Instruments - Remembering Paul Champion 5-String Banjo Master

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Paul's Banjos

In 2007 I heard that Paul's Granada was for sale for $150,000!!!!

That was the seed for this web site. I was in a position, shortly after Paul's passing, to be a middle man. A friend, who had bought the banjos from Paul's estate, was selling the Granada  AND the style 3 for $10,000. That was $9,999 more than I had at the time.

I was left with finding the right person (with the cash) to buy them. I found the very best person and was to take the banjos from one friend and deliver them to another.

On the way, I stopped overnight at my friend Billy Fielder's house. Billy and I took the following pictures. The next day I delivered Paul's banjos to the new owner, and twenty years later I'm sharing these pictures with all of Paul's friends.

--Bob Higginbotham

PB-Granada #558-1 on the left; RB-3 #9473-5 on the right

Paul's banjo instruction book.

Submitted by Paul Craft

OK, here's the story I got from Paul Craft. He bought the PB Granada in the 1970's from Nardi Mallet, who taught music lessons at Houck Music in Richmond, VA. Mallet claimed to be the original owner, and he sold the banjo to Paul for $750. Paul then took the banjo to George Gruhn, who claimed the cut sticker made it non-original. Paul got $800 from George, who then sold it (the next day, as Paul remembers) for $1,500. This banjo is #558-1, the same banjo Paul Champion owned & played for years until his death. It's up to YOU to fill in the story between Gruhn & Paul Champion!

To try and set the record straight--Paul’s first old Mastertone, that was bought from Ross Morgan, was in fact an original flathead RB-3---with a solid tone ring!!!!! It had been sent back to the Gibson factory by its original owner, and so it had an rb-250 fingerboard on it when Ross got it!!!! I have a picture that Paul took of Smiley Hobbs holding the banjo, very shortly after Paul got it from Ross!!!! Paul later drilled that original solid tone ring with 21 holes, not 20, and they were oversize also!!!!

The story Paul told me about Bob Dylan dropping his banjo and breaking the resonator is right from the horse's mouth!!!!

Tom Morgan found a 20's mahogany resonator for it, and a pre-war flange in mint condition for it, and built a fiddle-back mahogany neck for it and that is the way i saw it in 1965!!!

I became friends with Paul in 1966, and in 1970 I played upright bass with him at a club in Orlando called Anthony's for about three months, five nights a week, so I got a first-hand education from that experience!!!

In 1971, or 1972, I bought three original flatheads--a tenor Granada, a plectrum Granada, and a five-string original wreath flathead RB-3!!!!  I immediately sent the plectrum Granada to Paul, with a Randy wood five-string neck in the box!!!! That was indeed the plectrum Granada that Paul Craft had, and I got it with the other banjos mentioned above!!!!

When Paul died, I got both of his banjos, and Sonny sold both of them for me, and I guess R.C. Snoddy in California ended up with the Granada, and yes Curtis McPeake got Paul's three, and sold it to some kid in North Florida!!! Don't know who, and that is the end of the story from me!!!!!!                

Take care, and write when you can!!!       
As always, The Asheville Crasher---

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