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Thread: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

  1. #1
    Brentrup Evangelist Larry S Sherman's Avatar
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    Default 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    One of the coolest electric mandolins I've ever seen. Pretty sure I've seen threads on this but first time I've seen the video.



    From the description: "A rare piece made by the legendary Paul Bigsby. This mandolin was originally built for Glenn Tarver, a California fiddle player. After a decade of limited use, Traver sold the mandolin to his former bandmate, the renowned western swing musician, Tiny Moore. This is the last of 7 Bigsby mandolins that were made."

    Pics from Carter's Vintage:

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    Larry

  2. #2
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Oh, I didn't know this was at Carter's now. At $40K it's almost affordable.

    If you count the Nudie renecked Kay mandolin and the three doubleneck guitar/mandolins, you could make a case that Bigsby actually built eleven mandos ... but that would be a stretch. Seven is the correct number according to me, and I believe I'm the first one to collect photos & descriptions of all seven in one place.
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  4. #3
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Well now I have another item to add to the bucket list. If I sold all of my stuff, and could borrow 40K, I could almost make that happen.
    "Mongo only pawn in game of life." --- Mongo

  5. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Wasn't somebody making replicas of these in the last few years?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  6. #5
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Wasn't somebody making replicas of these in the last few years?
    A few wonderful copies were made by TK Smith, yes...
    But he now has his own design...
    Here's mine--a bench copy of the Tarver minus the Bigsby tailpiece:









    ...and I'll be the Tarver won't last long at 40K...

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  8. #6
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Was the Tarver mando the one Tiny played, or did he have another Bigsby and just bought the Tarver as well?

    That mando of Spruces is terrific. I want to hear that thru my Vintage 47 amp!!
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  9. #7
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post

    That mando of Spruces is terrific. I want to hear that thru my Vintage 47 amp!!
    You can borrow it for awhile if you want...
    It needs to get scratched...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Was the Tarver mando the one Tiny played, or did he have another Bigsby and just bought the Tarver as well?
    No, Tiny had his own, but also bought the Tarver, I think...
    Here's Tiny's:


  10. #8
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Thought the Tarver looked different. I got to play Tiny's mando a couple of times at Weiser in the early 80's. Plus forgot about the pickguard...
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  11. #9
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    I got to play Tiny's mando a couple of times at Weiser in the early 80's...
    These things would be easy to build, except for one little thing--the pickups.
    TK builds his own from the ground up, and they are wonderful...
    The neck pup through an old Bogen amp is a dead-ringer for that iconic sound we hear on "Back to Back"...

    I've been trying unsuccessfully for years to get a chance to see (and take measurements) on Tiny's Bigsby (which now resides in Sacramento), to no avail...
    But I now have 3-D plans in the form of TK's bench copy, which is spot-on to the original...


  12. #10
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    I note that the Bigsby looks to have only 17 frets, which brings me to a point I have been considering posting on.

    The shorter fingerboard allows the neck pickup to be farther from the bridge, which gets a better tone for that pickup, more bass and less like a weird-sounding treble pickup. I have two Buchanans, and I prefer one which is 17 frets instead of 18 for the other, because with identical pickups the shorter fingerboard makes for better pickup location.

    My solid-body instruments are scaled-down emulations of guitars, basically, and have 20 frets. Neither gets the rich tone from the neck pickup than does the Buchanan, with identical make and model of pickup.

    Has anyone considered this point? I experimented with pickup location when I ordered an EM-45 from Steve Ryder, for which I specified positions that would match the bridge and middle pickups from a Stratocaster. They sound fine, but still don't get to that great neck tone. Ditto my Almuse, although Pete fudged the proportions a bit to get a little more room for pushing the pickup farther from the bridge. On both I like the treble pickup not too close to the bridge---1.5" for the centerline. The bass pickups for both come in at around 3.75" from the bridge, as well as on the 18-fret Buchanan. The one I prefer has the soundhole pickup 4.5" from the bridge.

    When I was testing a soundhole setup on my Buchanan, I tried both the near and far "sides"of the soundhole. The side closest to the fingerboard was the winner, with the other one just sounding peculiar. It may be my ears are so familiar with typical guitar tone that anything else is strange, but I believe guitar makers worked out those locations long ago, and not by accident. Gibson offered a bass guitar in the 70s called "The Grabber" which had a sliding pickup for locating it anywhere between the two extremes. That model vanished quickly.

