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Thread: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

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    Default A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    The Mandolin Cafe has posted the following news release:
    A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    We pay a visit to Carter Vintage Guitars of Nashville, owned and operated by vintage instrument power couple Walter and Christie Carter.



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    Registered User Annette Siegel's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Wowwee wow wow....that trip sounds incredible! Thanks ..very cool.

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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I was there two weekends ago. Great store. Played two Duffs, two Gilchrists, a Kimble, a Wiens, a Nugget, a Monteleone, a Henderson, a Stanley, and two Ellis all within one hour. When I walked in the guy behind the counter said "make yourself at home" and I did! It was amazing to play so many instruments that I never thought I would get to touch all at once. Really just overwhelming. Not even sure how you pick a favorite, but the Henderson was awesome. I think it is rare that so many high end mandos are in one store like this. I've been to Gruhns and to Elderly many times and while they are both great stores, they don't seem to keep the stock of high end mandos that Carter's does.

  4. #4

    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I stopped in Carter's for my first time in February with my wife and son in tow. My wife was quite upset with the staff because they kept handing me six digit mandolins to play. She kept telling me to put them down. She finally realized she was out matched as it didn't seem to phase her that our 13 year old son was given a $6000 guitar to play. We had a real nice time. I didn't get a chance to meet the Carter's but their staff was exceptional.

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    Thumbs up Recalling my own visit to Carter Vintage Guitars last September

    Thanks so much for that very nice article: it touched on many of the most important features of this incredible establishment.

    I'd like to add my voice to the chorus of enthusiastic support for Walter and Christie Carter, and Carter Vintage Guitars. I was in Nashville for the very first time last September, and I paid a visit to their shop myself. Actually, it was more like making a pilgrimage: it was a life-transforming experience for a mandolin player. First off, Christie and Walter could not possibly have been nicer or more gracious! They didn't know me from Adam, but they gave me the complete run of the place, and let me play every instrument that I could lay my eager fingers upon. In fact, I could just reach up and take the instrument down from the rack myself, and then sit down and play it. No one one stood closely by over my shoulder, or pressed me for a response. No one told me what I could, or couldn't, touch. Not a single mandolin was locked up behind glass, including more than one Lloyd Loar F5. Amazing! It was a quiet, warm and relaxing playing experience. (No one was banging out chords to "Stairway to Heaven" in the background! Whatever other music I heard was well away from me, and played softly by knowledgeable musicians). I went there with a local musician friend, and we 'tasted' the finest mandolins for hours. It was, by far, the most memorable trip I've ever had to a music store, and no former experience even comes close.

    Second, Walter and Christie could not possibly have amassed a more impressive set of instruments, or so it seemed to me. Nearly all the very greatest luthiers, and many of the others whose names come up so frequently at the Mandolin Cafe, were represented. In the space of an all-too-short, 3-hour (!) visit, here's what I got to play:

    1) 1 1924 Loar mandolin (priced at $175k)
    2) 1 1924 Loar mandola (being sold the next day to Ry Cooder)
    3) 2 Gilchrist F5s (both x-braced, one was blonde and designated “classical”, F5C, and formerly owned by Charlie Derrington)
    4) 2 Hendersons, an F5 (from Alan Bibey), and an A5
    5) 1 Monteleone 10-string mandolin/ola
    6) 1 Brentrup mandola
    7) 2 1927 Gibson F5s (both post-Loar Ferns),
    8) 1 Mix New-Mad carbon fiber F4 (I finally tried one of those)
    9) 1 blonde Nugget F5
    10) 1 Dan Voight F5 (his #9)
    11) 1 Duff F5
    12) A whole bunch of Elkhorn F5s
    13) A whole bunch of 60-80’s era Gibson F5s
    14) A few 1918-1922 Gibson F4s

    ...and I'm sure I left a few out. Wow, is all I can say. Actually, words cannot express this experience.

    I was fascinated to hear Scott Tichenor call out the Henderson A5-model there as a great mandolin, and something of a dark horse. It's going to sound like I'm making this all up after the fact, but that's EXACTLY how I felt (and reported) at the time! Let me quote here from an email to a friend that I sent on Wednesday, Sept. 11 (yeah, it was 9/11), 2013:

    "IMO, the two standouts were – drumroll --the X-braced Gilchrist F5C (good G*D what an amazing mandolin!) and, improbably enough, the Wayne Henderson A5 model.
    Yes, the 1924 Loar was great, but hey, not that great, when you consider the price differential. And the two 1927 Ferns were just wonderful, too, but not that wonderful. I only wish I’d had the Altman with me to compare directly. But I sure had enough other great instruments for comparison purposes."


