Updated 04/10/22

Gibson Mastertone RB-4 Conversion 9554-50
One of the "Rejoined twins"





Sometime in the early 1930's, two walnut, chromed, 40-hole arch top TB-4 tenor banjos, were shipped out of the Gibson factory. One had FON 9554-50 stamped in the rim, and the style 2 walnut resonator, which had no rings on the back, was marked 20-12. The other had the style 2 rim stained dark walnut, but with the MASTERTONE decal inside as should be present in a TB-4. The resonator had the wood purfling rings on the back and was marked 9554-50. The full story of the acquisition of the 20-12 rim and the 9554-50 resonator is quite interesting and will be published elsewhere. The flange on the 9554-50 rim was removed and sent away to make good a transaction which involved another 9554- banjo on which the flange was destroyed in shipment. A chrome replacement could not be found, so a choice set of early 30's nickel hardware was installed on the 20-12 rim and the reskinned 20-12 resonator matched with an appropriate wings and bows RB-3 repro neck by Gary Price. The tailpiece is an original five string prewar Presto and the tuners are the deluxe version of the Grover pancakes.

The banjo pictured here is the other twin. A good prewar flange that fit the 9554-50 rim was located, and chrome plated. A walnut RB-4 reproduction neck was installed, and the banjo reassembled. The tailpiece is the original Grover four hump. Tone ring is a chromed Price full depth 20 hole flat head.

The neck is made as closely as possible to faithfully reproduce the prewar construction methods and materials. The center section of the peg head is narrower than the heel where it joins the tension hoop, as was done on the original prewar five string necks. Many modern makers simply use a two inch thick board to which are added strips of wood to gain the 3 inch width, which results in four small stubs when viewed from the rear. Original five string necks had pegheads which appear identical to those on tenor or plectrum banjos (see photos of 9528- examples on Greg Earnest's web site). The fingerboard is made from Brazilian rosewood bought from the C. F. Martin company in the late 1960's.

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© Gary H. Price
P O Box 1115
Jones OK 73049
405 659-1959