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Dec 3, 2022 - 8:29:56 AM
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3102 posts since 12/31/2005

In another thread, someone has made the ageless argument that the masters in the 1940's chose Gibson for a reason. That may be, but we have to put it in context. In the 1930's and the 1940's to what banjos did players in North Carolina have access? I don't know of Shelby having a music store with a wall of banjos. Music stores back in the day were in larger cities, and focused on piano and orchestral instruments, with some guitar. My grandfather in-law (if that's a thing) sold Gibsons (he couldn't have held on to one for me??). He had great stories, but it sounded like he would hit the road nad make one off sales to remote stores (often furniture or something else) that would stock 1 or 2 at most because these were very premium items. Most were not five strings and there was no Rual Yarborough back in the day making repro necks. But Gibson is what was sold around here. We know that, when Earl was very young and forming his idea of what "the sound" was, he was influenced by older players who played Gibsons. Then he created the style and "sound" to which every traditional bluegrass player aspires.

But my basic question is what choice did Earl (or Don Reno, or even Snuffy or Smith Hammett before them) have?

Dec 3, 2022 - 9:02:39 AM

heavy5

USA

2543 posts since 11/3/2016

Probably something that didn't have the balls & tone to cut it in that time period of minimal amplification like a Mastertone . I believe those performers also did not pick lightly for the same reasons ,

But I must admit Eddy Adcocks Eppi sure sounded good in all of those great tunes , even after Ed got pissed at it one night & thru it off the stage & it was repaired !    frown

Edited by - heavy5 on 12/03/2022 09:11:24

Dec 3, 2022 - 9:13:37 AM
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3102 posts since 12/31/2005

I don't have definitive proof, but I believe loudness, and not tone, was the primary objective back in the day. While they played some radio shows, most of the gigs were unamplified in the 30's in the smaller venues. Being able to cut through and be heard was a big deal. In the four-string world it was a really big deal with the orchestras and larger ensembles.

Dec 3, 2022 - 9:18:28 AM

stevo58

Germany

77 posts since 12/29/2012

Yes, but a brass jazz band would be much louder than any string band. Maybe different frequencies were required, but I can’t believe a Silver Bell wouldn’t cut through or be loud enough. Can’t comment on how the tone would be for bluegrass. I think it’s more likely they just weren’t available or too expensive - the B&Ds could be pretty pricey.

Dec 3, 2022 - 9:36:31 AM

3102 posts since 12/31/2005

We're B&D's readily available in the South? (I honestly don't know). Would Snuffy/Smith/Earl/Don have heard one?

Dec 3, 2022 - 10:30:54 AM
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671 posts since 6/9/2009

Check out this 1934 photo of the Grand Ole Opry bands. Lots of interesting resonator banjo choices there, but still about half Gibsons to my eye.

https://www.visualconnections.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Opry-Cast-1934.jpg

Dec 3, 2022 - 1:02:59 PM
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3063 posts since 3/30/2008

Many thanks for the photo. (As an aside, the Tiple (10 string ukulele) in the first row, bottom left is a seldom seen instrument outside of Hawaiian music. 

Edited by - tdennis on 12/03/2022 13:07:27

Dec 3, 2022 - 1:08:57 PM
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2084 posts since 5/19/2018

Looks like a few Maybells in there with a number of different Gibson RB-1s. Uncle Dave’s obviously dead center, another RB-1 to the left of him. What looks to be 2 Lange/ Maybelles to the right and left of Uncle Dave. Further down on the first row, another RB-1. Directly above uncle Dave, another Maybelle.

Not a Mastertone in the bunch.

It may seem that when ES was lookin VM for a particular banjo sound, he really was looking for a particular banjo sound and found it in his Mastertones.

BTW- Awesome photo!  
 

going to go through and try to ID the folks in there when I have a few minutes to spare. 

Edited by - Alvin Conder on 12/03/2022 13:10:07

Dec 3, 2022 - 1:47:47 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26674 posts since 6/25/2005

I have read that Gibson’s sales force in the southern states was the largest and most widespread, resulting in wide availability. I think Gibson, because it made guitars and other instruments, had more stable banjo production than other high-end banjo makers.

Dec 3, 2022 - 1:50:20 PM
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heavy5

USA

2543 posts since 11/3/2016

When I evaluate the prospects of a resonator banjo's volume , the first thing I look at are the size of the apertures in the flange letting out the sound .
Always thought Vegas were terribly lacking there as well as B&D compared to Gibson .
Next is the mass & weight of the pot & its components .

