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Thread: What if Gibson had not existed?

  1. #51
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    I was under the impression that Gibson relatively latein their history, co-opted the mandolin orchestra structure that already existed in the USA (those having grown out of the banjo orchestras from even earlier) and converted them to Gibson based orchestras once he had his entree there.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    I was under the impression that Gibson relatively latein their history, co-opted the mandolin orchestra structure that already existed in the USA
    Was that when Gibson sold fried chickens?
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Hi Bertram - Those were the KFC model !. Highly sought after because of the self-lubricating strings,which pre-empted Elixer etc.,
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  7. #54
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Loar did go on without Gibson...

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  9. #55

    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    I was under the impression that Gibson relatively latein their history, co-opted the mandolin orchestra structure that already existed in the USA (those having grown out of the banjo orchestras from even earlier) and converted them to Gibson based orchestras once he had his entree there.
    I'm still trying to piece together the time-line on all this. A quick quote from a MandolinCafe article "A Brief History of the Mandolin":

    "The mandolin entered the mainstream of popular American culture during the first epoch of substantial immigration from eastern and southern Europe...

    "It was in vogue in the 1850s... A marked increase in Italian immigration in the 1880s sparked a fad for the bowl-backed Neopolitan instrument that spread across the land. ... In 1897, Montgomery Ward's catalog marveled at the 'phenomenal growth in our Mandolin trade'.

    "...By the turn of the century, mandolin ensembles were touring the vaudeville circuit, and mandolin orchestras were forming in schools and colleges. In 1900, a company called Lyon & Healy boasted 'At any time you can find in our factory upwards of 10,000 mandolins in various stages of construction'. From the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, mandolins proliferated across the South. Attempting to beat the competition, the Gibson company sent field reps across America to encourage sales of mandolins, and to establish mandolin orchestras."

    So I guess the next thing is to determine when was the very first Gibson-sponsored mandolin orchestra. Anyone know? The current version of the Wikipedia mandolin orchestra page does not seem to mention it, curiously the word "Gibson" appears only once on that Wikipedia page in the caption of a photo.


    EDITED TO ADD:
    I'd always mistakenly assumed Gibson had invented the mandola (larger sized mandolin tuned lower, presumably an important component of a mandolin orchestra), but the aforementioned MandolinCafe mandolin history article says the mandola is a lot older than that:

    "In a gallery in Washington, a painting by Agnelo Gaddi (1369-1396) depicts an angel playing a miniature lute called the mandora. The miniature lute was probably contrived to fill out the scale of 16th century lute ensembles. The Assyrians called this new instrument a Pandura, which described its shape. The Arabs called it Dambura, the Latins Mandora, the Italians, Mandola. The smaller version of the traditional mandola was called mandolina by the Italians."

    More recently (historically speaking), according to a Wikipedia article, at the age of 22 the famous Italian mandolinist Carlo Munier had a "plucked string quartet" in 1890 in Florence Italy, consisting of 1st & 2nd mandolins, mandola, and something called "liuto moderno". The article credits Munier with "popularizing this kind of ensemble."

    Wikipedia describes the liuto moderno or liuto cantabile as a "10-stringed mandocello".

    So Gibson didn't quite invent the mandocello either, I guess... I had a lot of misconceptions!

    Hmm lemme look up "mandocello"... Wikipedia mandocello page:

    "It was during the Baroque period (1600-1750) that interest in the mandolin began to increase, along with its use in ensemble playing, resulting in increased interest in developing and expanding the mandolin family."

    Fascinating stuff.
    Last edited by JL277z; Feb-16-2018 at 7:10am. Reason: Add info, fix links.

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  11. #56

    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    Loar did go on without Gibson...

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    Cool! I'm especially intrigued by Loar's 1930s tries at electric instruments, mentioned at Siminoff's "Loar's Contributions to Instrument Design". Looks like Loar was just too far ahead of his time, he wanted to do stuff that no one had the right circuitry & components for, yet.

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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    Was that when Gibson sold fried chickens?
    I assume you’re not, but just in case anyone else is ignorant of the use: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrée_(disambiguation)
    I didn’t realise it was local to French & English until I tried to figure out what you meant.
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  14. #58
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Question - did the arch top guitar come before or after arch top mandolins? I know it all came from the violin, but how did it move to plucked and strummed instruments.

    My thought is that if Gibson hadn't been there, perhaps the arch top mandolin would not have happened. Perhaps the alternative to the bowl back would be a flat top. And when and if the arch top mandolin came along, it might not have become as popular and ubiquitous as it is today.

    In the acoustic guitar world flat top is still king and arch top is one of many alternatives. Martin, to my knowledge, never produced an arch top.

