View Full Version : Kel Kroydon by Gibson

Apr-13-2006, 7:04am
I saw this recently on ebay: A "Kel Kroydon" brand mandolin by Gibson.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws....IT&rd=1 (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=7405457751&rd=1&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&rd=1)

I am familiar with the "Kalamazoo" line by Gibson.

Does anyone have some background information on this line-wood quality, workmanship, sound etc.?

The painted-on pick guard looks pretty scary.



Jason Kessler
Apr-13-2006, 7:11am
What the...?

Apr-13-2006, 7:42am
Here's a recent article on the Kel Kroydon line:

Serious collectors and students of pre war banjos, guitars and mandolins know this odd name - Kel Kroydon. It was the brand used by the Gibson company in the early 1930s for their wooden toy division, later used as a brand for less expensive instruments as well. The Great Depression in the US was not kind to many small manufacturing companies, and Gibson was no exception. Despite the earlier popularity of the Gibson mandolin, the dawn of the 1930s found them with more mandolins than customers, and they turned to making toy sailboats to stay afloat.

These toy boats were sold to stores under this Kel Kroydon brand and Gibson soon began to make notably less expensive instruments available through mail order catalogs (like Sears and Montgomery Ward) using their newly fashioned Kalamazoo brand. Before long, Kel Kroydon instruments emerged as well, and banjos, guitars and mandolins were all made using this name.

The Kel Kroydon banjos did not use a tone ring, making them less expensive to produce. Instead, a thin, rolled brass tube was installed atop the rim, making the banjo appear quite similarly to the popular arch top tone ring banjos of the period. The Kels also were made with plastic, pearloid overlays on the resonators and fingerboards, and were painted with bright colors. For Gibson, the use of solid color paints and a pearloid laminates allowed them to use less attractive or evenly grained woods on the instruments - again lowering their price.

These Kel Kroydon instruments were only produced by Gibson for a few years, but Tom Mirisola of Stoneham, MA has resurrected the brand after obtaining the rights to produce instruments under the Kel Kroydon trademark. Tom is making three new Kel Kroydon banjo models, which retain the vintage look of these older banjos, but made to a higher standard of quality, and using a modern flathead tone ring. Tom retains the distinctive Kel Kroydon peghead shape, and the pearloid resonator and fingerboard - which he describes on his web site as MOTS, shorthand for the indelicate “mother of toilet seat” by which this ersatz pearl has been playfully known in the banjo world for some time.

Tom is proud to announce that he will have two of his new Kel Kroydon banjos on display in Nashville at the SPBGMA convention in February, his KK-11 and KK-46 models. He reports that banjo players have enthusiastically embraced his project, and that several have been sold simply based on word of mouth reports even before regular production began.

The new Kel Kroydon banjos are built in Nashville, TN in Robin Smith’s shop, and new owners can choose among a number of neck and rim options in creating their own vintage replica banjo.

Jim Hilburn
Apr-13-2006, 8:42am
When I saw Dakota Dave Hull several years ago, he was playing a Kel Kroydon flattop guitar.

Apr-13-2006, 9:47am
Nice summary Michael. I'll add that the Kel Kroydon banjo necks do not have a truss rod cover otherwise they were about identical to model 11 Gibson. Their value has increased quite a bit because they have a one-piece flange which makes a nice bluegrass banjo conversion.

Maybe the mandolins have some connection to the late 20's Fern.

Apr-13-2006, 9:59am
That article doesn't mention some things that I've heard in the past.
I heard that Kel Kroyden was a musician, and Gibson but that name on instruments, sort of like the Johnny Smith and Nick Lucas guitars. I didn't know about the sailboats.

I used to have a Kel Kroyden banjo. They were the same as a Gibson 11 (TB-11, RB-11) with a different name. The same banjo was also sold under the SS Stewart name, and I've seen at least one of those. I've also seen at least one Kel Kroyden guitar, but I don't remember seeing a mandolin.

The absence of the tone ring, the mother-of-toilet-seat fingerboard, and the finish were the only major differences between the 11s and the Mastertone banjos. The woods and hardware were the same quality, in general.

As I think about it, I've had three or four Kel Kroyden/TB11 banjos in the past. All of them had truss rods and covers.

Apr-13-2006, 10:34am
To clarify my comment, Gibson TB11's have truss rods and covers. Kel Kroydon banjos do not. Not to say there isn't one out there but I haven't seen one.

