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DataNick
Jul-26-2016, 12:43pm
The following is from a thread on the story behind Bill Monroe's F5 being damaged, and it is an account of the F5L that Gibson gave to Mr. Monroe and it's provenance.

Greg Boyd has posted a video which I am posting, of the mandolin being played...Enjoy!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr4Gc03qSWk


f5,
Here is the story from Walt that he posted a couple of years ago.

I am the current owner of the 1978 F5L that was given to Bill Monroe by the Gibson Company as a peace offering. Roger Siminoff asked if would chime in with what information I have on the instrument. Here is all that I know. If anyone else has any information about this mandolin, I would love to hear from them.

After the NAMM show, Roger encouraged Gibson to present a new F5L mandolin to Mr. Monroe as a gift to help mend fences with the ‘Father of Bluegrass.’ Sometime later, the Gibson Company gave Monroe one of the F5L prototypes. This mandolin was signed by Gibson luthier Aaron Cowles on June 20, 1978, and bears the serial number, 71568197. According to Roger, this mandolin was finished on June 5th. “And, if that's the case, yours had to be one of the first three (and I think I remember Aaron completing his first).” On the first half-dozen instruments, Roger tap tuned the mandolin before the body was closed, so this one would have been tuned personally by Roger.

When I first acquired the mandolin, all I knew is that it had been owned and used by Monroe. As a Big Mon disciple, that was good enough for me. But one day I got a call from a friend of mine, Tom McKinney, of Asheville, North Carolina, and he said, “There’s a publicity photo of Bill Monroe holding your mandolin.” I confess I was skeptical, but Tom was right. After carefully comparing the headstocks of the two mandolins, specifically the inlays, I realized it was the very same mandolin. I didn’t know of any publicity photos of Monroe with anything other than his 1923 Loar, especially late in his career. That started me on a little research project to find out what I could about the instrument. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way I do about this, but most of us go through dozens of vintage instruments in our lives and don’t know anything about the provenance or history of these things, and that’s a shame. So, I wanted to find out all I could.

Last year, the Mandolin Café posted a little audio clip of Monroe on stage where he talks about mending fences with the Gibson Company. Monroe mentions acquiring the 1923 Gibson mandolin in a barber shop, the subsequent feud with Gibson, and how in 1978 Gibson convinced Monroe to have the Loar-signed instrument worked on back in Kalamazoo, Michigan. At the end, Monroe says, “And in the deal, they give me that new mandolin there in a brand new case.” This F5-L mandolin is what he refers to as “that new mandolin there.”

Monroe played the 1978 F5L mandolin quite often when his number one mandolin was unavailable, such as in the 1980 White House concert for President Jimmy Carter. In December 1981, I saw Monroe using the F5L to play “My Last Days on Earth” at an Orlando concert. So for at least some of the time, Monroe had the F5L in that alternate mandolin tuning.

Monroe used the F5L as his primary instrument after the infamous November 1985 “vandal” incident, in which an intruder smashed both of Monroe’s Loar-signed mandolins. Curtis McPeake verified that Monroe used the F5L for a year or more until his 1923 Gibson was repaired by Charlie Derrington. As evidence, Monroe was filmed using the F5L at a 1986 Colorado concert in the Scott Wright documentary titled, “High, Blue, and Lonesome.”

So how did I come to acquire the mandolin? Bill Monroe was good friends with a Nashville-area police officer, Bill Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins was not a professional musician, but played locally as an avocation. Hawkins did a lot of favors for Monroe, such as helping to feed livestock when the Blue Grass Boys were on the road. I understand Officer Hawkins was one of those called to the scene after the vandal incident, and helped gather mandolin pieces up into a paper bag. Sometime in the late 1980s or early ‘90s, Bill Monroe saw Mr. Hawkins in town and called him over to his vehicle. Monroe said, “I have something here I want to give you.” It was the 1978 F5L mandolin. Bill Hawkins treasured the F5L mandolin and played it until his passing. In the summer of 2005, the mandolin was brought to McPeake’s Unique Instruments, in Mount Joliet, Tennessee, and made available for sale; I purchased the mandolin from Curtis.

