Gibson 1924 Master Model TL-4 Tenor Lute
Not very much written information is available about Gibson's Master Model Tenor Lutes and few are known to exist. In fact the only data that is published by the company appears in 1924's Catalog O. Catalog O provides a nice write-up of the TL-1, but never touches on the TL-4.
Both TL-1 and TL-4 are very similar in design. Besides the lacking of binding on the back of the TL-1, they are both members of the mandolin family and were both given 'Master Model' labels(although interestingly enough, Tenor Lutes were never signed by Lloyd Loar).
The TL-1 and TL-4 were produced between 1920-1924 and according to information online, there were approximately 89 made. There are no numbers given on how many models of each TL-1 and TL-4 there were.
According to 1924's Catalog O, 'A new instrument, with the single stringing scale, tuning and technique of the tenor-banjo, but with the tone of the guitar magnified several hundred per cent'.
According to Gibson's Catalog O:
'Thus the tenor-banjoist can double immediately and secure wholly different effects without learning to play a new instrument. The Gibson tenor-lute is the greatest boon to the tenor-banjoist yet devised and has met with immediate acclaim, being used in daily playing and in recording work.
Of Gibson Master construction throughout, embodying the 'f' sound-holes, large sounding-board with bridge in the center, correctly tuned air-chamber, bass and treble tone bars-all making possible a tone as powerful and penetrating as that of the Gibson Tenor Banjo, TB-5, with the piquant charm and singing richness of the L-5 guitar.
Best of materials; top of straight grained spruce, natural finish (cermona brown on the TL-4); back and rim hard white maple, antique mahogany, shaded to natural on the neck; pearl position dots inlaid in solid ebony finger-board; special internal gear friction pegs. Top (and bottom on the TL-4)bound with white ivoroid; brown shell finger rest.
Its practical value to the orchestra player or soloist, as well as its beauty of effects, assures for it a popularity unprecedented in the history of fretted instrument building'.