After spending a decade defunct, the “Mastertone” banjo is back, and it’s no longer a Gibson. Wayne Rogers of Gold Tone Music Group has trademarked “Mastertone,” and released a new line of offshore made instruments bearing the name.
This first came to many fans’ attention a few days ago after an online discussion sprung up that was prompted by printed materials from Gold Tone that featured the insignia “Mastertone ™”
In 1925 Gibson released a new line of banjos they labeled as Mastertones. For the next 85 years, Gibson’s American-made Mastertones set the mark for nearly every other 5 string banjo to be measured. Today many of these instruments are still regarded as the best of the best, a pinnacle of instrument design, and would likely still be in production if not for the 2010 Nashville flood that led to Gibson’s closing of the banjo division. Virtually every banjo master has played and recorded with a Gibson Mastertone: Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Ralph Stanley, JD Crowe, Sonny Osborne, Bill Emerson, Raymond Fairchild, and so on. The rest of the list would be exhaustive to write and read!
Over time, the moniker Mastertone became synonymous with Gibson. There was never a need to trademark the name Mastertone – that’s just what Gibson banjos were. That’s exactly how Rogers ended up owning the name. Simply put, Gibson hadn’t made them for quite a long time, and the name wasn’t copyrighted, at least with reference to banjos. Rogers sought the copyright, and after working with a violin company who also used the name Mastertone, he received the first official trademark of the name on fretted instruments.
Now, Gold Tone has released a complete line of Mastertone instruments that include banjos, mandolins, and both acoustic and resophonic guitars. The instruments are available at reasonable prices, with banjos ranging in the $1500-2500 range.
We hope to learn more about the new line of Mastertones in the coming weeks, and will share more information as it becomes available.