Gibson Style UB Banjo Ukulele (1924)

Gibson  Style UB Banjo Ukulele  (1924)
$1,450.00 + shipping
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Item # 11393
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Gibson Style UB Model Banjo Ukulele (1924), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 11187A-49, natural lacquer finish, maple neck and rim, ebonized fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This is a very well-preserved example of a fairly rare Gibson oddity: the 1924-5 "Style UB". This small 4-string instrument was only produced briefly in this period as Gibson's first effort to attract players of the then hugely popular ukulele. It appears to be built from parts designed for the company's earlier 9" rim banjo-mandolin, but fitted out with four gut strings instead of steel. As the 8-string instrument was fading from popularity at the time, this must have seemed a logical move!

The UB has shared many features with Gibson's other early 1920s banjos, most notably the "trap door" resonator and recently developed coordinator rod system. It is very well-made as is standard with 1920s Gibsons, with a relatively heavy maple rim and neck. The fingerboard has quite narrow spacing at the nut, with a feel more like a mandolin than a uke. The instrument is finished in natural maple overall with good quality nickel-plated hardware including the standard vertical uke pegs. This example has the rather boxy slab-sided headstock design used on some of these with an odd multi-colored Stencil "The Gibson" script logo.

By 1926 Gibson introduced a dedicated line of standard ukulele instruments, including four banjo ukes with more conventional 6"-8" rims, and this model "UB" was no more -- it was only in production for a year or so. The instrument's mandolin-like neck is very slim and the 9" rim gives a sound both powerful and sweet. The hinged plate resonator on the back can be locked either open or closed and is actually a surprisingly useful feature. In the open position it acts a bit like a monitor, sending some plunking goodness right towards the player's head! The "Style UB" is a fairly obscure piece but remains a unique banjo-uke and a very cool piece of Gibson history, and this is a superb example.
Overall length is 23 1/4 in. (59.1 cm.), 9 in. (22.9 cm.) diameter head, and 2 7/16 in. (6.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This UB is very nicely preserved overall, with some very minor finish checking but very clean plating and not much play wear. There is some minor capo wear in the first position on the back of the neck, and the culprit is still in the case! It is all original except for what look like an extra hole drilled in the rim to re-locate the tailpiece vertically long ago. It is set up with a good skin head and NylGut strings and is a neat-sounding banjo; not as shrill as many similar instruments. Sweeter sounding than many banjo-ukes, this is still a resolutely cheerful instrument 99 years along and a cool find in an early Gibson banjo. It is housed in what appears to be an original hard case, despite a somewhat inexact fit, with that old "neck eater" spring capo in the pocket, thankfully rarely used! Excellent Condition.