• Country Music Sale auction at Christies

    Sale 2276

    Country Music Sale

    3 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 140

    JOHN HARTFORD

    GIBSON INCORPORATED, A FIVE-STRING BANJO, RB-18, KALAMAZOO, MI., CIRCA 1938-1940

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    JOHN HARTFORD
    GIBSON INCORPORATED, A FIVE-STRING BANJO, RB-18, KALAMAZOO, MI., CIRCA 1938-1940
    The headstock inlaid Gibson, labeled on the pot GIBSON MASTERTONE GUARANTEE __________. GIBSON INC. KALAMAZOO, MICH., stamped 413-2, and inscribed by hand on the pot HARTFORD 2671 LA CUESTA HOLLYWOOD, CAL and SPRUNG 255 W. 88TH ST. N.Y.C., diameter of the head 10 15/16 in. (278 mm) with case accompanied by a tension key and label faintly inscribed John Hartford and a second faint unreadable inscription. (2)


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    Roger Sprung was a permanent fixture of New York's folk music revival in the 1950's and 60's and today continues to teach and perform. A member of the short lived Shanty Boys, he along with Hal Wylie, was a founding member of the Progressive Bluegrassers. His ground breaking style, compositions and the transposing of non-traditional repertoire for the 5-string banjo would lay the foundation for the "Newgrass" movement.
    In conversations with Roger Sprung he remembers owning the banjo and selling it in 1969 to a R.H. Lane of Savanna Georgia.
    In recent conversations with Randy Wood, confounder of the Nashville instrument dealers and restorers GTR, Mr. Wood remembers that R.H. "Harry" Lane had used this instrument as a model for the top-tension banjos he was producing at the time. Mr. Wood recalls purchasing the banjo from Harry Lane in 1971 and after showing it to John Hartford, sold it to him that same year.

    Though no documentation exists regarding its purchase by John Hartford, his son, Jamie Hartford, recalls the instrument fondly and remembers that this was one of his main stage banjos through the '70's and 80's and was always kept in standard 'G' tuning. It is believed that this banjo, along with a Doc Cullis Low Banjo, was used in the recording of his 1977 LP All In The Name Of Love.

    By the mid 1980's Hartford had shifted his focus to the wood rim banjos, first made for him by Geoff Stelling. With the recording of Gum Tree Canoe released in 1984 and Hartford's desire for a more traditional string-band sound the RB-18 saw less use. The banjo was sold by Hartford through the Nashville shop of George Gruhn. It has been in the present owner's possession since 1984.

    Saleroom Notice

    The catalogue lot description should read CIRCA 1938-1940.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Celebrated for having penned the 1967 #1 Hit Gentle on My Mind, John Hartford is regarded as the avatar of the "Newgrass" banjo. Like Roger Sprung before him, his work would inspire the next generation of players like Tony Triska and Bela Fleck. A master of the banjo along with, fiddle and guitar Hartford was raised in St. Louis, Missouri where he drew much inspiration from his surrounding, specifically the Mississippi River and the stories around it. He moved to Nashville in 1965 where he found work as a DJ on a local radio station. Not long after his move he was signed to a recording contract with RCA and released his debut album in 1966, John Hartford Looks at Life. followed by Earthwords and Music in 1967 but it was his 1971 LP Aereo-plain that made bluegrass history. In 1975 Hartford's solo album, Mark Twang, won a Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording. Hartford's career also included time spent as a writer-performer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, providing voice-over for PBS's documentary The Civil War series as well as a music consultant and recorded artist for the film