    For me, the best deals in the whole store were Charlie Derrington's Gilchrist F5C and that incredible Wayne Henderson A5. Actually, I thought the Henderson A5 sounded significantly better than his F5, in fact. And it put some of the vintage, Loar-era Gibsons to shame.

    While in the store, I also ran into Nashville luthier and mandolinist Dan Voight, who was hanging out there for a time. We had a really nice conversation, and he showed me a top he was carving for his next mandolin, as well as his finger planes and customized scraper. I learned a lot about his perspective on voicing and tuning the wood of a mandolin. Then, he put down his tools and played for a while (he's a great musician, to boot). One of his instruments was there hanging on the wall. A very innovative thing he does is to attach his truss rod covers with tiny (and invisible) rare earth magnets, set into the headstock itself and into the underside of the cover. These are super-strong, and the resulting look is clean and fabulous, and much better than those ugly screws you usually find, even on the prettiest instruments. It would not surprise me if more instruments take advantage of this same technology in the future.

    All in all, I did a lot of ear training -- and careful listening! -- that afternoon. I now feel that I am much better "calibrated" when it comes to high-end instruments. This was very valuable training for me. Not to mention FUN!!

    Alas, I didn't get to buy an instrument that day (too poor, and my tastes are too expensive), but I re-doubled my resolve to save all my pennies for the instrument of my dreams. And after this incredible experience, I would not hesitate to do business with Carter Vintage Guitars. It's, hand-down, the most amazing instrument shop I've ever visited. And the owners were such nice people. My faith was renewed.

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    Constantly In Search Of.. Michael Bridges's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Great write-up! Makes me feel like I've been there, and definitely has me lusting to lay hands on some of those gems you described. I think a drive up to Nashville may be in my future!
    Music speaks to us all. And to each of us, she speaks with a different voice.

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  8. #7

    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Great report! I found it interesting that the Henderson "A" is still there...when I bought the Duff A model there, I liked the Henderson 2nd best of everything I played there!

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    Registered User danielpatrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Awesome! I'm heading to Nashville Weds from Charleston SC with Carters being top of my list to visit! Scott! Do you have any food or drink recomendations that you enjoy when you are there that may be hidden gems?

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    Site founder Scott Tichenor's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by danielpatrick View Post
    Awesome! I'm heading to Nashville Weds from Charleston SC with Carters being top of my list to visit! Scott! Do you have any food or drink recomendations that you enjoy when you are there that may be hidden gems?
    We probably shouldn't derail the conversation with food and drink from this point forward although there are few things I love talking about more. Go for coffee/espresso at Crema, 15 Hermitage Ave., one of the best in the U.S. in my opinion.
    Last edited by Scott Tichenor; Mar-04-2014 at 7:41am.

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    Registered User Mike Steadfast-Ward's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Good piece of Journalism. Totally engrossing article. Would love to visit there !myself but this will never happen. Also Grsndma and Grandad Carter and the girls were a high quality act. Still watch them now.
    Unsurpassed as countrys foundational early country stars.

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    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Thanks, Scott!
    Just returned from Nashville and the Nashville Mando Camp with Megan and Adam Chowning and intended to stop and see the Christies in their new digs! Thanks to your enticing report, I must make the 9 hour drive again! (can't carry enough trade bait on an airplane!)

  13. #12

    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Great article, Scott. I spent a morning down there in October, and I was really surprised at how good the Henderson was. Never would have thought it. The Loar-signed Mandola was my pick of the day, though.

    I haven't played many Lloyd Loar F-5 mandolins in my life, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good their F-5 was. I thought it was the best mandolin in the store.

    I did not buy it.

    Andy

  14. #13

    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I don't believe in heaven, but if I did, it might be just like the place portrayed in the article.

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    Different Text eadg145's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Why does everyone sound so surprised that Wayne Henderson makes a great-sounding mandolin? It seems to me he is making his mark and reputation with his craftsmanship. Is it because he is more associated with his fine guitars? I think it's really odd to hear such "surprise" at the quality of his work. Maybe folks don't know anyone on the wait list for one of his guitars.
    Think globally, bike locally.

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    Registered User Mike Sutterfield's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I live in Nashville and frequent Carter Vintage a lot. Christie and Walter are great people!

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I'm on year 8 for a Henderson A4. Great write up about a place I now want to visit.

    f-d
    ¡papá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '84 1N, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  18. #17

    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I haven't visited the store yet, though this article offers another good reason to take that step.