There's been speculation that Kel Kroydon was an entertainer or an employee of Gibson but nothing has been found yet to substantiate either. Someone even suggested it was the name of a boat located in Kalamazoo.

Apr-13-2006, 11:07am
To clarify my comment, the Kel Kroyden banjos that I've had did, in fact, have mother-of-toilet-seat truss rod covers.

Apr-13-2006, 12:01pm
Thanks for the interesting article. I am always amazed at how quickly questions get answered in the Cafe. It is interesting to think of the 'mandolin industry' of this period and its overall place within the boom and bust economies.

Apr-13-2006, 1:55pm
Check out this link. You can see some original KK banjos as well as the Truett, which is identical to the KK. One of these has a truss rod cover but it could be ornamental.
Check out the confused mutant "Style 11 Melody Banjo".


Apr-13-2006, 3:30pm
Thanks for that link. No truss rod covers on those.
Now I'm starting to suspect that my memory is faulty, and the ones that I had with covers were, in fact, Gibsons.
Maybe I only had one KK, I know I had one for sure, but it was a long time ago, and I didn't have it very long.
I believe you're right, lloydlore.

John Rosett
Apr-13-2006, 3:46pm
Now I'm starting to suspect that my memory is faulty, and the ones that I had with covers were, in fact, Gibsons.
Maybe I only had one KK, I know I had one for sure, but it was a long time ago, and I didn't have it very long.
I believe you're right, lloydlore.
i've heard that just holding a banjo will make your iq sink.

Michael Gowell
Apr-14-2006, 9:51pm
I believe Kel Kroyden may have been a bandleader of the '30's. #I was listening today to Maine Public Radio's weekly "50 Years ago Today" show where they play and review the #1 hit 80/70/60/50 etc. years ago on this date and read the front page headlines from the Bangor newspaper which people were reading on this day in history...

Anyway, thought I heard Kel Kroyden's name out of the corner of my ear this afternoon...which would place his hit in 1936 (unless it was 1931 - sometimes they go to the 5-year mark if lots of the #1 tunes didn't change from one week to the next during that year...or something like that...

May-03-2006, 7:37pm
Kel Kroydon (that is the correct spelling) was a name that Gibson originally put on a line of wooden pull toys they started manufacturing to get them through the depression. Later it became one of the Gibson "second lines". I believe they stopped making them in 1932 but don't hold me to that. The Gibson second lines also included Kalamzoo. The second lines came out under all sorts of labels, mainly for larger retailers (private label if you will). Gibson made Recording King instruments for a few short years that were sold by Montgomery Ward. That doesn't mean every Recording King was a Gibson, you can tell the difference when you look at them. The major difference between the first and second lines is that none of the second line instruments had truss rods. Beyond that they were generally an amalgamation of Gibson parts. I had a mid-thirties Recording King guitar a few years back that had a standard Gibson archtop body, a Kel Kroydon neck (even though they hadn't made a Kel Kroydon in three or four years) and the bridge was off an early 20's Gibson model. It looks like they looked around the factory and decided what to throw together to make the intrument. The names were almost always stencilled on the headstock. I've seen one inlaid Kalamazoo and I think it was modified. The instruments are still Gibsons and even without a truss rod the three or four I've had in the last few years have been excellent instruments. To give you an idea of the how many second lines there are (and I won't bore you with a full list of names, mainly because I'd have to kill you if I told you.... by the way, they're in the Gruhn book under Other brands made by Gibson) a pristine 30's Gibson second line instrument sold yesterday on eBay for about 350.00. One bidder. No mention that it was a Gibson and I'm willing to bet it will resurface in a few weeks at twice to three times that and be sold. By the way, it's generally assumed there was no Kel Kroydon. Nothing can be found with that name on it. No directory listings from the time, no show bills. One last note, the Gibson second lines were a way that Gibson could expand sales (not just to the large retailers) but it gave them a way to go around their own dealers and sell to other music stores. Frets.com has this Kel Kroydon guitar in the Museum. One like this was sold by Elderly last year (if I recall) for more than I care to think about.

A Kel on Frets.com (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Museum/Guitar/Gibson/KelKroydon/kelkroydon.html)

Desert Rose
May-19-2006, 7:22am
Toms application for trademark of the Kel Kroydon name was refused by the Patent and Trademark office earlier this year.


May-23-2006, 9:03pm
This one should stir the mandolinists pulse..
"Gibson Style 11 "Melody Banjo", circa 1930s"
on that turtle hill banjo site.