Sometime during its life, the mandolin lost its original pickguard, tailpiece, and bridge. I repaired a crumbling bone point on the lower bout. Other than that, the mandolin is intact and includes the original case. I recently took the F5L mandolin to Bruce Weber in Logan, Montana, for a review. After looking the instrument over for quite some time, studying the smallest details, Mr. Weber said he was impressed with the workmanship.

I have played a few Loar-signed Gibson mandolins over the years, and I think the power and tone of this F5L mandolin is comparable. As Big Mon, himself, would have said, “it’s a wonderful instrument.” I’m glad the behind-the-scenes story of the F5L’s development has been revealed. Roger and everyone involved in making those early Gibson F5L mandolins should be proud of what they did.

Jeff Mando
Jul-26-2016, 1:04pm
Wow! Great story.

George R. Lane
Jul-26-2016, 1:31pm
My friend Walt was a great guy and a fine musician. His band was called Bill Jr. and the Montana Rangers. I played that F5L a few times, but nothing like this fellow does. A big thanks to Greg for posting this video.

FLATROCK HILL
Jul-26-2016, 3:28pm
Thanks Nick. Great story and that thing sounds great to my ears. Not what I'd expect from any '70s Gibson F5, that's for sure. And Billy Parker certainly pulls a nice tone out of it.

I would guess that besides the player's skill, the mic, the EQ and the room acoustics might have something to the richness I'm hearing. I'd love to hear it (play it) first hand. Of course the only tone there that I could duplicate would be the occasional Florida pick-click.

Denny Gies
Jul-26-2016, 3:57pm
Thank you Nick..wonderful story.

Timbofood
Aug-01-2016, 8:39pm
Nick, I wonder if that was the one of the original three prototype pieces, one was by Roger Siminoff, one by Bill Halsey and one by the late Aaron Cowles. It was my understanding that he had been offered his choice of the three and he chose the one built by Aaron Cowles.
Or is this one of the first stage "production" pieces?

George R. Lane
Aug-01-2016, 9:06pm
Timothy,
That is the one built by Aaron Cowles.

George R. Lane
Aug-03-2016, 10:00pm
The sad part of this mandolins' history is, Walt Timmerman was floating on Montana's Smith River when he suffered a major heart attack and died. He truly loved his Gibson and always enjoyed telling folks how he came to own it. I still miss him and his great music.

Timbofood
Aug-04-2016, 7:26am
Sad indeed. But, I don't know if there is a prettier place to go.

carleshicks
Aug-05-2016, 4:21pm
That sounds incredible. It is about 4 months older than me, I was born in battle creek michigan right down the road from Gibson, and I was friends with Aaron Cowels, so I cannot see any reason why I shouldn't buy it.

samlyman
Aug-05-2016, 4:59pm
I played this mandolin at the Weiser, Idaho fiddle contest in June at Greg's vendor site. It sounded great and would be a worthwhile acquisition even if it was not owned previously by Big Mon (and I am not generally a lover of Gibson F5s).

carleshicks
Aug-06-2016, 4:56am
That sounds incredible. It is about 4 months older than me, I was born in battle creek michigan right down the road from Gibson, and I was friends with Aaron Cowels, so I cannot see any reason why I shouldn't buy it.

My wife came up with about 3 dozen reasons.

Timbofood
Aug-06-2016, 8:12am
Wives will do that!

DataNick
Aug-06-2016, 9:19am
My wife came up with about 3 dozen reasons.

Yup, I feel your pain Brotha knowing what it would take to land it...

DataNick
Dec-03-2016, 4:35pm
Thread Bump: I met and jammed with Billy Parker, the guy playing the F5L in the video.

A little mandogeek followup to this thread is that my band Desperado, played the Southern Nevada Fall Bluegrass Festival in Oct at Logondale, NV and Billy Parker's band, James Reams & The Barnstormers were on the bill. Jeff Burke, who tends bar at The Station Inn in Nashville, was also there playing mando in his band Johnny Campbell & The Bluegrass Drifters.

