This RB-75 J.D. Crowe Blackjack was crafted in 2004 by Gibson in Nashville. It’s part of a limited run and its genesis is a bit of a mystery. According to rumor, this banjo was going to be based on a 1940 gold-plated RB-75 that was special ordered by Mack Crow, an early three-finger-style banjo innovator from North Carolina. That banjo was the only gold-plated RB-75 that Gibson ever made. Also, much of the metal work was engraved, suggesting Gibson used hardware that was destined for a higher priced model. Anyway, for reasons that remain obscure, that replica never went into production. Instead, Gibson offered the model you see here. J.D. Crowe does indeed play an RB-75, but it doesn’t look anything like this. (Did Gibson just assume one Crowe, or Crow, was as good as another?)
The Blackjack has a number of unique features. Like the Mack Crow banjo, the metal parts are copper flashed, and then covered in thin satin gold plating. This gives the metal a darker sheen. The inlay on the headstock and fretboard is a pattern Gibson designed in the 1920s which was never used but has elements of the simpler Flying Eagle pattern. (J.D. Crowe’s 1938 RB-75 has Flying Eagle inlays.) The neck has a very distinct V-shape, which some players love, but a few find it hard to play. It also has a Sullivan 20-hole flathead tone ring. Overall, this banjo is in fine structural and cosmetic condition. There are a few very minor signs of having been handled and the gold plating is worn here and there, which lets the copper show through. There are railroad spikes at the 7th and 9th frets and the original J.D. Crowe signature truss rod cover, which is included, has been replaced with a pearl one. The original Presto tailpiece broke, a not uncommon occurrence, and it was replaced with a nickel one. The remains of the dead tailpiece are included. Includes the original Gibson hardshell case.