Dec 3, 2022 - 2:00:44 PM
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stevo58

Germany

77 posts since 12/29/2012

I’ve never had complaints about insufficient volume in a band with nine horns with my Silver Bell. I had two flatheads before that - a Prucha and a Deering - and I had to beat the heck out of those to get the cut and volume I needed when all those horns were blowing. As soon as I switched to the Silver Bell, they started to tell me I was too loud.

Edited by - stevo58 on 12/03/2022 14:03:43

Dec 3, 2022 - 3:05:54 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:Earl's choices in what he came up with by 1945 when he surfaces with Monroe were limited by the end of banjo production by the major firms with the onset of war in 1941.  They were also limited by the decline in banjo production of all kinds across the 1930s compared to the peak in banjo production just before the depression began in  1929.  Five string banjo production plummetted from around 1910 on with the popularity of mandolin, tenor, and plectrum banjos outstripping 5 string banjos.
Gibson a mandolin company who later made guitars and later made only tenor and mando banjos, did not make five string banjos until the mid 1920s.  They made around 5-600 five-string banjos in the entire 20s and 30s as opposed to tenor or plectrum or mando banjos or guitar banjos i.
However, it does seem that top old time musicians and hill billy musicians preferred them.   Uncle Dave played Gibson master tones,  and later in the 40s when his arthritis made porting around an RB a struggle for him, he had Gibson making special Mastertones for him with no resonator and a dowel stick.
Being from Hartford, I have had fantasizes of what if he had played a big loud Bacon Silver Bell 5 string,   These banjos even without metal strings sound like Howitzers, let alone steel strung.  They were of limited supply in 1945 since the BAcon company was destroyed by a hurricane in 1938 and it sold out what it had left to Gretsch which made a few parts banjos and stopped making instruments until after the war as well.
However,  I have looked at many pictures of banjos of late Hillbilly and early bluegrass performers, and almost all who use resonator banjos are using Gibson RBs of one kind or another.  I see almost no Bacons or any other brand really.   Might it just be that these were the chief quality banjos available in these years, especially immediately after the war when few 5 string banjos of any kind were being made?
Or did it have to do with their sales network.  Did they just have the best outreach to local music stories in the South, or at least in the upper South compared to say Bacon or later Gretsch?
People forget how hard it was to find a five-string banjo of quality in most places just 50 or 60 years ago, let alone in 1945.
Originally posted by heavy5

Probably something that didn't have the balls & tone to cut it in that time period of minimal amplification like a Mastertone . I believe those performers also did not pick lightly for the same reasons ,

But I must admit Eddy Adcocks Eppi sure sounded good in all of those great tunes , even after Ed got pissed at it one night & thru it off the stage & it was repaired !    frown


Edited by - writerrad on 12/03/2022 15:10:24

Dec 3, 2022 - 3:21:38 PM
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706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:Think  the opposite is true.   The major competitor I would think of, might be a Bacon Banjo, especially the top of the line Bacon line, the Silver Bells.  I used to have fantasy what if Earl had played one.  But I have played several 5 string Silver Bells over the years, all from the early days of the 1930s.  They are much louder and more forceful instruments than Gibson RBs.  They are like a field artillery piece.   I would say the same thing about the Van Eps Recording banjo,  a special banjo with a complicated internal resonator that was popular in the 1920s and 30s.  Even nylon or gut strung ones I have played sound much louder and more striking than a Gibson RB of the type Earl would have played.
The Gibson to me sound sweeter, more mellow and an easier fit with a fiddle and a mandolin than other brands of banjos that were designed chiefly to be tenor banjos or were redesigned  to be played as tenor banjos. 
ACtually the general Resonator solution that Gibson and other companies borrowed from Paramount makes for a lighter banjo that the variety of internal resonators and tone rings and other devices being used to make a banjo loud in the teens and 20s.
Most people have not heard live a real dixie land or early jazz band with a trumpet, a trombone, and maybe another brass instrument or figured how loud a banjo had to be to cut through all of that brass as a tenor or plectrum banjo.  The loudness it takes to do that seems much louder than the delicacy that Earl and his contemporaries were able to get out of their Gibson RBs.   I think this is why there was no move toward Bacon, or Gretsch Bacon, or other company's RBs.
I t dont think it was the loudness, but the sweetness of tone.  It could also just be that Gibson had a sales network that reached into the South and reached players in the South, especially the upper South and perhaps to the players on the Opry in Nashville that got to Earl and others.
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

I don't have definitive proof, but I believe loudness, and not tone, was the primary objective back in the day. While they played some radio shows, most of the gigs were unamplified in the 30's in the smaller venues. Being able to cut through and be heard was a big deal. In the four-string world it was a really big deal with the orchestras and larger ensembles.


