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BlueNote
Dec-30-2007, 8:43pm
I was puttering around today with the Comcast bluegrass channel playing in the background when a mandolin break made me stop in my tracks and run to the TV to see who was playing. It was a Dry Branch recording of "The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake" and the sound of Ron's mando was so incredibly lonesome it made the hair stand up on my neck. Does anybody know anything about his instrument? Can anybody recommend similar recordings highlighting his traditional sound and amazing mandolin?

Steve Cantrell
Dec-30-2007, 8:47pm
I'm almost certain Ron plays a Loar, but I'll leave it to the better informed to confirm it.

bluegrassjack2
Dec-30-2007, 9:06pm
I've been told he has three Loars.

mandomurph
Dec-30-2007, 9:13pm
It's definitely a Loar but I'm not sure of the date. I saw the Dry Branch Fire Squad a couple years ago at a local concert and he was carrying the mandolin in a case at the intermission. The pre-concert publicity said his Loar was worth more than $100k. He wasn't about to let it out of his hands. It sounded great!

rbmando
Dec-30-2007, 9:53pm
I believe Ron has a February 1923 Loar at or near 72210

LateBloomer
Dec-31-2007, 6:56am
rbmando has it right. Ron's Loar is 72210. You can find it on the mandolin archive here....
http://www.mandolinarchive.com/perl/show_mando.pl?90

Notice the wear pattern just north of the fretboard and on part of the scroll (it can also be seen on the Dry Branch Fire Squad website). If you watch Ron chop he has an unusual flick to his wrist and the pick sometimes hits the mandolin at that spot. How do I know this? I sit in the front row of overy DBFS concert I can attend http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Hans
Dec-31-2007, 8:26am
Here's that wear on the top...

45ACP-GDLF5
Dec-31-2007, 9:01am
Last year (2006) Ron let me check his Loar out. He is the 2nd owner. He acquired it in the early '70's from the original owner who bought it new in 1924. A year after it was built. As Ron told me, the elderly lady who owned it was looking for a smaller place to live at the time. Ron had an apartment which suited her just fine. So they traded even. The Loar for the apartment. The Loar is all original except for the frets, which he still has. He has the original case as well. He has had it appraised at 225k. All I could do that day in Cherokee was shake my head and say, Wow!!!

BlueNote
Dec-31-2007, 9:16am
From looking at the pics in the archive link, it looks like the action is sky high. Does some of his unique sound come from high action and strumming in the scroll area?

f5loar
Dec-31-2007, 10:15am
It's a nice un' as they say in Loar circles. It has a unique cremona shading on it too. Before Ron got the Loar he was a 50's F12 picker.

LateBloomer
Dec-31-2007, 5:56pm
Here is the "scoop" on Ron Thomason's mandolin - "straight from the horses mouth".....
I actually keep the action on my instrument pretty low, and I also use fairly light gauge strings. I don’t like to put any more “wear and tear” on either me or the mandolin since we’re both old and can’t take much abuse. The wear marks are from two sources that I know of: Dave Edmundson used to play the instrument when he was in the band and I would play guitar, and I’m pretty sure that the wear marks right by the end of the fret board are his. The ones on the scroll happened right after I got the instrument. I was carrying the instrument in a case that didn’t quite fit right evidently until a better one that I had ordered for it could be made. At least I had enough sense not to use the original case which came with it, although in hindsight I might have spared the instrument those wear marks. They got worn on there before I noticed. Once I discovered them I changed to another case, and they have never changed in degree or character since then. As far as I know the only place that I make contact with the mandolin while I’m playing is where my arm touches the body and if I’m not wearing a long sleeved shirt or jacket I always wear an “armsock” to protect that spot from further wear, although there is a slight amount of wear in the finish from use over the years. I do not rest my wrist or my fingers on any part of the top or bridge when I play. There are certainly many high values placed on Loars these days, and I heard that one recently sold for over $200K. Of course, mine has been appraised, but the insurance companies almost all request that individual values remain confidential. The apartment house story is partially true: When the mandolin was first offered for sale I offered to trade an apartment house that I owned at the time for it. The “broker” was interested and took some time to investigate the deal. In the meantime two other very well-known mandolin players who also were interested in the instrument were put on hold while the “broker” looked into whether he and his wife wanted to be in the “rental unit business.” Also in the meantime I set about getting the asking price together “just in case.” As it turned out the trade was impractical for the person in charge of selling the mandolin, and so I traded a spare mandolin I had used for non-standard tunings and what was at the time a fairly large amount of cash—about half what I had paid for my house at the time, but by today standards those were all very small amounts. I think this about covers all the issues raised. It does thrill me that others like the instrument. It changed may life and keeps making it richer every time I take it out of the case. RT

surfandstrum
Jan-01-2008, 1:21am
Thanks for that update...fascinating stuff

BlueNote
Jan-01-2008, 10:25am
Ron,
I believe an instrument like that couldn't end up in a better stewardship. Great story from a humble man. Please keep rewarding us with that great traditional sound.