So Jeff and I started our own mando tasting jam right outside the green room that morphed into a full on jam and Billy Parker walked up and joined in. We were layin down some Monroe tunes and stuff like Dixie Hoedown, etc. Billy Parker plays a Brentrup 23V F5 that is to die for! All around nice guy and we all had a blast!

JAK
Dec-03-2016, 9:36pm
Yep, you can't beat a Brentrup, if you can find one these days!

jim simpson
Dec-03-2016, 10:37pm
I remember Bill using the Gibson F-5L in concert for Get Up John.

DataNick
Dec-03-2016, 11:17pm
Yep, you can't beat a Brentrup, if you can find one these days!

I know a dude in the Bay Area who owns 3 of 'em....I call him a Brentrup hog...LOL!

Astro
Dec-04-2016, 9:53am
Great tone and great playing. Someone needs to scoop out that pesky extension, but what a mando. Great story too. Thanks Nick and Gregg Boyd's House.

Jeff Mando
Dec-04-2016, 10:29am
Great tone and great playing. Someone needs to scoop out that pesky extension, but what a mando. Great story too. Thanks Nick and Gregg Boyd's House.

I was bothered by the pick clicking, also, but great playing and tone! :mandosmiley:

Billywally
Aug-09-2017, 5:27pm
Hey man, as you can see, I don't go on the cafe as often as I'd like, so just saw this thread. That was a fun time and really great meeting all you folks!!

George R. Lane
Aug-09-2017, 6:36pm
A good friend and Café member now owns it. It will be up to them when to identify themselves.

MikeZito
Aug-09-2017, 8:41pm
Good grief - after all of the nasty things we hear about 70's Gibson's, that one sure is a winner . . . sounds a WHOLE LOT better than the 2012 F-5G that I just let go . . . .

Billywally
Sep-25-2017, 12:44pm
I met that dude in Sebastopol a few years back. We had a lot to talk about!

almeriastrings
Sep-26-2017, 1:19am
Good grief - after all of the nasty things we hear about 70's Gibson's, that one sure is a winner . . . sounds a WHOLE LOT better than the 2012 F-5G that I just let go . . . .

The early-mid 1970's Gibson's were dire... but when (finally) they listened to Roger Siminoff and began 'restoring' them to what they had been previously, that started changing, so these early 'revived' examples can be very good indeed. Night and day from the dead-sounding junk of the 'low' period.

Timbofood
Sep-26-2017, 6:04am
The early-mid 1970's Gibson's were dire... but when (finally) they listened to Roger Siminoff and began 'restoring' them to what they had been previously, that started changing, so these early 'revived' examples can be very good indeed. Night and day from the dead-sounding junk of the 'low' period.

Just to be clear, this was not just one "off the rack", this was one of three prototypes offered to Mr. Monroe, one was built by Aaron Cowels, one by Bill Halsey and one built by Roger Siminoff. The story I heard was he was offered his choice of the three and he played each one and chose Aaron's. The real improvement did not take place overnight, it took a lot of time and huge effort by the mandolin department crew.

almeriastrings
Sep-26-2017, 6:18am
Just to be clear, this was not just one "off the rack", this was one of three prototypes offered to Mr. Monroe, one was built by Aaron Cowels, one by Bill Halsey and one built by Roger Siminoff. The story I heard was he was offered his choice of the three and he played each one and chose Aaron's. The real improvement did not take place overnight, it took a lot of time and huge effort by the mandolin department crew.

Yes, I know. Merely pointing out that there is a big difference between the output prior to the 'revival' and those that followed. I once encountered one of the very early production models myself, and though I have no idea how it compared to the three prototypes discussed here, it was a good mandolin in its own right, though I understand that it had experienced some neck problems over the years. Sounded fine, though...infinitely better than the 70's versions of ill-repute.

The full story is available here: https://www.mandolincafe.com/news/publish/mandolins_001217.shtml