Dec 3, 2022 - 3:29:45 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:Yes  I just posted the same thing.   I have played 5 string Silver Bells from the 1920s and they are as loud as a Gibson even with nylon or gut strings. 
LOL  I have also played them with steel strings and they are just too loud and would have blasted over every other piece in  Monroe's band if Earl had played them.  The resonator bacons are heavier and harder to carry around than the Gibsons, which is terrifying to say.
'I think coveting the Gibson had more to do with the way they have a much more mellow, and sweeter tone and don't bark so much as the Bacon or Bacon Gretsch knockoffs that came out after the war.    
I h
 
Originally posted by stevo58

Yes, but a brass jazz band would be much louder than any string band. Maybe different frequencies were required, but I can’t believe a Silver Bell wouldn’t cut through or be loud enough. Can’t comment on how the tone would be for bluegrass. I think it’s more likely they just weren’t available or too expensive - the B&Ds could be pretty pricey.


Dec 3, 2022 - 3:45:23 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

B & D seemed to market itself less to a popular audience and much more to professional and band musicians.  I have a collection of Bacon material and lots of local newspaper clippings about the Bacon Company since being from Hartford, this was the  home team.  Just to make clear we are talking about Bacon and Day that existed between 1918 and 1938.  Fred Bacon was an entertainer and banjo teacher who was famous starting in the 1890s  and originally had his friend David Day make banjos that were sold as Fred Bacon Banjos when Day was at Vega in Boston in the early 1900s.   Fred briefly had a small workshop in Vermont where he tried to make banjos in the years before WWI and later had the company that became Paramount make Fred Bacon banjos in NYC.
It wasnt until 1918 when David Day who had been Fairbanks and Vega's chief banjo designer who created the Electric, the Whyte Ladye, and the Tubaphone, left Vega and got together with Bacon to set up B & D in Groton CT, that  Fred was associated with his own company.  Fred was reputed to be a great banjoist and had regular radio and vaudeville appearances but apparently knew little about production.  The real banjo making was directed by David Day.
Their propaganda and pricing seemed chiefly oriented to professional musicians in bands and music teachers and their prices were not competitive with more inexpensive brands.   From  the endorsements in their propaganda Bacon instruments seemed to tout either the remaining ragtime performers, top dance band tenor players, and such.  They did have some banjos marketed around a Cowboy movie star who played them, but I have never heard of any associated with country or old time music playing a Bacon.  Day and Bacon died in the late 1930s and the factory was destroyed by a hurricane in 1938 and  the name and equipment and remaining parts were sold to Gretsch.
I do not think the tone that either original or Gretsch made Silver Bells or other Bacon 5 string resonator banjos would have fit into what Earl and most early Bluegrass or late old time banjoists wanted.   I think the tone of a Gibson banjo  which is not the strident Silver Bell tone that you need in a brass heavy early jazz ensemble would work well in Bluegrass.   

Originally posted by Brian Murphy

We're B&D's readily available in the South? (I honestly don't know). Would Snuffy/Smith/Earl/Don have heard one?


Edited by - writerrad on 12/03/2022 15:49:37

Dec 3, 2022 - 6:55:04 PM

10283 posts since 8/28/2013

"The Gibson to me sound sweeter, more mellow and an easier fit with a fiddle and a mandolin than other brands of banjos that were designed chiefly to be tenor banjos or were redesigned to be played as tenor banjos."

The Mastertone was also designed to be a tenor (or plectrum) banjo, and most Mastertones were built as such.

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:02:37 PM
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10283 posts since 8/28/2013

"What looks to be 2 Lange/ Maybelles ..."

Maybell was a Slingerland product, not a Lange.

Dec 4, 2022 - 8:29:07 AM
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5077 posts since 11/20/2004

Earl heard 9584-3 as a young man and loved the sound. In my opinion, he played a Gibson because it had the sound he liked best. We know he owned others , such as the Vega, but the Granada gave him what he wanted. If I recall the story, his mother took him to Spartanburg where he bought the RB11 used in a pawn shop as a young man. At the time, probably as close as he could afford to the sound he was drawn to.

