For more than 85 years the Gibson banjo has been at the forefront of such musical genres as country, bluegrass, Celtic and now country-rock music. The hallowed history of this great instrument has numbered many classic models among the fold, with the pre-war RB-75 being the most revered of all. And now, Gibson Original Instruments is proud to bring this celebrated instrument back to life in the form of the Limited Edition RB-75VL Custom Banjo. Limited to a production run of just 15 banjos, the stunning RB-75VL is finished in Gibson’s vintage lacquer formulation, and accurately captures the tone and look of the most revered pre-war Gibson banjos.
The Instrument Evolves
The Gibson Mastertone was the king of the five-string banjo from its arrival in 1923 until the evolution to the popular “top tension” models in 1937. After that time, only one standard Mastertone-style banjo remained in the Gibson catalog – the RB-75. Born out of the Mastertone Style 3, and named for its newly reduced price of $75 (down from $100; “RB” simply meant “regular banjo”, as opposed to tenor banjo), the RB-75 fast became a favorite of tone-conscious pickers everywhere.
Major artists from Curtis McPeake to J.D. Crowe to Sammy Shelor have picked RB-75s in their time, and the model shares popular tonal features such as the flat-head tone ring and one-piece flange that contribute to the sounds of other great Gibson models used by bluegrass revolutionaries such as Earl Scruggs and Don Reno. Other popular features of the original RB-75 — all of which are duplicated on the Limited Edition RB-75VL Custom Banjo — include its mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, mahogany resonator, double-cut peghead, RB-75 tone ring, white binding and nickel-plated hardware. Pearl “flying eagle” fingerboard inlays add a touch of elegance, while a genuine bone nut helps to keep the tone strong and true.
Vintage Lacquer to Release the Tone
In addition to its other notable features, the RB-75VL is finished with an older formulation of lacquer that replicate the vintage lacquer used on pre-war RB-75 banjos. This thinner finish lets the wood breath more, in acoustic terms, and helps to free up the tone of the instrument. Also, its resultant rich amber brown color makes an entirely fitting visual complement to the vintage leanings of this great Custom Banjo.
A Rare Bird, and Soaring High
The slow groundswell for five-string banjos before the war means that not many RB-75s were produced. Original pre-war RB-75s in excellent condition have been offered on the vintage market for as much as $150,000 — when they become available at all — and have soared out of the reach of ordinary musicians. The Limited Edition RB-75VL Custom Banjo makes this great model available again to players and collectors alike … but only for as long as they last. Each banjo comes with a shaped Gibson hardshell case and a Certificate of Authenticity.
Here are the full specs for the Limited Edition RB-75VL Custom Banjo:
Resonator – Mahogany with concentric marquetry rings
Binding – .080" white
Rim – Three-ply maple
Flange – One-piece
Coordinator rods – Steel
Tone ring – RB-75
Head – Remo 11-inch, medium crown
Bridge – Gibson
Wood – Mahogany
Scale length – 26.4 inches
Truss rod – Two-way adjustable with black “bell” cover
Peghead – Double cut (unbound)
Peghead face – Pearl Gibson inlay
Wood – Rosewood
Inlays – Pearl Gibson flying eagle
Nut – Bone, 1.2 inches wide
Plating – Nickel
Tailpiece – Presto
Tuning keys – V2 with ivoroid buttons
Tension hoop – Metal satin and gloss chrome plated, engraved
Color – Rich Amber Brown, vintage amber nitrocellulose lacquer
Case – Gibson shaped hardshell
Strings – Medium gauge
Other – Certificate of Authenticity
Click here for a closer look at the Limited Edition RB-75VL Custom Banjo!