customer Service


No warranty on a used banjo. I'm sure Gibson would laugh at me if I tried to ask them for help. I wouldn't even bother.

Customer Service

5

Components


The tone ring in this one is excellent. The banjo is lighter than average. The neck is a different kind of semi-V, a little thick for my tastes but I've gotten used to it. As I said, the tuners were not satisfactory, although they're not cheap ones. The gold finish is quite outstanding.

Components Rating

7

Overall Comments


I bought it for the sound. It has some drawbacks, but it is probably as close to pre-war as you'll get on a newer instrument. Has all the usual Gibson fit and finish problems, but I figured it would going in. I have to say it isn't as easy to play as my Stelling, but it has that dry bark I was looking for. Monster tone makes it worthwhile.

Overall Rating

8


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 7/22/2007

Submitter

Bob Murphy (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Boulevard Music

Year Purchased

2007

Price Paid

3500 ($US)

Sound


The Blackjack has a great, traditional bluegrass sound. I'm not sure that I can add any insight into what has already been written about this model, only to say that if you have the opportunity, play one and judge for yourself.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


If this banjo didn't have the sound I was looking for, there is no way I would have bought it. The head tension was perfect, and the frets were properly dressed, but the L brackets were installed improperly and had to be replaced. There were also several scratches in the gold finish, as well as places on the fingerboard that were scratched or had excess glue. The store where I purchased it is a new Gibson dealer, which is why I think I got such a good price on it, and the expert luthier Larry Brown, who works there, was able to fix the set up. By the way, this instrument was shipped from Nashville several days before I played it, so the problems noted were not due to having been sitting on the wall for a while.

Setup Rating

5

Appearance


As previously mentioned, several scratches on the gold finish are evident, as well as on the rosewood fingerboard, however you have to look hard to see them. My experience with Gibson products had been excellent before this.
That being said, I really do like to gold finish juxtaposed with the mahagony wood. The finish on the neck and resonator is excellent.

Appearance Rating

7

Reliability


I expect this banjo to last a lifetime.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


I have dealt with Gibson regarding other instruments, and have found them very reliable. I emailed Big Joe (who I have read is no longer there) with questions regarding maintaing the gold finish, and he responded very promptly.

Customer Service

9

Components


I suppose the standout component in this banjo is the Crowe tone ring. I will not be changing anything on it. I was very happy with the Snuffy bridge as well.

Components Rating

9

Overall Comments


As previously mentioned, I would hightly recommend trying this banjo, as the traditional bluegrass sound is there, but I would NOT buy one sight unseen. It has become my favorite instrument, and would absolutely replace it with another one if lost or stolen.

Overall Rating

8


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 5/6/2007

Submitter

jbluemel (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

The Gibson Showcase

Year Purchased

2005

Price Paid

5000 ($US)

Sound


I went to Nashville looking for a new banjo. I played everything I could find. I went to Huber, I went to Gruhn, I went everywhere but I just coulnd't put this banjo down. It's the best sounding banjo I've played and that includes prewars. The tone and volume are consistent up and down the whole neck. The fidelity is amazing!

Sound Rating

9

Setup


The banjo was set up by Charlie Cushman at the factory. 'Nuf said.

Setup Rating

7

Appearance


I just love the way this banjo looks with the copper flash. It also has a really cool neck. I had them put a speed neck on it. It was the first Blackjack from the factory with a speed neck. What a difference!!
I think people either love them or hate them. I think it's cool! It has a great looking neck.

Appearance Rating

8

Reliability


I bought the banjo new so I don't know about long-term reliability. The finish seems as good as any Gibson I've seen. It took about a year and a half for it to settle down and hold a tuning. It's great now.

Reliability Rating

7

Customer Service


The guys down at Gibson were very helpful. I was able to sit down with the guy who built my banjo and talk with him about what I wanted. They had to go back and put the speed neck on it. That took a little time so I was without it for about a month. Bummer!

