• Bill Monroe Receives his Mandolin from Gibson - The Video

    Scott Wright tape #7 - Bill Monroe receives his mandolin from Gibson, February 25, 1986
    On February 25, 1986 Bill Monroe traveled to the Gibson factory to reclaim his cherished mandolin more than three months after a vandal smashed it to pieces with a fireplace poker.

    The story is well known and has been documented so many times it would be impossible to calculate.

    Black and white photos were published by The Tennessean last year.

    31 years later, it's time we see the video.

    For this we can thank bluegrass fan and musician Scott Wright who was working for a Denver television station in 1986.

    A career photojournalist by trade, while shooting video for an interview with Monroe in Denver, Wright learned the bluegrass founder was to be reunited with his mandolin the following week.

    Wright asked for and was granted permission to make the trip to Nashville with three goals: to document the presentation of the mandolin at Gibson; to film an interview with Monroe at his farm; and film an interview with Charlie Derrington (now deceased) about the process of putting Monroe's mandolins back together.



    In attendance with Scott to handle the interviewing was Dave Higgs, then a bluegrass DJ for Denver's KCFR public radio, now an attorney and well-known bluegrass personality with a popular bluegrass radio show in Nashville.

    "I'm a life-long fan of Bill Monroe and really, really wanted the tapes for myself because at the time I knew this was historically important," Wright told us. He requested and was granted exclusive rights to the videos by his employer.

    In 1986 his station ran a half-hour special entitled High, Blue & Lonesome, the titled suggested by Higgs, that contained bits of footage from the Nashville trip. "It received a spotlight mention in TV Guide, I still have the copy, and it had a huge audience because it pre-empted Kate & Allie which at the time was the #1 rate show on television," said Higgs, laughing. "I thought it was great that they pre-empted Kate & Allie. That was huge."

    "The entire experience was a real thrill for me. Not too many people can say they got to be there when he was reunited with his mandolin, got to spend the day on his farm and even go out to lunch with him," Higgs told us.

    In the video, Gibson owner Henry Juszkiewicz presides alongside Charlie Derrington, Chet Atkins and other music dignitaries mingling with Gibson employees gathered for the occasion. The footage has been left intact so what is seen is Wright's filming of the event untouched by an editor preparing a shorter story.

    It's one thing to see photographs and to read accounts of that day. It's another to hear Monroe in his own voice singing the praises of the work done by Gibson, seeing Charlie Derrington present the mandolin, and see and hear Monroe play the mandolin with Chet Atkins backing him on guitar.

    The question may arise: were other video cameras present at the ceremony? From the tape, we know The Nashville Network logo is visible on the side of a camera midway through the video. An interesting moment in the video, as the operator walks by and another man leans forward, George Gruhn is visible. Prior to starting the presentation, Juszkiewicz appears to be addressing a camera crew asking if they are ready.

    Fast forward to 2016. Scott Wright had retired and initiated dialogue necessary to get his collection of Monroe tapes that never aired publicly in our care with the wish we make them accessible on the web. This is the first in a series of videos to be shared.

    Higgs and Wright eventually lost contact. Had they been in touch since? They had not, but were eager to reconnect, and have plans to speak by phone for the first time in decades.

    Both men still speak in glowing terms of their time with Bill Monroe and the events surrounding their trip to Nashville and are thrilled to see their work shared with the public.

    Allow us to pause briefly and celebrate the events of that day long ago, happy in the knowledge video footage of that day has been preserved for future generations.

    Additional Information

    Comments 41 Comments
    1. Nathan Kellstadt's Avatar
      Nathan Kellstadt -
      Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
      Pure gold is when CD is telling/yelling the chords to CA.
      Seriously, that made me chuckle.
    1. Larry S Sherman's Avatar
      Larry S Sherman -
      A special moment...I had no idea that film existed!
    1. Don Grieser's Avatar
      Don Grieser -
      How cool is that whole video!
    1. greenwdse's Avatar
      greenwdse -
      And smart closeups from Wright at 9:00. Stirring stuff. Shows a real love of the subject. Yeah I noticed that about the Nashville Network too. SVHS tape stuffed in a basement somewhere?
    1. Tom Haywood's Avatar
      Tom Haywood -
      Thank you, Scott!
    1. Demetrius's Avatar
      Demetrius -
      That was by far one of the coolest videos I've ever seen...
      So great to see that and thankyou so much for posting it.
    1. Russ Jordan's Avatar
      Russ Jordan -
      Chet with a flatpick!
    1. Tom C's Avatar
      Tom C -
      Charlie was either so cool, or scared shirtless. He just stood there and watched like he let the mando and Bill speak for themselves ...and finally got the approval thank you handshake.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      This has been a lot of fun. Spent part of the morning organizing and going through and selecting the next tape or set of tapes to publish and am beginning work on that project. We've yet to actually see all of the tapes but believe the last 8 include live concert footage from a show in Boulder. At least that's how they're marked. Should know by the end of the week if all goes as planned.

