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Apr 24, 2019 - 6:41:21 PM
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2068 posts since 9/25/2006

In the pic my grandfather is playing the RB-250 he purchased new in 1958.  We know it was 1958 because that’s the year my mother was born.  

http://www.banjophiles.com/Post-warShippingtotals.htm According to the post war Gibson Bow Tie era website a total of 70 RB-250s shipped in 1958.  

My question is this—how many of them were flatheads vs. arch tops...is there any way of ever knowing.  

It surely looks to be an RB-250 in the pic due to the headstock binding and it appears to be a flathead.  Also, we are pretty sure about the year being 1958.  If this is true then Pap had a very rare banjo indeed—he sold it eons ago and passed away in 2003.  I was just curious if anybody knew anything about 50s flatheads as most of the 50s bow ties I see are arch tops.  


Apr 24, 2019 - 7:35:35 PM

1618 posts since 10/17/2013

From the photo, I can barely see the inkling of what appears to be the "arch" of the archtop ring, close to the armrest. The poor resolution of the photo seems to change the banjo from an archtop to a flathead. But like you, I think it would be neat if it actually WAS a flathead.

Apr 24, 2019 - 7:40:22 PM

301 posts since 2/28/2006

Cant help on your question but LOVE the photo Frankie! What a great legacy you continue...

All the best.
Brian Saulsman

Apr 24, 2019 - 7:52:57 PM
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2068 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by saulsmanb

Cant help on your question but LOVE the photo Frankie! What a great legacy you continue...

All the best.
Brian Saulsman


Thanks so much Brian, that’s very kind.  His band was called “The Dusty Mountain Boys.”  The first money I ever earned from playing music was playing with these very gentlemen in 1987 when I was nine years old.  Except for the fiddle player on the far right, poor Bootsey had already passed away...

Apr 24, 2019 - 7:54:42 PM

2068 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by bluegrassbanjopicker

From the photo, I can barely see the inkling of what appears to be the "arch" of the archtop ring, close to the armrest. The poor resolution of the photo seems to change the banjo from an archtop to a flathead. But like you, I think it would be neat if it actually WAS a flathead.


ya know, I wondered about that.  Especially if it was 1958 then a hide head would have been used and that makes it even harder to tell if it is an arch top or flathead.  Pap always liked his flatheads but perhaps he forgot that it was indeed an arch top.  I’m inclined to agree with you on this one—I think it is an arch top.  

Apr 24, 2019 - 10:52:21 PM

1838 posts since 1/10/2004

It (barely) looks like an archtop to me. The earliest year I think I've seen a few flatheads from is 59, but I suppose 58 is possible. But 50s bowties almost always seem to be archtops.

Apr 25, 2019 - 4:53:12 AM
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278 posts since 5/19/2018

Great Family photo.

Looks like those boys had it down...

Apr 25, 2019 - 7:17:11 AM
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552 posts since 8/10/2009

quote:
Originally posted by revellfa

My question is this—how many of them were flatheads vs. arch tops...is there any way of ever knowing?


In my opinion, the answer to Frankie's question is no. There is no way of determining the exact number of RB-250 Mastertone "bowtie" banjos made with factory original flathead tone rings.

The Gibson shipping ledgers for this period do not indicate the type of tone ring installed in the banjo. So, any production total of RB-250 bowtie banjos with factory original flathead tone rings must be based on observation.

Based on my research and observation, I think Gibson produced one mixed batch of about 100 RB-250 and PB-250 Mastertones in the year 1954 with 19-hole flathead tone rings, then there were no more flatheads until the year 1960. I've not yet seen a documented RB-250 with a factory original flathead tone ring which was made 1955-1959.

I've also previously posted a more detailed explanation of "bowtie-era" Gibson tone rings: click here

Joe Spann

Nashville, TN

Apr 25, 2019 - 8:27 PM

2068 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

Great Family photo.

Looks like those boys had it down...


They sure did Alvin.  I have some clips from this era—I’ll post them sometime over the weekend.  Perhaps the sound would help us to determine if it was an arch top or a flathead.  

Apr 26, 2019 - 11:16:56 AM

2068 posts since 9/25/2006

Here's a sound clip of the banjo from 1964 or so. Does it sound more like an archtop or a flathead?


Apr 27, 2019 - 12:47:13 PM

945 posts since 2/6/2006

Sounds great & what a fine thing it is to have recordings of your dad!!

Apr 27, 2019 - 3:40:34 PM

4929 posts since 10/13/2007
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A gentlemen named Jim Smith out of Springfield, Missouri had an bow tie. He played and taught. I thought it was a flathead, but my remembrances of it was that it would knock you out of your seat! I saw him in about 76.
ken

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