• C.J. Lewandowski Talks Early Gibson Fern History


    Over the last few weeks, Darryl Wolfe and I have both been having some great conversations with mandolinist C.J. Lewandowski from the band Po' Ramblin' Boys. C.J. recently acquired a vintage Gibson Fern F5 a lot of Cafe members would enjoy hearing about.

    Dan BeinbornAbout the author: Dan Beimborn is the host of the Mandolin Archive and Chief Linux mommy for the Mandolin Cafe's dedicated web server. He also plays Irish and American music on all sorts of vintage Gibson mandolins, a modern F5, a resonator tenor guitar, a 1909 Gibson F-4 Torch and Wire, and a Sobell bouzouki. Sometimes known to stay on a canal barge close to London, he also calls a village near Norwich, England home. He shares a house with his wife, son, and dog Henry. Weekdays see him working on highly technical Linux solutions for a multi-national hedge fund.

    In this video, CJ talks about what an "Early Gibson Fern" mandolin is, and how he got interested in this particular vintage Gibson F5 time range.

    Have a watch, it's great to hear it straight from C.J. and get his perspective on this very interesting period at Gibson! We'll likely have a follow-up from C.J. more relating to set-up, playability, and how he plans to make use of his new axe in the Po' Ramblin' Boys.

    Purist: A person who respects, pays reverence to, and carries forward established traditions and norms within a certain field or genre of past history. C.J. Lewandowski is a purist, mandolin player and the leader of the Po' Ramblin' Boys, 2018 IBMA Emerging Artists of the Year. C.J. has become quite astute with his Gibson F5 mandolin history and brings a very welcome player aspect to the table regarding these fine mandolins. Please give a look at this great video and welcome C.J. and his new acquisition to the stage. — Darryl Wolfe, F-5 Journal''



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    Comments 18 Comments
    1. William Smith's Avatar
      William Smith -
      Very nice demo CJ and hope to see another video! I'm very happy that I recommended and passed this Fern on to you. They are very special and as I knew you wanted one for awhile now and greatly appreciate these vintage F-5's, I know you'll enjoy this for years to come! I only passed on this Fern because of my recent purchase of my December 1st 24 F-5 Loar "the next # after Bobby Osborne's Loar!" Pretty sweet right there. Its the younger guys like us that have to keep these fine mandolins in play and remembrance so the history and appreciation will inspire the next younger generation to strive for the sounds/voice that I believe one can only get by these vintage F-5's. There are loads of great mandolins by spectacular builders but only so many 1920's and 1930's Gibson F-5's that have the so called "ancient tones"
      And just like your Fern that was "rediscovered" if your a mandolin geek like me one can look at the serial numbers that are known of Loar signed F-5s and the later Ferns and flowerpots to the late fluer-de-lis F-5's there are many still yet to be rediscovered! They are out there still and this Fern is a great example of that! One never knows till they come back out of the woodwork so to speak! Very nice mandolin indeed.
    1. Steve Sorensen's Avatar
      Steve Sorensen -
      Good discussion.

      Steve
    1. sgarrity's Avatar
      sgarrity -
      That’s a beauty! And it’s now in good hands
    1. josh a's Avatar
      josh a -
      Really enjoyed this video. Looking forward to more in the series! Thanks to all involved.
    1. Drew Egerton's Avatar
      Drew Egerton -
      really interesting video! I believe this is the same mandolin that Jonathan McClanahan has been documenting the truss rod repair for on his Facebook page. Lots of cool up close stuff there.
    1. Bernie Daniel's Avatar
      Bernie Daniel -
      Very nice and informative video. I wonder who knows the story of why Gibson decided to drop the flower pot and go to the fern headstock in 1925? Was it just to signal the end of an era (the Loar era)? Possible as many suggest that from a sales point of view the F-5 was not a success story for the most part. So I suppose back in 1925 the "Loar era" did not look particularly memorable or notable?
    1. William Smith's Avatar
      William Smith -
      Hey Bernie there were quite a few Loar signed F-5's with the Fern inlay, most notably the March 31st 1924 batches but maybe the Peewee Lambert was the first and that was 1922, perhaps the prototype in the catalog? Maybe Gibson thought the fancy Fern was more appealing than the flowerpot? With Gibson in the 20's-30's I've learned throw what you may know out the window as they did loads of different things!
    1. Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
      Hendrik Ahrend -
      Congrats again to you C. J., great find, and wonderful mandolin. (Love that pearl TR cover as a nod to dear old Bobby Osborne.)
      As for Fern Loars, neither 71628 (the Lambert F5) nor 71057 nor 73485 and perhaps not even 73755 are original Fern Loars, but were probably equipped with Fern inlays at some later date. As far as I can tell, real Fern Loars - Loar F5s starting out with Fern inlay, that is - were made no earlier than 1924.

