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.”
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