• 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.

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    Comments 49 Comments
    1. MikeEdgerton's Avatar
      MikeEdgerton -
      Well, that will bring tears to your eyes. Big day for Bill Monroe, big day for Charlie. Nice, really nice.

      This is a video of historical importance and we get to see it. Thanks Scott.
    1. danb's Avatar
      danb -
      Well that's cool as heck
    1. JFDilmando's Avatar
      JFDilmando -
      Let me tip my hat to you Scott, and all you have done... this is just another brilliant accomplishment for sure... One question that I might ask, given the understanding that there is a desire to avoid editing the material, to honor the integrity, of the original material, might there be a way to have an edited version that syncs the audio with the video ?
    1. MikeZito's Avatar
      MikeZito -
      I would not consider myself a Bill Monroe fan, but I fully appreciate that as one of the most significant historical mandolin videos of all time. I am grateful to have seen it.
    1. Drew Egerton's Avatar
      Drew Egerton -
      Very cool to see, thanks for sharing!
    1. George R. Lane's Avatar
      George R. Lane -
      It is great to see Mr. Monroe was a big time noodler too.
    1. Logan M Chandler's Avatar
      Logan M Chandler -
      Is that George Gruhn in the crowd?
    1. Bob Bass's Avatar
      Bob Bass -
      Thanks Scott!
    1. BradKlein's Avatar
      BradKlein -
      A great moment!
    1. f5loar's Avatar
      f5loar -
      I remember the day like it was yesterday. Yes, sir that would bring tears to a glass eye! At the time Monroe arrived he didn't know if it was going to be able to play or just hang as a museum piece. When you see Charlie at first kneeling to hide from Monroe, he wanted to make sure it was in tune when it went into the display box they had built for it. You can tell Monroe upon the first lick was surprised it was in tune and put back into the condition to be able play it. Not sure why Charlie had it in Monroe's old '64 Gibson case, as by this time he was already using the custom leather bound Pag. case. I'm guessing Monroe kept it to use for the '78 F5L he used the most during the repair time. Monroe had written the new tune "Lloyd Loar" for the Gibson employees and Charlie had already heard it. He only performed it live once or twice that I know of on stage. It was never recorded by Monroe. Too bad Chet didn't know the chords to "Wheel Hoss" and didn't get that "G" run in there.
    1. CES's Avatar
      CES -
      Yeah, they kind of threw Chet into the fire without any idea what was coming. He's awesome and did just fine, but would have been nice if they'd given him a little prep. I agree it was cool how Bill just couldn't stop playing it, and how Charlie just couldn't stop smiling
    1. Denny Gies's Avatar
      Denny Gies -
      Outstanding, Scott. What a treat. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the bottom of my mandolin.
    1. addamr's Avatar
      addamr -
      Enjoyed that. That is awesome.

    1. goose 2's Avatar
      goose 2 -
      Amazing snapshot of mandolin history. Thanks so much for sharing this. Monroe is
      One of my musical heroes and the video really brings to memory talking mandolins with Charlie. What a great guy he was.
    1. John Soper's Avatar
      John Soper -
      Thanks, Scott for making this available. An important moment in mandolin history.
    1. Jack Roberts's Avatar
      Jack Roberts -
      Thank you! This was additional sunshine in my morning!
    1. JEStanek's Avatar
      JEStanek -
      That's pure bluegrass history. A wonderful tribute to Charlie and Bill.

    1. AlanN's Avatar
      AlanN -
      Pure gold is when CD is telling/yelling the chords to CA.
    1. MikeEdgerton's Avatar
      MikeEdgerton -
      Chet was trying.

      Henry seemed to have trouble finding words.
    1. AlanN's Avatar
      AlanN -
      Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
      Henry seemed to have trouble finding words.
      Indeed. At least he let Charlie do the hand over.