Here's nice set of pictures from Christian Seguret of "The Rinzler Fern", often Big Mon's stage mando for "Get up John".
Perpetually cross-tuned? I had to laugh when I read the part about the b*njo player being assigned to tuning it. Nice pics. Thanks.
Christian, did you scoop it?
Alan : no, I did not scoop it, I would not dare do that! The mandolin had the last frets removed on the extension when I got it, and I got used to it. That change (and other cosmetic differences) must have occured between the time Ralph passed away and the mandolin for first for sale at Gruhn's in 1994 (I took pictures then)and the time I acquired it in 2002. The fret height (or therefore absence of it) makes a big difference, I find, to avoid click noise. It's also an easily reversible operation.
Evan : unfortunately, I think the fact Rinzler got it from Monroe himself is one of those long-lived bluegrass legends. According to David Grisman, who knew Rinzler well at the time, he got it while he was on tour up North, and bought it from an unknown owner. The little story on Dan's site is a resume of tons of information I gathered about the instrument from Darryl Wolfe, Tom Insenhour, Richard Smith, David Grisman, Jim Rooney, Bill Keith, and yourself, Alan!. They were very generous with their time, my thanks to all of them.
Forgot to mention that the strap on the picture is one of those 'roo straps, from AlanN. Best strap I've ever hard, and definitly worthy of that mandolin!
You can hear this mandolin on the CD floating around of the Monroe 1965 workshop he did with Pete Rowan at one of the Virginia festivals. Ralph introduces him and messes with the microphones. It's pure, unadulterated Big Mon.
I remember when Gruhn had this mando for sale. If I could only go back in time
When I went to see Ralph and his Fern in DC in mid-80's he told me he got it from the original owner. Ralph pretty much kept in the conditon he got it. He was not one to do much polish work on it. Ralph and I remained good friends until his untimely death. He was truly a great asset to the preservation of bluegrass and old time music. I remember he was a judge at the Union Grove Convention one time and when judging he would walk around listing to the contestants vs. sitting with the other judges. He didn't want the their influence on his decision.
Everybody I spoke with who had known Rinzler insisted on the fact he was a wonderful person, knowledgeable, generous, open-minded, and extremely funny. A quick google search gives you an idea of the many fields he has studied and written about during his stint at the Smithonian, but also the numerous artists he has recorded with.
A little piece of trivia about the mandolin : there is a tag inside the case, very official looking, that states : "Recovered property. Owner : Paul (?) Rinzler. Name of Officer : Dailey" The date looks like 4/4/85 (could be 65). So it looks like the mandolin might have been lost (or stolen) at some point. Whoever you are, thanks Mr Dailey!
As I recall, the mandolin did get stolen for a while. I first met him and saw the mandolin at Berryville in 66 or 67. Some hot young whippersnapper named Andrew? Townsend from England played Rawhide on it and brought the house down
I remember, a couple years ago, when I spent some time examining this mandolin I wondered how low the arching of the top was (and shallow recurve) even comparing to new Gibsons. Is this mandolin made using the original Loar templates or the newer Fern that are higher? I also think that the edges of the binding were less than 3/16" standard. F5journal, do you have some notes on this?
Otherwise, it is very nice old Gibson.
That's an early fern that has more of the Loar arching. The later ones are higher, and I think Gibson has accounted for this in their new Fern. The higher arching of ferns is the reason so many have a low bridge/appear to need a neck reset
Yes, if I compare the arch of this mandolin to one I previously owned (#85146, a '27), there is a big difference just like you describe, Darryl. The bridge was quite low on the '27. Was it a gradual change or did it happen all at once. If so can you date it?
I can't date it exactly..but it's certainly safe to say all 85xxx's were higher. There was also the typical anomolies though....such as a number of 87xxx are low..but they also have a more Loar looking finish....go figure
this instrument for sale on the cafe a couple years ago for ? was it $60k. i would say based on Mr Rinzlers contributions to Mr Monroe this might be the 2nd most historically important Loar. comments?
Cutbait2, I wish you were right, but lets face it :
Firstly, this mandolin is not a signed Loar but a 1926 Gibson Master Model F-5, shipped several months after Lloyd Loar signed his last instrument.
Then, we have to consider that Monroe played several other mandolins on a regular basis througout his career : his other Loar, the 1964 F-5, Randy Wood #3, and others I'm sure.
This been said, I don't deny that this mandolin is loaded with mojo, an incredible past and lots of stories to say. I feel it each time I pick it up and I feel extremely lucky to own it.
i guess I should have read my copy of the F-5 journal more carefully or clicked on the link in the first post. Thanks for the pictures. BC
I think the mandolin was stolen in 1984. It used to live under the piano bench in Ralph's front room. Ralph always seemed to have a bunch of odd people staying at his house on Capitol Hill, including myself for a time while we were working on a book together. From what I've heard, someone decided they needed money and tried to pawn his mandolin and banjo. The mandolin was quickly found, but I don't think Ralph ever recovered his prized Tubaphone banjo.
Ralph was a complicated genius not unlike his friend, Bill Monroe. Someone should write a book about him, though he once told that's the last thing he ever wanted to happen.
Robert H. Sayers
Ralph told me that he started out attending Monroe's performances at various country parks around Maryland in the late 1950s and early 1960s. #He tried to talk to Bill on several occasions, but the latter was pretty standoffish toward northern folkies. #Eventually Mike Seeger arranged a meeting between the two in a bowling alley restaurant. #I may be wrong about this, but I think Ralph had already written his now-famous article about Monroe for Sing Out! magazine in which he referred to the latter for the first time as the "Father of Bluegrass." #That apparently broke the ice and eventually they became friends. #
Ralph later promised Bill that he'd help him write his autobiography. #Despite massive encouragement from friends, Ralph could never quite get the thing written. #It's really sad in retrospect, as he felt that he had let Bill down. #Fortunately, though, much of the information in Ralph's taped interviews was eventually incorporated in Richard D. Smith's biography of Monroe. #
Robert H. Sayers
Oh, another interesting "Ralph story" just came back to me. Back in the mid-'60s, he told me, a couple of police officers stopped him late one night along a stretch of rural southern road. They were suspicious of his New York license plates and were giving him a bit of a hard time. They rifled through his glove compartment until they happened on some Monroe-related items. Learning that Rinzler was Bill Monroe's road manager, they treated him to a steak dinner and sent him on his way! At least that's how I remember the story.
Robert H. Sayers