      Keep finding out little bits and pieces about the day and the people in the video in attendance. Jim Triggs was over before the tape went live. Jim came in as the Custom Shop manager a few months after the presentation and identified a number of Gibson employees by name. Walter Carter was having a conversation with us and pointed out John Hedgecoth, the mandocellist with Butch Baldassari's old Nashville Mandolin Trio is seen holding a camera at the point where The Nashville Network camera is shown and George Gruhn is visible. This is sort of like Where's Waldo 31 years later.

      And not to gloat, but got a private mini-concert by Monroe in the headphones last night from him sitting on his front porch on the farm. To be broadcast in the future.
    1. rhicksnm's Avatar
      rhicksnm -
      Very historic! Glad to see this great event recorded!
    1. Mark Gunter's Avatar
      Mark Gunter -
      How cool to get to experience this through Wright's footage! And more good stuff to come! Thanks Scott, and a big thank you to everyone involved in making this happen.
    1. tim noble's Avatar
      tim noble -
      The warmth and gratitude on Bill's face while cradling the mandolin in his arms is timeless. Charlie and crew created magic and thanks Scott for preserving the history.
      Tim
    1. Bobby Branton's Avatar
      Bobby Branton -
      Thanks for helping keep history alive. BTW, enjoyed the podcast with Bradley Laird.
      He is doing a great job with his podcast.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      A note to anyone that wishes, we've opened up the video so it can be posted by anyone on the internet. It was initially restricted to just the Cafe for posting but it was always our intention to allow it to be shared widely once we got some bang out of the buck for our effort.

      Bluegrass Today just ran their own story right here.

      Stay tuned. If all goes as we intend we'll have another surprise for everyone this coming Sunday night.
    1. brit-maxwell's Avatar
      brit-maxwell -
      Fab + brilliant! many thanks for posting this- one should probably add: RIP Charlie Derrington, Gibson owes him a lot..!
    1. Strings Jr.'s Avatar
      Strings Jr. -
      Thanks to everyone responsible for making this video available. It truly was a great day. I was working for Gibson at the time, and can be seen at the end of the video at 15:55 (guy on the right). I have always been amazed at what Charlie was able to do with this mandolin. Seeing the "before and after" condition made me appreciate his work even more.
      I'd like to offer one of my own photos of the mandolin to the forum. This is the mandolin when it was still in clamps on Charlie's workbench.

      Attachment 156870
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      At 5:30 p.m. today (Sunday) we're going to release 30 minutes of never before seen interview with Monroe on his farm just North of Nashville. Some great moments in it, including him playing his mandolin on the front porch.

      And of special note: you do NOT want to miss the brief conversation between interviewer and camera operator while Monroe goes inside the house to get the mandolin. Priceless.
    1. MikeEdgerton's Avatar
      MikeEdgerton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Strings Jr. View Post
      Thanks to everyone responsible for making this video available. It truly was a great day. I was working for Gibson at the time, and can be seen at the end of the video at 15:55 (guy on the right). I have always been amazed at what Charlie was able to do with this mandolin. Seeing the "before and after" condition made me appreciate his work even more.
      I'd like to offer one of my own photos of the mandolin to the forum. This is the mandolin when it was still in clamps on Charlie's workbench.

      Attachment 156870
      Thanks, I don't think I've ever seen that picture.
    1. JimRym's Avatar
      JimRym -
      Well, that was sure some part of something. Thanks Scott. -Jim
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      A quick note to let everyone know we finally got the audio and video synced on this historic video. The first upload was badly out of sync. Hard to find folks with expertise in converting massive video cassette tapes used for television in the 80s and converting them to web. This is the only video that exists in public of Bill Monroe receiving his mandolin post-repair from Gibson at the factory with Charlie Derrington and Henry J. making the presentation.

      Chet Atkins on guitar backing up Monroe playing "Wheel Hoss" with Charlie calling out the chords to Chet--priceless.

      See if you can spot a very young George Gruhn in the crowd as Scott Wright pans video of folks watching the presentation.

      See the new video here.