f5loar
Jan-01-2008, 11:04am
What I found fascinating about the story is you could still trade a house for Loar today as you could back then.

no tyme flat
Jan-01-2008, 11:17am
Another story maybe about another loar belonging to Ron at one time was told to be by a vendor from new hampshire who had a little old lady walk into his music store in southern NH and ask what would he give her for this old instrument of her deceased husband. The vendor contacted Ron about the loar and made the transaction, giving the woman fair market value. I believe this is correct info but maybe out in left field.

Rroyd
Jan-01-2008, 11:50am
There was a horror story about Ron and Loars in a thread (2006?) where he broke a string on his, and grabbed Brian's Loar to finish the song, then swung it back to do one of his monologues. The strap came loose and the Loar hit the floor, peghead first, giving it a scrollectomy. After a few moments of stunned silence, Ron commented to Brian, "Yours looks just like mine now." So apparently Ron's mandolin had to have a peghead repair at some time.

45ACP-GDLF5
Jan-01-2008, 3:54pm
Here is the "scoop" on Ron Thomason's mandolin - "straight from the horses mouth".....
I actually keep the action on my instrument pretty low, and I also use fairly light gauge strings. #I don’t like to put any more “wear and tear” on either me or the mandolin since we’re both old and can’t take much abuse. #The wear marks are from two sources that I know of: #Dave Edmundson used to play the instrument when he was in the band and I would play guitar, and I’m pretty sure that the wear marks right by the end of the fret board are his. #The ones on the scroll happened right after I got the instrument. #I was carrying the instrument in a case that didn’t quite fit right evidently until a better one that I had ordered for it could be made. #At least I had enough sense not to use the original case which came with it, although in hindsight I might have spared the instrument those wear marks. #They got worn on there before I noticed. #Once I discovered them I changed to another case, and they have never changed in degree or character since then. #As far as I know the only place that I make contact with the mandolin while I’m playing is where my arm touches the body and if I’m not wearing a long sleeved shirt or jacket I always wear an “armsock” to protect that spot from further wear, although there is a slight amount of wear in the finish from use over the years. #I do not rest my wrist or my fingers on any part of the top or bridge when I play. #There are certainly many high values placed on Loars these days, and I heard that one recently sold for over $200K. #Of course, mine has been appraised, but the insurance companies almost all request that individual values remain confidential. #The apartment house story is partially true: #When the mandolin was first offered for sale I offered to trade an apartment house that I owned at the time for it. #The “broker” was interested and took some time to investigate the deal. #In the meantime two other very well-known mandolin players who also were interested in the instrument were put on hold while the “broker” looked into whether he and his wife wanted to be in the “rental unit business.” #Also in the meantime I set about getting the asking price together “just in case.” #As it turned out the trade was impractical for the person in charge of selling the mandolin, and so I traded a spare mandolin I had used for non-standard tunings and what was at the time a fairly large amount of cash—about half what I had paid for my house at the time, but by today standards those were all very small amounts. #I think this about covers all the issues raised. #It does thrill me that others like the instrument. #It changed may life and keeps making it richer every time I take it out of the case. #RT
And what Ron told me and showed me wasn't straight from the horses mouth?? #I guess I was talking with his twin brother Don! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

His appraisal price was 225k. That is what he told me. His apartment was valued at between 7 and 8k. That is how he acquired his Loar. Ne never mentioned anything about a "broker" to me. Just the elderly lady who owned the mandolin. She got his apartment house. He told me that and I didn't mis-hear him nor have I embellished on what he told me.

LateBloomer
Jan-01-2008, 4:00pm
45ACP-GDLF5 What I posted, is what Ron emailed me yesterday. So yes, it's "straight from the horses mouth".

A twin brother Don - you think the world is ready for two of them? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

I'm sure he told you the value of his mandolin, and the value of the old apartment. He's easy to talk to, and very available to his fans.