    My input to the thread is that Walter was great to deal with for an out-of-state purchase. He accepted a proposal to buy one of his mandolins (a Poe A style) with payments spread out over two months. Responses to emails were always quick and friendly.

    The experience went so well that I added a Carter Vintage Guitars shirt and hat to the final order. The package arrived within a few days of the Carters receiving my last check.

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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Really neat report of the visit. Thanks, Scott.

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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Oh, how I want to go there in the most awfully good way! That shop is like my holy grail of vintage shops! I really don't think there is a better vintage shop! They have the greatest selection of toys around! So many killer mandolins, Its mando hog heaven! I really love them Gibson Ferns! "MILDRED" Really gets my heart pumping/thumping/jumping Maybe I need a fibulater type apparatus? forgive my ignorane on my spelling. I get all sorts of excited when I hear or go to Carters website. Makes me smile SO!

  21. #20

    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I'm just waiting for a Duff to arrive from Paul, a sale facilitated by Walter and Christie since Paul suggested that his next build was headed for Carters and my wait would be much shorter by going through them. They also got a much higher price than I expected for a mando I was selling, to get this Duff. The Carters have been terrific to deal with, letting Paul drop ship the instrument directly to me. They may be one of the main reasons I might go to the Mandocamp this year (besides the obvious!). It is great to read Scot's glowing report on his visit.

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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by randygwatkins View Post
    Great report! I found it interesting that the Henderson "A" is still there...when I bought the Duff A model there, I liked the Henderson 2nd best of everything I played there!
    it may just be too ambitious a price...

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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Quote Originally Posted by eadg145 View Post
    Why does everyone sound so surprised that Wayne Henderson makes a great-sounding mandolin? It seems to me he is making his mark and reputation with his craftsmanship. Is it because he is more associated with his fine guitars? I think it's really odd to hear such "surprise" at the quality of his work. Maybe folks don't know anyone on the wait list for one of his guitars.
    Actually, eadg145, I think you may have misunderstood what folks are saying. I, for one, was not the least bit surprised that Wayne Henderson makes a fine-sounding mandolin (or guitar, for that matter). After all, he has a well-deserved reputation for being a great modern luthier. The SURPRISE -- for me, anyway -- was that his A5 model sounded so much better than his F5 model (formerly owned by Alan Bibey), which was hanging on the wall right next to it. I did some pretty careful A/B comparisons on these two Henderson instruments (fiddle tunes, scales, chops, tremolo, stuff up and down the neck), but you could hear a distinct difference right off the bat. Furthermore, that amazing Henderson A model sounded better than a whole bunch of hugely more expensive instruments from other makers (again, in my subjective opinion!), all costing in excess of $20,000 -- including at least one Gilchrist, one Nugget, and several very old Gibson F5's. So, dollar-for-dollar, I'd have to say that it was the best value in the store, measured in units of sonic fabulosity per simolean!

    Of course, all this is totally subjective, so please don't shoot the messenger!

  24. #23

    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    *Why does everyone sound so surprised that Wayne Henderson makes a great-sounding mandolin? It seems to me he is making his mark and reputation with his craftsmanship. Is it because he is more associated with his fine guitars? I think it's really odd to hear such "surprise" at the quality of his work. Maybe folks don't know anyone on the wait list for one of his guitars.*

    It's because there are so few people that build great guitars and great mandolins. Most people specialize. Played several henderson guitars, and they're the bomb. Just didn't know his mandolin would be too.

  25. #24
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    I spent several hours at Carter Vintage last week while visiting Nashville. It certainly was everything said above. I played pretty much everything that's been mentioned, Loars, '27s, Gil, Nugget, Monte, Henderson, Duff, and all the rest. Heaven indeed!

    My ear really loved the Nugget, but I left it there. Maybe another visit next year.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

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    Different Text eadg145's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Visit to Carter Vintage Guitars

    Well, thanks sblock and jofb for being so patient and gracious with me. I didn't t mean to hijack the thread in any way.

    On topic, I'm really impressed with what I've seen from Carter Vintage since they've opened. I don't know if/when I'll get to Nashville, but that destination is at the top of the list if I do! From out here in Northern California, the two things I appreciate most are the two-mandolin comparison videos and the general good vibe that gets spread a little farther every time someone visits their store and writes about it. Like bluegrasser78 I've found the"Mildred" Fern absolutely glorious from the video, and I'll have to wait to visit until she's safely in the hands of a new owner. That's one fine instrument, even only on video! I absolutely desire to visit this fine merchant, and to meet the pleasant staff who make this happen.

    On a final note, I really like the units of "sonic fabulosity per simolean". We should calibrate this and adopt it as an international standard!
    Think globally, bike locally.

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