Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mandolins, ain't they pretty

1929 A-0 Gibson

1914/18 Gibson A-1

Mandolins are just pretty instruments. Orvillle Gibson was a kook, but he knew what he liked and he built a new and different mandolin...and they caught on. The above are examples of the old Gibson "A" series.

 I finagled, swapped, and even got a job once, to buy my first Gibson A, which I sold to upgrade. I've gotten old enough to realize the right mandolins came to me and will always be with me...Janice calls them the "girls".

I started  playing an old Kay Kraft, a junker, in those days, but as I think back, a unique instrument. Old Freddy Goodhart gave it to me, bless him. He said not a thing about the size of my digits, but taught me Soldiers Joy, Ragtime Annie, and Mississippi Sawyer. I was on my own, and developed the "Fat Finger Method of Mandolin". I eventually bought an A- 3 Gibson White Face from Freddy. I still have it. I know, I know, you can only play one at a time, but they all have a different voice.

I have always wondered who bought my mandolins new in 1914 or 1923, and what tunes did that someone teach them. They are all well played, as is evidenced by the fret wear, and tuner wear. Sometimes things come out of the old 1914 A that I know I didn't put there. Little ghostly things that make my fingers do things that I don't think I know how.

I've always been partial to the round hole "punkin seed" models as opposed the the "F" , or Florentine model  pictured below. They are pretty, and bark...but they lack the warmness and tone of the "A".  to me.

I guess the most famous one is the old F-5 of Bill Monroe's. It was tragically smashed to bits with a fire poker in a break in at Bill's house...but was restored. There has been an offer made to James Monroe, Bill's son, of 1.25 million for it. It is now resides deposit box, James' ownership under contention, as someone says they have a contract signed that would allow the sale. Who knows the whole story. Poor old mandolin, it just wants to get on the road again

 I sure hope mine don't have to put up with that kind of quibbling when I'm gone...guess I'll have to give 'em to somebody, or everybody. Damn.Decisions, decisions, decisions. Janice Faye will get her pick.

An F 5 Gibson., no it ain't Bill Monroe's

I've played a lot of mandolins, but they really have to speak to me before I consider buying one. They are very personal instruments.  I bought a couple on line once; one was a pleasant experience; the other, a disaster. Education is an expensive thing.

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