View Full Version : Howe Orme Article in FBJ

Rick Turner
Jul-17-2006, 9:53pm
The definitive article on Howe Orme mandolins and guitars by Bob De Vellis and Gregg Miner, with a forward by yours truly is out in the latest issue of Fretboard Journal, #3, the fall issue. It came out just great, and hopefully with this degree of attention and the exhibit at the Museum of Making Music featuring 22 of these beauties, we hope that more answers to the many remaining questions shake out of the woodwork, as it were. Jim Herrington's photography of the instruments, all done with fading natural light and long, long exposures is just incredible. They were shot up at Lowell Levinger's house in Inverness and feature his and my instruments that are now on loan to the museum. This whole project...the exhibit and helping with the article has just been a ball, and it's a kind of culmination to an obsession of mine that I've harbored for many years. We call 'em "Hos" now, and we like 'em...

Darryl Wolfe
Jul-18-2006, 7:55am
Great, I received the first issue at Loarfest and eagerly await my copy (I subscribed online yesterday). I have one HoweO and love the sound and mojo of it.

Rick Turner
Jul-18-2006, 3:47pm
Darryl, wait 'til you play one of the cello mandolas! We still can't quite figure out what gauges and pitches are right...C to A just doesn't seem possible, but tuned to a kind of sweet spot, the things are just gorgeous sounding. The instruments also sounded amazing in the context of a full quartet or quintet.

Aug-01-2006, 7:48pm
So, the big question:

is it "Orm" or "Or-me"

Aug-01-2006, 10:37pm
Or who? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Aug-02-2006, 10:34am
You rascal http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Bob DeVellis
Aug-02-2006, 2:48pm
It's "how-orm." Both e's are silent. There are a surprising number of co-occurrences of the names Howe and Orme, like both appear in a Sherlock Holmes novel as street names, both were the names of Revolutionary War generals, etc. Of course, they're both fairly common names.

Have any other subscribers received the August issue of Fretboard Journal? I haven't gotten my copy yet but eagerly check the mailbox daily.

Aug-02-2006, 2:57pm
Picked up my first copy of FJ at a local Tower Records. What a fantastic production! I will subscribe.

Great article on Collings Guitars too.


Rick Turner
Aug-02-2006, 8:39pm
Bob, you and Gregg did a great job on that...really incredible. Nice to finally meet you and hang out and play at the opening party, too. That evening raised the bar for what the Museum of Making Music is capable of doing, and the staff is still buzzed from how well that night went. 2 1/2 times the number of people they've ever had before at a show opening! And the place was SRO to the very end.

If anyone is ever thinking of doing a major mandolin festival or conference in San Diego, get in touch with us to see if we might not be able to also do a nice long term exhibit at the museum. Carolyn just extended next year's harp guitar show (opening in February) through July, and the HOs will be there through April, so the precedent is set.

Bob DeVellis
Aug-03-2006, 8:35am
Thanks, Rick. The article was a fun project to work on and meeting you, Banana, and Gregg (we'd never actually met until then) was great. The Museum has done a fantastic job.

On a related note, a Howe catalog just went for $224.50 at auction. It seems like not that long ago that the mandolins weren't selling for much more than that. Things have changed and the instruments are getting recognition they've long deserved. Especially when you think of what the alternatives were in 1897, it's clear that the Howe-Ormes were really ground-breaking instruments.

Aug-04-2006, 6:04pm
I got the new FJ in the mail today. What a great magazine! Has to be the best music publication out there - beautiful photos and first class writing, imo.

Darryl Wolfe
Aug-08-2006, 9:45am
I received my copy over the weekend. What a great article. I'm still a bit confused over my H-O. It's 9th fret body joint does not match any of those instruments depicted in the side by side family picture in FJ.

Jim Garber
Aug-08-2006, 9:58am
Still waiting for my issue, but I did scan it at my local Borders. Kind of annoying that it makes it to the newstands before we subscribers get it at home.

Looks like a great article. I can't wait to read the nitty-gritty details.


Bob DeVellis
Aug-08-2006, 12:25pm
Mine finally arrived yesterday. There's a fair amount of mandolin content in this issue, not just the Howe-Orme piece. I agree that this is a really nice publication so far. I still have just about all the back issues of Pickin and Frets, which in their day were the best of their type. Fretboard Journal is going for a somewhat different approach but I think its overall quality clearly surpasses those earlier publications. THe art direction is excellent, in my opinion. I wouldn't mind seeing Elderly improve the graphics of their ads to be somewhat less visually cluttered but that aside, it's a good looking publication with lots of interesting content.

Darryl, your short-necker is a bit strange. As I recall, it has a 14" scale, right? That's too long for a mandolin and too short for a tenor mandola in the Howe-Orme world, but there it is. As with many vintage instruments, peculiarities do pop up with these critters. In the article we talk about one instrument with a rediculously high serial number that's more than ten times as high as the next-highest known number. Was somebody in the shop drunk that day? And Gregg Miner's mandolin is the only one Rick, Banana, or I had ever seen with a hand-stop at the neck-headstock joint. GIven the distinctive shape of the H-O headstocks, it seems unlikely that this was just some neck lying around the shop that got put on an instrument in a pinch. That instrument also has a strange combination of serial number (high, surpassed only by the one I just mentioned) and patent date (prior to the actual patent for these instruments). Other differences between instruments seem to be sequential, like the transition from the earlier white labels to the later blue ones, the discontinuation of the raised fingerboard somewhere around serial number 800, and the modification of the fingerboard end from squared-off to a wave-like curve around serial number 1560. But other variations follow no perceivable pattern. Some of this may be the result of instruments being made in different shops, but nobody knows for sure.