Dec 4, 2022 - 1:08:35 PM

6685 posts since 10/13/2007

What choice does anyone have against divine intervention and destiny?laugh

Ken

Dec 4, 2022 - 1:31:17 PM

3102 posts since 12/31/2005

I mentioned Snuffy above, but the first time Earl heard the Granada was when Fisher Hendley played it on the radio:


Earl Hears His First Mastertones

Earl was exposed to banjos built by the Gibson Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan from an early age. Earl himself stated that in the early 1930's he listened to Fisher Hendley performing over radio station WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina and then later on WIS in Columbia, South Carolina. Hendley was known as the "North Carolina State Banjo Champion" and played two or three banjo numbers every week on his program. Earl stated that the banjo numbers "made the listening really worthwhile." Young Earl could not know that Fisher Hendley was using a Gibson "Mastertone" banjo, in fact a model RB-Granada (RB meaning "regular banjo" or five-string banjo), the most expensive five-string banjo offered by Gibson at that time. In a strange twist of fate it would be this very same banjo which Scruggs would later own and use as his primary instrument during the bulk of his career!

The direct influence of Fisher Hendley on a young Earl was confirmed in a conversation between Scruggs and author/historian Bob Carlin in the late 1990's. At that time Carlin was researching Hendley for an article later published in The Old Time Herald. Scruggs reminisced about listening to Hendley on the Greenville, South Carolina radio station in 1935 and then to the amazement of those present volunteered to demonstrate Fisher's banjo style. Earl was handed a banjo and according to Bob did an excellent job of reproducing one of Hendley's tunes.

For a few years starting in about 1937, Earl fell under the musical influence of DeWitt "Snuffy" Jenkins, a very strong three-finger style banjoist who began performing over radio station WIS in Columbia, South Carolina in that year. Jenkins was originally from Earl's own Cleveland County, North Carolina and often performed at local school houses, close enough for Earl to attend the shows. The banjo used by Snuffy Jenkins during this period was the same Gibson Mastertone RB-Granada which had previously belonged to Fisher Hendley. Jenkins had purchased the banjo from Hendley early in 1937 and then used it as his main performance instrument from 1937 through 1940.

Earl's musical contemporary and childhood friend Don Reno often spoke of attending local performances and radio show broadcasts in the late 1930's at which Snuffy was present and playing the RB-Granada. At one of these shows the teenaged Don Reno first met a slightly older Earl Scruggs, whom he described as "very quiet and intense." Over the next few years, the two young men would encounter each other at other Jenkins performances, driven by the desire to understand what Snuffy was doing. Both of them were heavily influenced by the sound of the Gibson Mastertone banjo which Snuffy played. Both of them would eventually own it.

Acquiring the RB-11

The year 1941 was pivotal for both Don Reno and Earl Scruggs because in that year both young men would acquire their first Gibson banjos. Reno began performing over radio station WSPA in Spartanburg, South Carolina with the Morris Brothers. Probably in honor of this milestone, his parents helped him purchase the RB-Granada which Snuffy Jenkins had been playing. Snuffy was willing to sell it because the year before he had found in a pawn shop a Gibson Mastertone model RB-4 which he preferred to play. Reno's predecessor as banjo player with the Morris Brothers was Earl Scruggs, who no doubt had been using his $10.95 mail order banjo with the group.

Also in 1941 Earl Scruggs located a Gibson model RB-11 in a local pawn shop and purchased it . . . 

http://www.banjocafe.net/forum/content/148-The-Banjos-of-Earl-Scruggs-Part-1 

Dec 5, 2022 - 1:20 PM
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170 posts since 2/5/2014

I agree with Brian Murphy: Fisher Hendley had to have been one of Earl's big influences. If you Google the song "Hopalong Peter," you can here Hendley's (possibly Earl's) banjo. Another influence might have been fellow North Carolinian and finger-stylist Charlie Poole who also played a Gibson Mastertone at one point in his career.

