Instruments & Gear: Instrument Demos

Osborne Maple Chief and Rocky Top Chief

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Two excellent reproductions of Sonny Osborne’s prewar Gibson flathead banjos.

by Teja Gerken
September 08, 2015

Sonny Osborne is a legend among bluegrass banjo players. Since 1988, he has offered a line of instruments under his own name, with maple, walnut, and “Rocky Top” (mahogany) versions of his Chief model (pricing starts at $4,395; info at Several parties have been involved in the making of Osborne banjos over the years. Currently, they are assembled by father-and-son luthier team Frank and Ricky Neat ( In this video, Peghead Nation banjo instructor Bill Evans demonstrates his personal Maple and Rocky Top models. “Folks have tried to make replicas of the prewar flathead Gibson Mastertones for decades now, and there are lots of good options available these days, but anything with Sonny Osborne’s and Frank Neat’s names on it, in terms of the quality control and the manufacturing, is worth checking out,” he says.

Designed as a replica of Osborne’s famous prewar Gibson flathead Granada banjo, the Maple Chief has a maple neck and resonator with authentic dimensions. The Rocky Top replicates Osborne’s prewar Gibson RB-3, with a mahogany neck and resonator.

Both instruments use rims made by Jimmy Cox, and contoured tone rings by Bill Blaylock. They have Frank Neat bridges, Remo heads, and Five-Star tuning pegs.

To study banjo with Bill Evans, enroll in his Beginning Banjo or Bluegrass Banjo courses now!

Category: Instruments & Gear

Comments and Discussion

Posted by Vian Primerano on
I prefer the Yates RS-33 Mahogany and the Huber Ron Block banjos.
Posted by Chuck Powell on
Mighty fine pickin there Bill ! From Chuck powell in Benton kansas .
Posted by Thomas Adler on
Bravo, Bill! Well presented and mighty informative, so *thanks,* pal . . .
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