A good example of Mandolin Cafe' cross-fertilization: Dan B.'s recent posting of the Gibson sales agent publication caused me to realize for the first time that, in the 1920s, the Elias Howe Company and the publishers of the Cadenza occupied the same location, 8 Bosworth St., in Boston. Elias Howe Company, according to some sources (such as the Ayars book on the history of Boston instrument makers), had ceased publication activities by about 1910; but what, if any, involvement was there between them and Cadenza? Another mystery.

Jim Garber
Aug-08-2006, 12:32pm
I am a charter subscriber and agree with you, Bob, that it is not only a class magazine in terms of design and quality of printing but in terms of content. They are covering the topics that other mags ignore. I also subscribe to Acoustic Guitar and Mandolin magazine and while I do enjoy these. They tend to stick to the tried-and-true topics of the mainstream interest. Then again, much of my interest is off-the-beaten track.


Jim M.
Aug-08-2006, 12:41pm
I just received my issue, and I add my compliments about the Howe-Orme article. A fascinating part of mando history, and makes me want to add a H-O to my lineup. Is the exhibit still going in Carlsbad? I'll have to get down there and see it.

Darryl Wolfe
Aug-08-2006, 1:11pm
Thanks Bob. #Mine is H-140 with a blue label and the 1897 patent stamp. #Just over 14-inch scale. #I was looking for some wood to repair a chip to the "rounded ear" of the peghead overlay this weekend. #I've pretty much decided that it is Macassar Ebony and not Brazilian Rosewood as one might assume. Or shall I say, I have Macassar that matches and no BRW that is even close

Rick Turner
Aug-08-2006, 9:18pm
The exhibit will be going on until next April, I am delighted to say. Then we are hoping to move it on to another museum perhaps on the East Coast for another long run.

Darryl, I think it's highly unlikely that the overlay was Macassar ebony. Every one I've seen is Brazilian rosewood...that was "normal" in those days.

Also, I'm happy to let you all know that I'm officially working with the museum as a consultant on special exhibitions and media relations. The next show I'm working on involves our friend Gregg Miner; he and I are guest curators. It will be a harp guitar show, and we're going to preview at NAMM in Anaheim in January, and then the show will run from February to August or so. We've been promised a four page spread in the Winter edition of Frets to publicize the harp guitars show.

We're also going to start a little record label and do CDs featuring the instruments that go into these shows. We're probably going to record direct to stereo on one of the new Sony PCM-D1 machines and do our recording at night in the museum itself. The CDs will work as an audio catalog for the shows and be sold inexpensively. The idea is to make this both an enhancement for the exhibits and also a fund raiser for the Museum There will be a Howe Orme CD...

We'll be looking for volunteer musicians to help us, and Henry Kaiser is on board to help with production. As recompense, we'll provide CDs at wholesale to the musicians who help us, and those can then be sold at gigs and websites. We'll also work out a deal with I-Tunes for legal paid downloads. This is all brand new as of last Thursday, and we have a lot to work out, but it's very exciting. I'll keep you all informed.

Jim Garber
Aug-08-2006, 10:33pm
The exhibit will be going on until next April, I am delighted to say. Then we are hoping to move it on to another museum perhaps on the East Coast for another long run.
Yes, East Coast!!! How big a space do you need and how big a museum do you expect. The Katonah museum housed a very nice exhibit on historical banjos a few years ago. They had some related performances as well. LMK if you want to get contact info etc.

It is all very exciting, Rick, Bob and Gregg!

And... I finally got my FBJ today. Life is good!


Rick Turner
Aug-09-2006, 10:08am
I'll be working with Carolyn Grant, executive director of the Museum of Making Music on the traveling shows, and I'll let her know about the Katonah. We're hoping for something in the Boston area, too, as that is the home town for the Howe Ormes. Carolyn has contacts at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and they have an excellent collection of musical instruments there.

Darryl Wolfe
Aug-09-2006, 10:24am
I believe Michael Holmes is also connected to that Boston museum. I've done some repro parts and such that ended up on instruments there

Bob DeVellis
Aug-09-2006, 2:44pm
The MFA would be fantastic. Another Boston-area option might be the MIT museum that housed the banjo exhibit a number of years ago from which a small book emerged. Jim Bollman was a part of the book and loaned instruments for the exhibit. He might have some insights. He and Mike Holmes communicate fairly regularly, I gather. But the MFA would clearly be the premier Boston venue.

Rick Turner
Aug-09-2006, 8:21pm
MFA just turned it down... We're going to check out the National Heritage Museum in Lexington. MIT is a good idea, though, too.

Rick Turner
Aug-22-2006, 9:52pm
Would any of you like to volunteer to play some Howe Ormes on a CD we're going to produce at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, CA toward the end of January? We're setting up Museum Records to record the vintage (and perhaps new) instruments that go on display in special exhibits there. These CDs will be done as a benefit for the museum and will supplement the shows that we're putting on there. We'll be selling the CDs for way under market price, and anyone who participates will be able to get CDs for our basic wholesale cost and then you'll be able to sell them at gigs, on line, etc. This whole idea is brand new and we're just feeling our way into it. So far we have Lowell Levinger, Henry Kaiser, and Alex DeGrassi on board for various projects. Any players out there want to help a great museum?

Aug-22-2006, 10:37pm
Great idea, Rick! How about saving one track for your H-O inspired instruments (I'm thinking your tilt-neck guitars and Compass Rose ukes)? I think that'd be a neat tie-in to "Modern Times."

Professor PT
Aug-22-2006, 11:44pm
Well, I'm not famous, but I live in San Diego. Do you want people who own one to play, or are you inviting any mando players? It sounds interesting; I do a lot of home recording myself.