Dec 5, 2022 - 3:35:27 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:
Sales force and sales orientation to a more popular but quality basis.  The real basis of Gibson was it being the leading American manufacturer of MANDOLINS and a series of now extinct mandolin descended instruments.   In the last years of the 19th and early years of the 20th century there was an enormous mandolin explosion in all kinds of music.  Gibson was the leading American quality manufacturer that sold on a national level.
They really took off when they got rid of Orville Gibson who was more interested in creating pretty exotic instruments.  He went back to upstate NY and the business oriented folks who had invested in the operation that got them into guitars and eventually banjos.  Their banjo entry was through the channel of mandolin banjos, tenor banjos, with the guitar and five string banjo being the minor parts of their line. 
 If you look at I do not think Gibson made any banjos until around 1918 and didnt make a five string until some time in the 1920s. If you look at their catalogs and sales propoganda, the five-string banjo was always a minor member of a line of instrument swhere the top of the line was the tenor and included a plectrum and mando banjo,.
 Somewhere I used to have the figure but in their whole period from starting to make mastertones around 1924 to  ceasing production for war work,  they made lese than 1000 5-string banjos but thousands more tenor banjos.
As I think I point out earlier, I have a lot of Ephemera from Bacon which would have been a major alternative at the time because they are my hometown Connecticut team, and their propaganda seems to be solely oriented to musically educated professional musicians and you might have felt they might not sell a banjo to someone who could not read music, LOL.
My view is that whatever sales connections tha they had reached into the South better and also the Gibson mastertones have a sweeter more mellow tone than Bacons do, more in keeping with what Hillbilly music on the way to bluegrass was.  As I say elsewhere playing a Silver Bell 5 string would have been much too loud and strident than a  sweet Gibson RB.
Mr Rogers, thanks for putting up with this end of the Hangout.,   Your good deeds may not go unpunished. but we all ought to be grateful that you care enough to help us all!
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

I have read that Gibson’s sales force in the southern states was the largest and most widespread, resulting in wide availability. I think Gibson, because it made guitars and other instruments, had more stable banjo production than other high-end banjo makers.


Edited by - writerrad on 12/05/2022 15:47:11

Dec 5, 2022 - 4:07:45 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:
From around 1918, the premium product was the tenor, as all major banjo manufacturers in the 1920s including others like Vega that formerly had produced five strings, saw selling tenor banjos as their main business.  Some that had previously produced five-string banjos stopped producing them. 
   Gibson proceded in a different direction.  They started as primarily a mandolin maker, then got into guitars, then got into tenor and mandolin banjos and after all those other instruments finally produced 5-string banjos around 1923 or 24.   If you compare their propoganda to other companies of that era, with Bacon the one I know the most about, the five string banjo is sometimes not mentioned in catalogs centering on tenors, plectrums, and mandolin banjos.
  However, they fit much more tonically into the way that country musicians in string band wanted than any other banjo long before Earl acquired his Granada in the 1940s.   Old Time Banjo artists like Charlie Poole and Dock Boggs and many other string band musicians acquired Gibson RBs, mastertones if they could afford them even in the 1920s. 
Bob Carlin has put out a great book about string band music in the areas of North and South Carolina where Earl lived titled What Earl Scruggs Heard: String Music Along the North Carolina-South Carolina Border.    It is interesting to me that this book that documents banjoists of the 1920s and 1930s shows most of the banjoists with RBs that look like Gibsons.
There is a lot of hokum that RBs were not popular until Bluegrass among Southern oldtime or hillbilly banjoists, but it seems pretty widespread that the musicians played RBs except those like Stringbean or Grandpa Jones whose acts centered around impersonating older and old fashioned characters with Grandpa being Grandpa when he was a young man just bck from WWII.
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

"The Gibson to me sound sweeter, more mellow and an easier fit with a fiddle and a mandolin than other brands of banjos that were designed chiefly to be tenor banjos or were redesigned to be played as tenor banjos."

The Mastertone was also designed to be a tenor (or plectrum) banjo, and most Mastertones were built as such.


Dec 5, 2022 - 4:11:49 PM
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706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:
LOL those this is not my belief on the big issues,
I am glad someone has fitting respect for the importance of Earl's choices and their centrality in the whole darned world since he stepped on the stage at the Opry in 1945.  Thank you!
 
 
 
Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom

What choice does anyone have against divine intervention and destiny?laugh

Ken


Dec 5, 2022 - 4:16:25 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:thanks for that series   Its hould be required reading to point young people in a proper direction!

Originally posted by Brian Murphy

I mentioned Snuffy above, but the first time Earl heard the Granada was when Fisher Hendley played it on the radio:


Earl Hears His First Mastertones

Earl was exposed to banjos built by the Gibson Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan from an early age. Earl himself stated that in the early 1930's he listened to Fisher Hendley performing over radio station WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina and then later on WIS in Columbia, South Carolina. Hendley was known as the "North Carolina State Banjo Champion" and played two or three banjo numbers every week on his program. Earl stated that the banjo numbers "made the listening really worthwhile." Young Earl could not know that Fisher Hendley was using a Gibson "Mastertone" banjo, in fact a model RB-Granada (RB meaning "regular banjo" or five-string banjo), the most expensive five-string banjo offered by Gibson at that time. In a strange twist of fate it would be this very same banjo which Scruggs would later own and use as his primary instrument during the bulk of his career!

