Gibson launched the Kel Kroydon line in 1930 as a budget-conscious brand of Kalamazoo-made instruments intended for department stores and catalogs. Although the origin of the name is unclear, Kel Kroydon instruments had striking aesthetics unlike other Gibson-made instruments.
The KK-11 was a tenor banjo very similar to the Gibson TB-11. This model featurse a Maple pot and Maple resonator, but it doesn't have a tone ring quite like the Mastertone designs. In place a heavy tone ring, the KK-11 has a simple brass hoop between the pot and head, and the hoop design gives it a slightly softer, more old-time sound. From there, the KK-11 has some of the most over-the-top details you could ask for—it has the same pearloid resontator as the TB-11, but it goes further with a pearloid fingerboard and a pearloid peghead overlay.
Like other prewar tenor banjos, the KK-11 is a highly-desirable candidate for 5-string conversion, and this early-'30s KK-11 was converted to a 5-string neck by Robin Smith of Heartland Banjos. Rob was able to fit the 5-string neck to the original 3-play Maple pot and tone hoop. In so doing, it needed a different flange, so Rob used one from a '50s Gibson. He also had to clean up the blue finish on the pot and edge of the resonator. From there, he set it up with a new head, new bridge, new tuners, and a vintage Grover 5-string tailpiece. He also added 5th string spikes on the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th frets. The old-time tone it produces is nuanced and haunting—connecting you with a different era of American music.
This 1930s Kel Kroydon KK-11 5-String Conversion captures the authentic sound of a prewar "tone hoop" banjo. It's decidedly different from a Mastertone—sweeter and more airy without the driving cut. It plays like a dream, and you'll be hard pressed to find a more eye-catching design. It includes a Crossrock fiberglass case.