Customer Service

7

Components


Since this banjo is basically an RB-75, you will notice that the hardware is lighter in weight. I think that's what makes this banjo so responsive. I'm not crazy about the tailpiece. That hinged cover is kind of a pain. It buzzed when it touched the strings so I put a piece of felt under it and now it's fine.

Components Rating

7

Overall Comments


I definitely recommend this banjo. As a new model, it takes some time for it to settle down. I think it's worth every penny I paid. If it were stolen? I'd cry. I've never played anything better. I talked with JD Crow at Supergrass 2006 and told him how happy I was with it and he signed my resonator for me. That's kinda cool!

Overall Rating

8


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 10/30/2006

Submitter

banjo007 (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Banjo Hangout

Year Purchased

2006

Price Paid

3200 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound


Dry sweet sound. Powerful 4th string. My guitar player described it as the "perfect sound"

Sound Rating

10

Setup


Excellent. I changed the bridge but not because of the sound , I just wanted to hear how it sounded with another kind. This banjo was setup by janet davis

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


The pictures on Janet Davis doesn't do it justice.
The gold plating is supposed to give it a vintage look and IT DOES.

The banjo looks OLD. AWSOME LOOK

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


I'm worried about the gold plating lasting but only time will tell

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


???

Customer Service

not rated

Components


Components Rating

not rated

Overall Comments


If stolen I would replace with another

Overall Rating

10


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 3/11/2006

Submitter

banjoman0254 (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Janet Davis Music

Year Purchased

2004

Price Paid

5500 ($US)

Sound


One of the best sounding new banjos that I've ever heard. It had the pre-war tone right out of the box. It has a rich tone, but still cracks and is very responsive when needed.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


I had to set it up a little when I got it, but it still sounded incredible right out of the box. I switched to a Huber head and a Huber bridge. The Huber head gives it more of the growl that I look for in a banjo. I had to slightly lower the neck to improve the intonation.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


To me, the satin gold is the most beautiful color of hardware on any banjo. Also, the yellowish color of the binding makes the banjo look older and more beautiful than any other new banjo.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


I believe that all the parts will last and hold up through many years of playing.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


I've never had any problems with Janet.

Customer Service

9

Components


Everything about the banjo stands out because of its vintage appearance and tone.

Components Rating

10

Overall Comments


I would recommend the Black Jack over any other new Gibson model. It would take an actual 1930's RB-75 for me to switch over.

Overall Rating

10


Gibson J. D. Crowe Black Jack
submitted 7/25/2004

Submitter

impickin5 (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Fret Mill Music, Roanoke, VA

Year Purchased

2004

Price Paid

3250.00 ($US)

Sound


Wonderful dry/hollow sound much like J.D.'s RB-75, all the way from the open 4th string to the 22nd fret on the 1st string.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


The action was a little too high for me personally even though it had a Snuffy Smith 5/8" Crowe spacing bridge. After 2 weeks though, I'm getting used to the action. BTW, I found that a Gary Sosebee "submerged wood" bridge sounds best on this banjo. I had to tighten the head a little as would be expected on a new banjo from the factory. Also, I think the height of the strings at the nut is a little high, but got used to that in a few days.

Setup Rating

8

Appearance


Fantastic. The satin gold finish on this banjo makes this new banjo look like an old prewar banjo. The fretboard inlays are truly fantastic and unique. The finish on the mahogany neck and resonator is also fantastic.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


Only time will tell. Will have to wait and see.

Reliability Rating

10

Customer Service


Have bought from Fret Mill Music before and have been satisfied.

Customer Service

10

Components


Other than the planet tuners being a little on the loose side, everything else seems to be just fine.

Components Rating

9

Overall Comments


Banjo arrived with pearliod tuning buttons instead of ivoriod tuning bottons as shown on Gibson and other websites. I contacted Gibson and they sent me the ivoriod buttons. Also, the banjo arrived with the plain oval Gibson decal instead of the Gibson old style "Warranty etc." decal except instead of Kalamazoo, Nashville. I'm still working with Gibson on this. I think Gibson has a real winner with this banjo. I love it.

Overall Rating

9


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