The direct influence of Fisher Hendley on a young Earl was confirmed in a conversation between Scruggs and author/historian Bob Carlin in the late 1990's. At that time Carlin was researching Hendley for an article later published in The Old Time Herald. Scruggs reminisced about listening to Hendley on the Greenville, South Carolina radio station in 1935 and then to the amazement of those present volunteered to demonstrate Fisher's banjo style. Earl was handed a banjo and according to Bob did an excellent job of reproducing one of Hendley's tunes.

For a few years starting in about 1937, Earl fell under the musical influence of DeWitt "Snuffy" Jenkins, a very strong three-finger style banjoist who began performing over radio station WIS in Columbia, South Carolina in that year. Jenkins was originally from Earl's own Cleveland County, North Carolina and often performed at local school houses, close enough for Earl to attend the shows. The banjo used by Snuffy Jenkins during this period was the same Gibson Mastertone RB-Granada which had previously belonged to Fisher Hendley. Jenkins had purchased the banjo from Hendley early in 1937 and then used it as his main performance instrument from 1937 through 1940.

Earl's musical contemporary and childhood friend Don Reno often spoke of attending local performances and radio show broadcasts in the late 1930's at which Snuffy was present and playing the RB-Granada. At one of these shows the teenaged Don Reno first met a slightly older Earl Scruggs, whom he described as "very quiet and intense." Over the next few years, the two young men would encounter each other at other Jenkins performances, driven by the desire to understand what Snuffy was doing. Both of them were heavily influenced by the sound of the Gibson Mastertone banjo which Snuffy played. Both of them would eventually own it.

Acquiring the RB-11

The year 1941 was pivotal for both Don Reno and Earl Scruggs because in that year both young men would acquire their first Gibson banjos. Reno began performing over radio station WSPA in Spartanburg, South Carolina with the Morris Brothers. Probably in honor of this milestone, his parents helped him purchase the RB-Granada which Snuffy Jenkins had been playing. Snuffy was willing to sell it because the year before he had found in a pawn shop a Gibson Mastertone model RB-4 which he preferred to play. Reno's predecessor as banjo player with the Morris Brothers was Earl Scruggs, who no doubt had been using his $10.95 mail order banjo with the group.

Also in 1941 Earl Scruggs located a Gibson model RB-11 in a local pawn shop and purchased it . . . 

http://www.banjocafe.net/forum/content/148-The-Banjos-of-Earl-Scruggs-Part-1 


Dec 5, 2022 - 4:20:56 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:You could look at a long line of 1920s and early 1930s "old time" or Hillbilly Banjoists who once they had money enough got Gibson Mastertones or some kind of Gibson RBs.  Dave Macon was yet another, who even had Gibson make him special Mastertones without resonators in the 1940s when Dave's Arthritis made holding an RB too difficult.   Dock Boggs did the same thing, getting a Mastertone with the first big shot of recording company money causing some marital discord!   It wasn't unique that Poole or anyone got an RB starting from the 1920s.  What is pertinent to this discussion is why so many of them preferred Gibson RBs especially since in the general tenor-driven banjo market, Gibson was never a major player.  By the late 20s, the Mastertone and his more inexpensive Gibson RB sisters and brothers was the instrument a performing Hillbilly musician obtained  when she or he had the cash.
Earl wasnt that distinct or novel in selecting a Gibson.  There are very few instances of anyone who became a known Hillbilly player who selected a Bacon, for example. Vega began to offer external resonators on all of its lines of five string banjos by the late 20s but I know of few Hillbilly musicians who played resonator Vegas.   Having played a few friends' Tubaphones and Whyte Ladyes with the resonator attached,  the weight of those banjos make a Mastertone seem light.   On the other hand the architecture of those banjos just dont give them the brilliance or speed or sweetness that Gibsons have.     I say this sitting in a room where a 1925 Tubaphone and an 1894 Electric are within arms reach. 
 

Originally posted by Bob Sayers

I agree with Brian Murphy: Fisher Hendley had to have been one of Earl's big influences. If you Google the song "Hopalong Peter," you can here Hendley's (possibly Earl's) banjo. Another influence might have been fellow North Carolinian and finger-stylist Charlie Poole who also played a Gibson Mastertone at one point in his career.


Edited by - writerrad on 12/05/2022 16:33:00

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