    Because the pickup cannot sense a harmonic whose node sits above the pickup (no movement there), and because the harmonics that make for timbre are spaced very closely, slight differences in location make for large differences in color. This also affects the single-coil as opposed to side-by-side pickups.

    So, to discussions about the "Florida" and who needs those frets, anyway (hardly anyone*), I ask, why have more than 17? It was good enough for Tiny, and I love my rig. And they get in the way of better tone when locating that mag pickup.

    *OK, Calace and so on.
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  14. #11
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wright View Post
    I ask, why have more than 17? It was good enough for Tiny, and I love my rig. And they get in the way of better tone when locating that mag pickup.
    Yep...
    The neck pup--and it's positioning--is where it's at when trying to get "that" Tiny Tone...

    ...and check out this page for all the info you could ever want on Bigsby mandolins--including some amazing photos...

  15. #12
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Didn't Joel Eckhaus make a five string that was based somewhat on he Bigsby design? Seems like I remember one for sale a couple of years ago, either in the classifieds or on e-mando. I don't remember what pickups it had.
    "Mongo only pawn in game of life." --- Mongo

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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    I am assuming that this is the same mandolin.
    Sounds pretty amazing in this video.
    Those pickups are magic
    I also love the wear on the fretboard.

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  17. #14
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by F-2 Dave View Post
    Didn't Joel Eckhaus make a five string that was based somewhat on he Bigsby design? Seems like I remember one for sale a couple of years ago, either in the classifieds or on e-mando. I don't remember what pickups it had.
    Yep...
    "Based somewhat" is a good description...
    Cool looking instrument...



    Check out the design that TK Smith came up with for his new 5-string mandolin...
    Pretty cool...
    Here tis....

  18. #15
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    That's the one. I was wanting a five string at the time and remember spending a good bit of time trying to justify buying it based on looks alone. In the end, I ended up getting a little Fender 5 string. Entry level, but it was enough to scratch the itch for a while. That TK Smith is pretty spiffy. Your Smith is very cool as well. Is that a reissue brown reverb unit?
    "Mongo only pawn in game of life." --- Mongo

  19. #16
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    I bought a Roberts Tiny Moore model in the 1980s directly from Tiny. Sounded pretty good in his hands. I sold it a few years ago. I believe that Barry Mitterhoff had one too.

    Btw there was and still might be a ten string Bigsby at Retrofret.
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  20. #17
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by F-2 Dave View Post
    Is that a reissue brown reverb unit?
    Nope...

    The back of the Tarver...is this sexy or what?


  21. #18
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    As for pickups, I just had a Lollar Charlie Christian installed and it sounds great. It would be a good option for someone looking for a vintage jazz sound.
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  22. #19
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Yeah, I had that Earnest for a while; seriously cool in its own right but more of a tribute than a copy. IIRC it now lives in Australia.
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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  23. #20
    Registered User clem's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    They are cool from a looks standpoint, historic due to the Tiny Moore connection AND Bigsby (meaning very collectible) BUT the Michael Stevens built "Paul Glasse" model electric mandolin is the finest musical instrument for playing and sounds.

  24. #21
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Here's a link to Michael's mandolin...
    At $8,500 it better be good...

  25. #22
    Registered User Matt's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Hello All, Unrelated but seeing mrmando's reply reminds me of the wonderful Old Town EM-200 I bought from him several years ago. Thanks again Martin!Click image for larger version. 

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  26. #23
    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Spruce View Post
    Here's a link to Michael's mandolin...
    At $8,500 it better be good...
    Check out the recently shipped. The variation there is a CC pickup with a spruce top. I'm in lust.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  27. #24
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    A Pole for each of the Lower 2 strings and a bar for the magnet for the Higher 3,
    is a different way Of making the Pickup.

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  28. #25
    Registered User mando1man's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1953 5 String Bigsby Mandolin

    Score! I got the "Tarver" Bigsby Mandolin from Carter's Vintage Guitars. It's an incredible instrument. Click image for larger version. 

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