Gold Star GF-100JD J.D. Crowe Banjo
The new Gold Star GF-100JD banjo has a venerable history. In 1980 Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Bobby Hicks and Todd Phillips went into the studio record a collection of their favorite traditional bluegrass songs. The record was intended to be a one-shot effort, a tribute to traditional bluegrass by five master musicians. The Bluegrass Album, as the LP was called, became an instant classic and over the decades it earned a reputation as one of the best sounding bluegrass records ever made.
A huge part of the sound of The Bluegrass Album was J.D. Crowe’s banjo picking. For the session, Crowe borrowed a prewar Gibson RB-3 from Richard Keldsen, the founder of Saga Music. Keldsen’s RB-3 had a no-hole flathead tone ring, a scarce variation of the highly sought after legendary tone ring. The RB-3 had a clear, ringing tone, loads of sustain and a distinct sweetness that pickers have been trying to replicate ever since Crowe laid down his tracks all those years ago.
Keldsen’s Saga Music makes Gold Star banjos and for the past few years he has been trying to create an affordable version of his RB-3. The new Gold Star GF-100JD is the result of those efforts. (The JD stands for J.D. Crowe and each instrument has a label signed by the banjoist.) Like the vintage banjo that inspired it, the GF-100JD has a mahogany neck and resonator, a 3-ply maple rim and a no-hole cast tone ring. The GF-100JD closely replicated the traditional V-shaped neck, and the deep-arch, tapered-wall resonator of Keldsen’s RB-3. The GF-100JD is a well built banjo that captures much of the feel and tone of the vintage banjo that inspired it.