      Bernie, the F5 was originally designed with a Fern inlay (interpreting the famous 1923 spec sheet, which called for the HS inlay "according to drawing", whereas other features were specified as "like F4"). Gibson apparently first used up all their flowerpot-inlaid head stock veneers before they started using the Fern pattern in 1924 and later in 1926. As far as I understand Spann's lists, no F5s at all were made in 1925, the earliest post Loar Fern accounted for being serial #81489 (FON 8223 or 8225), made in 1926 - which makes some sense, as there must have been plenty of F5s left on the shelves by the end of 1924.
    1. J.Sloan's Avatar
      J.Sloan -
      Great interview CJ...very interesting! Congrats on the fern...its in good hands!
    1. grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
      grassrootphilosopher -
      Nice talk.

      I would have liked a statement of comparison towards other mandolins. C.J., you had an F-7 conversion (if Im not mistaken). If you still had it at the time of this video, I would have liked some music back to back with the fern. But maybe that is something for another video.
    1. William Smith's Avatar
      William Smith -
      Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
      Nice talk.

      I would have liked a statement of comparison towards other mandolins. C.J., you had an F-7 conversion (if Im not mistaken). If you still had it at the time of this video, I would have liked some music back to back with the fern. But maybe that is something for another video.
      I believe CJ told me he sold his 34 F-7 conversion? "Great Mandolins!"
      By the way I know you wanted to hear video comparisons of my F-7's and Loar and old Fern among others, I just haven't had the time with everything that is going on in my world etc...But I'll add to that thread I started on them at some point "I promise!" It just may be awhile as life and family or family life can get in the way of projects!
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Part II of this ready. Won't publish this week but certainly within the next 2-3 weeks. Interesting!
    1. Paul Statman's Avatar
      Paul Statman -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
      Part II of this ready. Won't publish this week but certainly within the next 2-3 weeks. Interesting!
    1. FLATROCK HILL's Avatar
      FLATROCK HILL -
      Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
      Nice talk.

      I would have liked a statement of comparison towards other mandolins. C.J., you had an F-7 conversion (if Im not mistaken). If you still had it at the time of this video, I would have liked some music back to back with the fern. But maybe that is something for another video.
      That would be a great subject for another video. I'm also curious about the McClanahan C.J. was so enthusiastic about not so very long ago. Apples to Oranges I suppose, but a comparison there would be interesting too.
    1. MonFlavor's Avatar
      MonFlavor -
      Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
      I believe CJ told me he sold his 34 F-7 conversion? "Great Mandolins!"
      By the way I know you wanted to hear video comparisons of my F-7's and Loar and old Fern among others, I just haven't had the time with everything that is going on in my world etc...But I'll add to that thread I started on them at some point "I promise!" It just may be awhile as life and family or family life can get in the way of projects!
      Unfortunately, I dont have the F-7 anymore
    1. MonFlavor's Avatar
      MonFlavor -
      Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
      That would be a great subject for another video. I'm also curious about the McClanahan C.J. was so enthusiastic about not so very long ago. Apples to Oranges I suppose, but a comparison there would be interesting too.
      Im still enthusiastic about my McClanahan. That mandolin is incredible, but in a different way. It would be neat to do a comparison. Would you rather me talk and play, just play? Maybe play the same tune on both mandolins?
    1. d18daddy's Avatar
      d18daddy -
      I would love to hear the same tune on those two mandolins.
    1. FLATROCK HILL's Avatar
      FLATROCK HILL -
      Quote Originally Posted by MonFlavor View Post
      Im still enthusiastic about my McClanahan. That mandolin is incredible, but in a different way. It would be neat to do a comparison. Would you rather me talk and play, just play? Maybe play the same tune on both mandolins?
      Thanks C.J. I enjoyed that 'Fern' video. I also enjoyed the video you recorded when you received your McClanahan Trinity model a few years ago. That thing sounded very impressive in that clip as well as subsequent recordings.

      In this recent 'Fern' video you say... "As you can see, I have a lot of good mandolins" (just before the 09:20 mark). You gesture to your right but with the stationary camera angle, we don't see those mandolins. I wondered if the McClanahan was one of the ones you were referring to.

      I just thought a comparison of the two might be interesting (to me anyway) even knowing beforehand that they each have different strengths etc. As for how to do the comparison video... your easy going matter-of-fact style of talking and playing works just fine for me.

      Thanks again. Love the stuff you do with the Po' Ramblin' Boys!

      Clark