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The David Grisman Interview - Part II

By Mandolin Cafe
October 3, 2010 - 8:01 pm

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I also treasure Rudy Cipolla's Stradolin which he preferred to his Gibson.

Rudy Cipolla and Sam Grisman with Rudy's Stradolin (1995)

Rudy Cipolla with Stradolin and Sam Grisman

Rudy Cipolla and Sam Grisman with Rudy's Stradolin (1995). Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

I shocked Sam Bush one time while we were working in my studio when I opened a case to reveal Ira Louvin's unique Martin 2-15 which he himself had customized with pearl inlaid flames surrounding the f-holes, pearl binding and his own "IRA" in the headstock. Sam had been commenting earlier that afternoon about this instrument when he noticed it in a photo of the Louvin Brothers hanging on the studio wall.

1947 Martin 2-15 (customized by Ira Louvin)

1947 Martin 2-15 customized by Ira Louvin

1947 Martin 2-15 (customized by Ira Louvin). Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

Louvin Brothers on stage at the Grand Ole Opry

Louvin Brothers on stage at the Grand Ole Opry

Louvin Brothers on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

Although they aren't mandolins, I have two 5-string banjos that mean a lot to me: Ralph Rinzler's Vega tubaphone No. 3 and Charles Sawtelle's 1927 Granada Mastertone, which he left me. I gave Diz Disley's Selmer guitar to Tracy as a wedding present and still have Martin Taylor's custom Benedetto archtop which he traded me for a D'Angelico Excel, not to mention one of Ukelele Ike's ukeleles.

I shouldn't leave out "Lil Pup," the one-of-a-kind Gibson 2-point made in the late 20s/early 30s with a short neck with F-5 length rosewood fingerboard appointed with F-10/12 inlays and two extra sound holes shaped like apostrophes. What were they thinking?

"Lil Pup," shown on Hold On, We're Strummin'

Lil Pup

"Lil Pup," shown on Hold On, We're Strummin'. Photo courtesy of Lowell Levinger.

There's a bowl-back made in 1929 by John D'Angelico, and a possibly-one-of-a-kind custom Gibson 10-string F-4 made in 1912, and Al Bloom's 1916 A-4 Gibson, seemingly re-necked circa 1925 with 12-strings (four courses of three identically-tuned strings). Talk about a tuning nightmare!

1929 D'Angelico Bowl Back

1929 D'Angelico Bowl Back

1929 D'Angelico Bowl Back. Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

1916/25 Gibson A-4 Custom 12-string Mandolin formerly owned by Al Bloom

1916/25 Gibson A-4 Custom 12-string Mandolin

1916/25 Gibson A-4 Custom 12-string Mandolin. Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

1912 Gibson Custom F-4 10-string Mandolin

1912 Gibson Custom F-4 10-string Mandolin

1912 Gibson Custom F-4 10-string Mandolin. Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

I also have a few tenor guitars, tenor (and 5-string) banjos, mandolin-banjos, tenor lutes (including an atypical 8-string Gibson TL-4 that was never catalogued) and mandocellos, including one of my brainchildren, the "Super 800" converted from a 1935 Gibson Super 400. I never have owned a mando-bass though! And you thought you had MAS!!!!

1924 Gibson TL-4 8-string Tenor Lute

1924 Gibson TL-4 8-string Tenor Lute

1924 Gibson TL-4 8-string Tenor Lute. Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

1935 Gibson "Super 800" (conversion)

1935 Gibson Super 800 conversion

1935 Gibson "Super 800" (conversion). Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

Question from Sgarrity: Any teasers for future Acoustic Oasis mandolin releases?

From the soon-to-be-released Acoustic Oasis project Red Allen and The Kentuckians. From the soon-to-be-released Acoustic Oasis project Red Allen and The Kentuckians.

David Grisman: Sure. I'm working on a whole slew of 'em.

Here's a track from a live radio show that we'll be releasing shortly, one of my first gigs with Red Allen and the Kentuckians, on Pete Wernick's "Bluegrass Special" radio show (when he was a student at Columbia University) originally broadcast on March 20, 1966:

Pike County Breakdown

David Grisman with Red Allen and the Kentuckians.

And here's a track featuring Ronnie McCoury and myself with the Del McCoury band from an upcoming collection of previously unreleased Del & Dawg studio sessions:

Country Boy Rock & Roll

David Grisman with Ronnie McCoury and the Del McCoury Band.

A little off the mandolin track, but heavy on the music path is a collection of Piano Explorations by master musician Stephane Grappelli, recorded during our first US tour together.

From the soon-to-be-released Acoustic Oasis project Stephane Grappelli, Piano Explorations. From the soon-to-be-released Acoustic Oasis project Stephane Grappelli, Piano Explorations.

Stephane Grappelli - Piano Explorations

An improvisational track from the upcoming Stephane Grappelli project on Acoustic Oasis.

Question from yoshka - David, thanks for the music. I was fortunate to attend Delfest this year and really enjoyed the set of the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience. It seemed to me that one of your objectives (besides playing and enjoying yourself) was that you wanted to teach about the roots of bluegrass music (Introduction to Bluegrass Music 101) to the obviously young crowd. Why, in your opinion, is this important to do?

David Grisman: I always have been curious about where things come from, especially music from the historical perspective, and bluegrass music is the perfect model for that, a truly indigenous American art form with such rich and varied roots. Since the DGBX plays traditional "hard-core" bluegrass, it's the perfect setting for a musical history lesson, and the amazing thing is, the audience seems to love it! When I say, "Now it's time for the bluegrass history part of the show," the folks grow really quiet and LISTEN.

