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Thread: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Hello! I'm hoping someone can help me in this search for info on a Gibson mandolin. This photo was in the booklet from the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds Sessions" box set. Barney Kessel is holding what looks like a Gibson mandolin with 12 strings, and the instrument appears to be acoustic since a microphone is placed near the F hole just at the bottom of the shot and I see no signs of a pickup. I have found little information on this instrument other than this photo, and I've been looking for other photos and answers for years.



    Was this a production model Gibson that would have been in their catalog, or was this a custom order for Barney, or even another session musician? Was this instrument electric, or acoustic? What year or era does it appear to be by the features shown in the photo? The only guess I can offer is that it may be closer to a Vox Mandoguitar, where it is tuned like a guitar but strung in pairs like a mandolin minus the octave strings of a normal 12-string.

    Thank you in advance for any help or info, as this info could help settle a lot of questions and discussions. Specifically, one of them is whether this very instrument could have been used by Barney to play the intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" on Pet Sounds.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Nifty. Scale looks longer than mandolin, more like a kind of alto guitar range (A to a'?). Maybe he wanted a 12-string guitar pitched higher, and Gibson found it easier to use a mandolin or mandola body than to design one from scratch.

    This would also give him mandolin sound for playing melodic parts without the hassles of learning the tuning. Six-string banjos exist for the same reason.

    We may have heard this on records, jingles and sound tracks passing for guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, and heaven knows what else.

    Does the truss-rod cover say "custom"?

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    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by guitarfool2002 View Post
    and I've been looking for other photos and answers for years.
    Me too!!

    Quote Originally Posted by guitarfool2002 View Post
    ....this very instrument could have been used by Barney to play the intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" on Pet Sounds.
    The very out-of-tune intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice"....

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    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Did Tommy Tedesco have something to do with that?

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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by delsbrother View Post
    Did Tommy Tedesco have something to do with that?
    Same coast, but wrong cluster. Listen to those great tracks by the Coasters - Little Egypt, Shoppin' for Clothes, Searchin', Charlie Brown, Down In Mexico, Yakety Yak, Poison Ivy, Young Blood, Along Came Jones, Three Cool Cats, and so on. He was in that crew. Session personnel included: Jerry Leiber (vocals); Allen Hanlon (acoustic guitar); Sonny Clarke (electric guitar); George Barnes (guitar, banjo, bass); Barry Kessel, Adolph Jacobs (guitar, etc.); King Curtis, Gil Bernal (tenor saxophone); Mike Stoller (piano); Wendell Marshall, Ralph Waldo Hamilton (bass); Gary Chester, Jesse Sailes, Joe Marshall, Bernard Purdie (drums); Chico Guerrero (congas). Not the Wrecking Crew.

    Kessel was one of the guys Gibson liked, and to whom they floated prototypes and custom instruments.
    .
    ph

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  6. #6

    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    I've never thought that the intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" was played on any fretted instrument. It sounds more like a harp to me.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Thanks for the replies so far!

    I thought the truss rod cover may say "custom" as well, it's too bad a better quality photo hasn't been found. It would make perfect sense to have a custom instrument such as that made for session work, so you could play and read standard guitar tuning with the mandolin (or banjo) sound.

    I've also heard Tommy Tedesco call it his "plectrum tuning", which basically meant tuning any non-guitar stringed instrument like a guitar and reading the notes. I'm guessing a lot of the mandolin parts on film sessions, TV themes and scores, etc. which feature Tommy playing mandolin were done this way, at least according to what Tommy himself said in the past. And if a more authentic part was called for, he'd bow out and recommend an expert on that instrument for the session. But for Barney Kessel, having a 12-string mando-guitar would seem to be a pretty helpful tool in the studio.