LateBloomer
Jan-01-2008, 4:03pm
Rroyd I did a search and found the incident you asked about - Brian posted this back in Feb. of 2006


Here's an eye witness report on the dropped Loar.

A Lloyd Loar Hits The Floor
Dry Branch Fire Squad was doing an extended Sunday morning set at Dick
Pierle's 2003 Old Blue Memorial Day Bluegrass Festival in Grand Junction,
Colorado, transitioning from a gospel set into some of its more mainstream
material, when Ron Thomason broke a string on his 1923 Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar
mandolin.
He laid it aside, and picked up his talented guitarist/mandolinist/harmony
singer, Brian Aldridge's, mandolin--also a 1923 Lloyd Loar. (Ron had made
special mention the night before of the presence in his band of these two
remarkable instruments.)
Brian's instrument differs from Ron's though, in one very important feature:
type and length of strap. If you've ever seen Ron play, you know that he
uses a fairly long strap--actually, it's an old rein from his horse
tack--and that he slings his instrument to his side between numbers, the
better to use his hands to embellish the stories that are such an
entertaining part of the Dry Branch Fire Squad experience.
Well, Brian uses a shorter, string-type strap, and it was pretty obvious
that Ron was a bit discomfited by the different "hang" of the instrument. In
fact, he fooled around with the strap a bit trying to get comfortable with
it.
So Ron's going along in his set, and he slings this beautiful 1923 Lloyd
Loar to his side after a song, and THUNK, the strap came off the tailpiece,
and the instrument crashed to the floor.
Gasps, then silence. Shock, both in the audience and onstage. A look of
complete anguish crossed Ron's face.
It was tough to continue the set. Ron confided later during a workshop that
he was totally dumbstruck--couldn't remember where he was in the show,
couldn't remember the lyrics of the next song--all he could think about was
the damage to this irreplaceable mandolin. He said he even thought about
pausing the show for a few minutes, just so he and Brian could check the
instrument and commiserate about it. (The damage turned out to be a part of
the scroll chipped off. Certainly repairable, but not what anyone would have
wanted to happen to such a beautiful and historic instrument.)
In the end, though, and with obvious effort, he gathered himself, found his
place in the show, and continued, putting on an excellent performance under
very difficult circumstances.
Now, you'll notice that I've never used the word "dropped" in describing
this event. That's because Ron Thomason does not "drop" instruments, and
certainly not a 1923 Lloyd Loar. He treats fine instruments, whether his own
or others', with the utmost respect.
Ron has a well-developed sense of humor, but I don't think I'd be up to
needling him about this. No, "Well, when do you go into the Pete Townshend
part of your act and start smashing instruments??" There is a line, and that
would cross it. In fact, agitating about it might earn you "the look"...the
most withering stare this side of Bill Monroe. Ron will be back at the Old
Blue Memorial Day Festival this year, and I'll bet he brings this incident
up from the stage. It'll be fun to be there to see what he has to say!
by Robb Ruyle

Wolfboy
Jan-01-2008, 5:13pm
There was a horror story about Ron and Loars in a thread (2006?) where he broke a string on his, and grabbed Brian's Loar to finish the song, then swung it back to do one of his monologues. The strap came loose and the Loar hit the floor, peghead first, giving it a scrollectomy. After a few moments of stunned silence, Ron commented to Brian, "Yours looks just like mine now." So apparently Ron's mandolin had to have a peghead repair at some time.
I was in the audience when Ron's Loar had its mishap - Gettysburg (PA) Bluegrass Festival, around 1980 or '81. Ron leaned his mando against the back wall of the stage when he switched to guitar, and a gust of wind came up and blew it over, breaking the peghead scroll partly but not completely off. (I saw it up close immediately afterwards.) The next time I saw DBFS the scroll had been repaired but you could see a thin line at the join. Hence Ron's comment to Brian, I assume.

birdman98
Mar-13-2008, 2:36am
Old Thread Revival....

I sat in on one of Ron's workshops at Gray Fox a few years back. He was playing a Rigel that was being raffled.

A nice instrument, for sure...but nothing like his Loar.

Anyway...he was still pulling AMAZING tone out of that mandolin. Blindfolded, I would have recognized it as Ron's playing. Got me to thinking that the good musicians can make a piece of plywood sing if they want.

Great workshop btw...Ron's awesome.