View Full Version : A J Polin or Rinzler Fern

May-17-2004, 1:38pm
Here's nice set of pictures (http://www.mandolinarchive.com/perl/show_mando.pl?1180) from Christian Seguret of "The Rinzler Fern", often Big Mon's stage mando for "Get up John".


May-17-2004, 1:41pm

May-17-2004, 1:41pm

Coy Wylie
May-17-2004, 3:24pm
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.

May-17-2004, 3:27pm
Christian, did you scoop it?

May-17-2004, 6:39pm
Did or did not Rinzler obtain this mandolin directly from WSM hisownself back when Ralph was WSM's manager?

May-17-2004, 11:13pm
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.
Christian Seguret

May-17-2004, 11:19pm
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!

May-18-2004, 5:16am
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.

May-18-2004, 7:06am
I remember when Gruhn had this mando for sale. If I could only go back in time http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif

May-18-2004, 7:15am
It also the one that WSM refers to on the Smithsonian recording as "...being in better shape than his [Loar] is today...."

May-18-2004, 11:27pm
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.

May-19-2004, 7:32am
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!

Darryl Wolfe
May-19-2004, 7:55am
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

May-19-2004, 8:03am
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.

Darryl Wolfe
May-19-2004, 8:31am
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

May-19-2004, 10:13am
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?

Darryl Wolfe
May-19-2004, 10:17am
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

May-19-2004, 11:35am
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?

May-19-2004, 1:38pm
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.

May-19-2004, 3:16pm
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

Bob Sayers
May-19-2004, 7:35pm

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.


May-19-2004, 10:04pm
Actually, Ralph was writing a biography of Bill!!!

Bob Sayers
May-19-2004, 11:16pm
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. #


Bob Sayers
May-19-2004, 11:33pm
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.


May-19-2004, 11:42pm
Robt Sayers,

Great stories, thanks for sharing. This site rules!

Jan-30-2014, 10:12am
Time to revive this thread ! While I was sorting stuff, I found a note from my ex-wife who said she discussed the Rinzler Fern with Mike Seeger (who was a family's friend). Seeger reported that the Fern was stolen, not once, but twice : " Once he recuperated it in a pawn shop and another time he went after the criminals in the area and tracked it down. (He had left it in his car when it disappeared the second time. The first it disappeared from backstage.)"

jim simpson
Jan-30-2014, 6:00pm
This from a New York Times archive:

Mr. Rinzler, who was black, was widely credited with nudging the Smithsonian toward expanding its activities beyond a focus on white American culture.


I had no idea Ralph was black!

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-31-2014, 5:26am
I mentioned that mandolin on here quite a long while ago. It was the sound of Ralph Rinzler playing the intro. to the song 'I Cried Again' on the Greenbriar Boys LP ''Ragged But Right'' that kick started my passion for the sound of the mandolion.That intro.still blows me away. I don't know if he remembers,but Christian very kindly told me that if i was ever over in France,that i could call on him & play it .At the time i 'wasn't worthy',but having got a few more years of playing in since then,i could no doubt make it sound pretty good (IM Humble O).
''I cried Again'' - http://youtu.be/Zw3J0uGLww0 'Sleepy Eyed John'' - http://youtu.be/HCG3N_5FOT4
I think i could settle on a mandolin that sounded like this one - truly awesome (a much overused word,but true in this case !):disbelief:
& in the hands of (for me), the finest 'Monroe stylist' who's name wasn't Bill Monroe.
Darryl - Andrew 'Andy' Townend,was the young mandolin player in the "Echo Mt. Band'' organised by Bill Clifton when Bill lived over here in Seven Oaks,Kent. I saw Bill & Andy one night at the Manchester Sports Guild when Andy was only 12 or 13 years of age. He was possibly the best Bluegrass mandolin player inthe UK,even then. I'm pretty sure that Andy's brother Richard 'Rick' still plays Andy's Gibson mandolin. Here's the Echo Mt.Band playing 'Liberty'. Rick Townend on Fiddle. http://youtu.be/vmm76bf5leI 'Come By The Hills ' - http://youtu.be/bfoBXcVP9Ds
Purely for info. - I ws recently in touch with Rick & he told me that Bill Clifton's biography is currently being written by Bill C.Malone.