I think this is really important because:

a) It is educational, and it's always good to learn something new.

b) It provides a true context for the music, and I believe it heightens the listening experience (or maybe they're just glad the talking stopped and the music started)!

c) It's entertaining because I tell true stories and throw in a lot of human drama, if you will, such as the sibling rivalry between the Monroe Brothers or the miles A.P. Carter traveled with Leslie Riddle searching out songs.

This is a subject I wanted to include in the curriculum for the Mandolin Symposium. The first class every day is Music Appreciation. It's not just the notes, tunes, technique, chords, etc. It's also the story of people's lives and times, and what they express about that through their music.

I'd like to take this opportunity to express my admiration and thanks to Scott Tichenor for all that he's done and continues to do every day for the mandolin and its adherents. Also, my thanks to all of you for your questions and comments. I know I only answered a fraction of what you asked, but I read every word, and hope to answer more of your questions in the near future at the Acoustic Oasis chat room (which I'll have to build)! Best wishes to you all and thanks for all the years of support.

— David "Dawg" Grisman

David Grisman, circa 1968. Photo by Artie Rose

David Grisman playing banjo in Washington Square

David Grisman playing banjo in Washington Square (New York City) circa 1968. Photo by Artie Rose.

Gear Facts

Main Instruments: 2009 Giacomel J-3 custom, 2008 Giacomel J-5, "Crusher" (1922 Gibson F5), 1997 Gilchrist model 5 mandola

String preferences: D'Addario J74

Instrument cases: English Calton

Picks: Dawg

Microphone preferences, studio and live: Neumann KM84

Dawg's Giacomel J-3 custom (current DGQ mando)

Giacomel J-3

David Grisman's personal Giacomel J-3 custom (current DGQ mando). Photo courtesy of David Grisman.

Additional information

Acoustic Disc
Acoustic Oasis
A comprehensive David Grisman discography from deaddisc.com

David Grisman and Artie Rose

David Grisman and Artie Rose

David Grisman and Artie Rose, circa 1966. Photo courtesy of Roland White.

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© Mandolin Cafe

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Reader Comments

phillawrencemandolin
October 04, 2010 12:00 AM
Well done. The recordings and the photos are illuminating and delightful.
Mandolin Mick
October 04, 2010 02:07 AM
Hey Dawg!

Thanx so much for not only answering my question re: My Last Days on Earth, but including a recording of you doing it as well! Great job!
mildini mandolini
October 04, 2010 08:04 AM
Dear David

Thanks for the interview
Thanks a lot more for all the great instrument pictures
But thanks most of all for all the great music that you have put out and keep putting out
it makes my world ( and I am sure everyone else's world) a better place

Good p-luck with all your future endeavours and please keep fixing this world
Stefan
Mike Bromley
October 04, 2010 09:04 AM
Fascinating reading.
Denny Gies
October 04, 2010 09:25 AM
Thanks to both the Cafe and to David. The Dawg remains one of the all time greats.
stever1422
October 04, 2010 09:28 AM
Great interview. How about pictures of the two banjos- the Vega Tuba-phone #3 especially!

Steve Roberts
Perry
October 04, 2010 10:31 AM
Absolutely fantastic...thanks Dawg and Scott!
Miked
October 04, 2010 03:40 PM
I really enjoyed reading the interview and what a treat to include the music and pictures!

Thanks, David for introducing me to the mandolin!
Philippe Bony
October 04, 2010 03:50 PM
Absolument délicieux! Merci.
Mille mercis aussi, monsieur Tichenor! (with Stephane's voice and (!) accent)
Andy Fielding
October 05, 2010 04:24 AM
Hi Dawg-All musicians have key musical moments in their lives. I had two of 'em: when I first heard the Beatles (1964), and the DG Quintet (1979). Other great artists have come along, but no one else (for me, at least) had that unique kind of energy. Thanks ever so much, dude.
gonzograss
October 06, 2010 04:56 AM
When in a musical quandry I ask myself the question WWDD?
Been listening to, admiring and being inspired by the DAWG since the 70s.
I play along w/ Traversata every day.
Thanks to DAWG for a lifetime well spent.

~~Joe Hannabach~~~~
James P
October 06, 2010 02:59 PM
Quote from Philippe Bony: Absolument délicieux! Merci.
Mille mercis aussi, monsieur Tichenor! (with Stephane's voice and (!) accent) End Quote

And Stephane Grappelli's piano playing! I had no idea. What a treat.
Elron
October 06, 2010 04:36 PM
On page two of this article, after we see some of his mandolins, Dawg says "and you thought you had MAS!!" I think that at this level of musicianship owning these mandolins is more of a right than a syndrome! Thanks for all of the great music David.
brunello97
October 07, 2010 07:11 PM
Thanks, Ted, for getting this together. A great evening read. Dawg is a flat out cool cat. The picture of him, Jethro and Tiny is awesome.

Mick
grassrootphilosopher
October 08, 2010 06:57 AM
I think the interview speaks for itself. And it calls for a sequel.

What I like most is the love for musical instruments that despite being not "the holy grail" have pretty special qualities. I'm thinking about Rudy Cippola's Strad-O-Lin for example. Maybe these instruments are the "howly grail".

Additionaly the music is downright awesome. I have allways admired Mr. Grisman's aproach at recording music as something dynamic and alive that sometimes will be worth listening to even though one might hear technical/mechanical/musical flaws.
Jim Yates
November 04, 2014 04:39 PM
The photo of Ralph on the cover of the Greenbriar Boys Ragged But Right album is where I learned my first chop chord. I copied Ralph's fingering of a Bb chord and used it up and down the fingerboard for a while as my only chop chord.
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