One of the most famous instruments in the history of bluegrass music is, arguably, the “Banger,” the 1929 Gibson Mastertone played by J.D Crowe on everything from classic Jimmy Martin numbers to the seminal Rounder 0044. A quick Google search turns up dozens of results from fans sharing stories about the time they got to play the banjo at a festival or instrument shop, and a common refrain is that while it always sounds good, not even the best picker can get it to sound quite like Crowe!
The banjo has recently been loaned to the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, where it is currently on display as part of their permanent exhibit. The RB-3 no-hole flathead, serial number 9467-5, is set-up with a few other pieces of Crowe memorabilia, including a Bluegrass Album Band tour jacket, tuners, and an LP copy of Rounder 0044. Interestingly, it’s the newer version of 0044 – in addition to the infamous photo on the first cover, the band was originally listed as simply “The New South” during the album’s first run.
If you make the trek to Owensboro to check out the “Banger” firsthand, you’ll also get to check out a number of other well-known instruments from the bluegrass and traditional music world, including Uncle Pen’s fiddle and a banjo from Pete Seeger. For more information on the museum, visit them online at www.bluegrassmuseum.org or on Facebook.