Instruments & Gear: Instrument Demos

Ralph Stanley’s Gibson RB-5 Reissue

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Bill Evans demonstrates a Greg Rich–built Gibson RB-5 reissue owned by the late Ralph Stanley.

by Teja Gerken
February 23, 2017

Bluegrass banjo legend Ralph Stanley, who passed away recently, famously played a 1929 Gibson RB-5 banjo from about 1962 to the mid-1970s. With an archtop tone ring (click here for a separate demo of archtop and flathead tone rings), two-piece flange, walnut resonator and neck, and gold plating, the RB-5 not only has a deluxe look, it also has a distinctively bright, sharp sound. In the late 1980s, under the direction of luthier and designer Greg Rich (who ran Gibson’s custom shop from 1987 to 1993), Gibson introduced an RB-5 reissue, the first of which was presented to Ralph. In this video, Peghead Nation banjo instructor Bill Evans demonstrates this very instrument, which is now owned by a collector in Northern California.

Hand-built by Rich, this RB-5 closely resembles Ralph’s vintage RB-5. Besides the model’s distinctive construction elements, it includes extensive engraving on the stretcher band, armrest, and tailpiece; wreath-pattern fingerboard and headstock inlay; and a wood inlay on the back of the headstock.

Bill discusses the history of Ralph’s vintage RB-5, as well as the story of this RB-5 reissue, and performs the Ralph Stanley classic “Fling Ding.”

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


Category: Instruments & Gear

Comments and Discussion

Posted by Fredrick Lawrence on
how many of these RB-5 reissue models were made by Gibson? Are they still being made?s
Posted by Don Couchie on
Lovely sounding banjo, it sounds just like the original.

Don Couchie.
Posted by Mark Byrum on
Good job, Bill. My old Kel Kroyden banjo was originally converted to a 5-string with the RB-5 wreath inlay pattern and Fiddle shaped peghead back in 1973. Sadly the neck develpedd a twist and a bow and had to be replaced. It was certainly, like that one you are demonstrating, a pretty banjo.
Mark Byrum
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