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Recently, we've been lucky to come across not one but two excellent Gibson tenor conversions here at the Denver Folklore Center, which lets three-finger players have a shot at the vintage, pre-war Gibson sound without having to learn to play a four-string. As most resonator banjos before the invention of bluegrass were tenors, converting them into five-strings has become a hobby for a lot of luthiers interested in seeing what the decades-old maple and legendary pre-war craftsmanship sound like in the hands of a modern picker. This 1927 TB-3 is a great example of what a fine conversion can sound like, with an archtop head and a no-hole Mastertone tone ring to add punch and clarity to the already brilliant sound of the maple neck and mahogany pot. This is the real deal - a complex, twangy sound highly reminiscent of Ralph Stanley and Doug Dillard made available to modern players at last by the hand of a talented luthier who fashioned a smooth, sleek new neck.
The TB-3 plays very well and shows no signs of repairs post-conversion. The pot, resonator, and all hardware south of the neck joint save for the tailpiece are original. There is a moderate amount of scuffing on the back of the resonator as well as the neck, as would be consistent with any banjo nearing its centennial, but condition overall is very good, and the finish has held up extremely well. The fretboard inlays are non-original, and it's not clear whether the headstock inlays were salvaged from the original instrument or whether they are reproductions made by the person who did the conversion. We do not believe that the Earl Scruggs signature on the head is authentic, but its authenticity cannot be definitively determined. We consider this instrument to be in very good condition. Included in the price is a non-original Superior hard-shell case, which is quite protective and fits the banjo very well.