    The Wouldn't It Be Nice intro, from what can be heard on the session tapes, consisted of (most likely) two 12-string electrics, one played high and one played low. If not, the other possibility is one definite 12-string electric played low, and perhaps a Mandoguitar type of instrument covering the high part. Later in the song that's joined by an acoustic rhythm guitar and an electric doubling the bass line. The players listed were Jerry Cole, Barney Kessel, Bill Pitman on guitars, and Ray Pohlman, Carol Kaye, and Lyle Ritz on basses.

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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Kessler View Post
    I've never thought that the intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" was played on any fretted instrument. It sounds more like a harp to me.
    It's so out of tune, I can't imagine it's a harp, or even BK playing anything. But there's a mandolin-ish sound later in that mix that could be him playing that thing.
    .
    ph

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  9. #9

    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    On that "Pet Sounds" album there is an instrumental song with a xylophone and something that sounds kind of mandolin like.

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    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Hostetter View Post
    It's so out of tune.....
    I love that kind of stuff, mainly because you never here such a thing on modern recordings...
    Hell, you could sample that intro, loop it, and have yourself something that sounded like it came out of Bamako...

    Hard to get something like that successfully to tape these days, much less on a hit record....

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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    True that.
    .
    ph

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    Registered User Chip Booth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by guitarfool2002 View Post
    The Wouldn't It Be Nice intro, from what can be heard on the session tapes, consisted of (most likely) two 12-string electrics, one played high and one played low. If not, the other possibility is one definite 12-string electric played low, and perhaps a Mandoguitar type of instrument covering the high part. Later in the song that's joined by an acoustic rhythm guitar and an electric doubling the bass line. The players listed were Jerry Cole, Barney Kessel, Bill Pitman on guitars, and Ray Pohlman, Carol Kaye, and Lyle Ritz on basses.
    I just listened to this intro out of curiosity as I hadn't heard it in a long time. It sounds like a completely unrelated, experimental use of a recording to me, it's not in the same key, or time, or anything as the rest of the recording, and I see no reason to assume the Beach Boys and these particular sessions players were even the ones who recorded it. For all I can tell it could be a processed music box and the out of tuneness is tape warble.

    Spruce I still hear experimental little intros and things all over the place these days, but I listen to a lot of off the path prog rock and things like that. Some recent pop music does things like this such as the opening sounds of Sheryl Crow's self titled album.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    The classic beautiful beginning to such a wonderful song, i would love to have one of these !!

  14. #14
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    You just revived a thread that's been slumbering for two years. And it's still out of tune after all these years.
    .
    ph

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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Barney Kessel was good friends with my Dad. Pop probably had some insight to these questions. I wish he were still here...
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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Sorry for the bump. Collateral damage from another thread.

    It's not out of tune - it's a key change, from A to F.

    "Wouldn't It Be Nice" begins with an eight-beat introduction in the key of A major.[8] Following a single drum hit, the song shifts to the remote flat submediant key of F.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by delsbrother View Post
    Did Tommy Tedesco have something to do with that?
    Quote Originally Posted by guitarfool2002 View Post

    I've also heard Tommy Tedesco call it his "plectrum tuning", which basically meant tuning any non-guitar stringed instrument like a guitar and reading the notes. I'm guessing a lot of the mandolin parts on film sessions, TV themes and scores, etc. which feature Tommy playing mandolin were done this way, at least according to what Tommy himself said in the past.
    I had a chance to talk to Tedesco at a workshop in the 80's, and indeed he tuned EVERYTHING like a guitar or at least the top 4 strings of a guitar - his mandolin was tuned DGBE.

  21. #19

    Default Re: Barney Kessel Playing A Gibson 12 String Mandolin?

    Speaking of being out of tune--I've always felt the Beach Boys harmony singing was slightly out of tune, but they never seem to get called out on it? It always catches my ear to the point where I almost feel it may have been intentional and by design? Kind of a "hook" if you will. Or, maybe it was just the nasal-y, whiney voice of youthful exuberance.....anyone else hear that?

    PS: I know Brian Wilson was/is a genius, and all.....

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