    My only point is that the arch top construction is not, to my thinking, an obvious development that anyone might have thought of, whereas putting eight strings on a small flat top guitarish thing does seem more likely as an inevitable development.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    My thought is that if Gibson hadn't been there, perhaps the arch top mandolin would not have happened. Perhaps the alternative to the bowl back would be a flat top. And when and if the arch top mandolin came along, it might not have become as popular and ubiquitous as it is today.
    It would be interesting to know (does anyone?) if Stefan Sobell was at all inspired by Gibson with his archtop mandolin family design, which I think dates back to the late 70's or 80's. There isn't much obvious influence there. Its a carved top, but without the recurve, bracing, or body shape/volume of Gibson mandolins.

    Maybe we'd be playing something like that, if Gibson hadn't existed.

  16. #60

    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Martin, to my knowledge, never produced an arch top.
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    Martin's archtops were among their top of the line pre-war offerings, more expensive than a dreadnought, and they sold quite a few C-1,2,3 and R-17,18 and F-7,9 models.
    Last edited by BradKlein; Feb-16-2018 at 3:33pm.
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    And now Northfield have used old Martin archtops as inspiration for their OM.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Shutt and Orville Gibson carved-arch-top mandolins preceded the carved-arch-top guitar. I believe Gibson introduced their carved-top guitars around 1902 (Gibson Style O), whereas there are Gibson mandolins attributed as pre-1900.
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  21. #63
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Question - did the arch top guitar come before or after arch top mandolins?
    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Shutt and Orville Gibson carved-arch-top mandolins preceded the carved-arch-top guitar. I believe Gibson introduced their carved-top guitars around 1902 (Gibson Style O), whereas there are Gibson mandolins attributed as pre-1900.
    But they were introduced close to the same time - although the archtop guitar really got going with the 1922 L-5 f hole archtop and guys like Eddie Land.

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    It would be interesting to know (does anyone?) if Stefan Sobell was at all inspired by Gibson with his archtop mandolin family design, which I think dates back to the late 70's or 80's. There isn't much obvious influence there. Its a carved top, but without the recurve, bracing, or body shape/volume of Gibson mandolins.
    Those always seemed inspired by the English guitar or Portuguese guitarra

  22. #64
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    In the guide to Gibson mandolins,by Paul Fox,,he states Orville made a carved harp type guitar in 1888,using only a jackknife,,,and starting carving guitars as early as 1891...

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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    To speak to the original question...
    I doubt this forum would exist, nor the myriad “Boutique, Small production, Pac Rim, kit, shade tree, home builder” folks be saturating the market from sublime (Gil, Dude, Ellis, Halsey...) to crappy knock off stuff with “Ooh, Vintage(made five weeks ago) Hoo Raw” up for sale all over the place. Would it be cool to see this much passion for “an eight stringed parlor instrument” sans the Orville et al added direction? I suppose maybe, sure. There just does not seem to be the “joie de vivre” exhibited for the (dare I say it) incredible Lyon and Healy instruments; Better marketing? Retrospect allows more parallel realities than truth. Gibson simply saw a different marketing model.
    End rant.
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  26. #66

    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    I assume you’re not, but just in case anyone else is ignorant of the use: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrée_(disambiguation)
    I didn’t realise it was local to French & English until I tried to figure out what you meant.
    Finger lickin' good in any language. Click image for larger version. 

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  28. #67
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    Would it be cool to see this much passion for “an eight stringed parlor instrument” sans the Orville et al added direction? I suppose maybe, sure. There just does not seem to be the “joie de vivre” exhibited for the (dare I say it) incredible Lyon and Healy instruments; Better marketing? Retrospect allows more parallel realities than truth. Gibson simply saw a different marketing model.
    End rant.
    We may have covered this idea earlier in the thread - a likely possibility was if there were no F mandolins, and say Bill Monroe used a top of the line L and H, that is the sort of mandolin that would be most popular and copied by makers large and small.

    "Gibson simply saw a different marketing model."

    Like the egregious ads?


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  30. #68

    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    It's a strange question. There's no way of knowing if we would be better off, worse off, or exactly the same. If not for Gibson, some other, perhaps more inventive company may have filled that niche. Perhaps the shapes may not be what we have today, but they might have been better. There's just no way of knowing.

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  32. #69

    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    We may have covered this idea earlier in the thread - a likely possibility was if there were no F mandolins, and say Bill Monroe used a top of the line L and H, that is the sort of mandolin that would be most popular and copied by makers large and small.

    "Gibson simply saw a different marketing model."

    Like the egregious ads?

    Yeah, that ad is something else. I'd seen the picture before but I don't recall reading the text until today... they're workin' all the angles to discredit the competition, and then they finish up with this business proposal at the bottom of the ad:

    "Mr. Teacher: Do business on our capital. Stock furnished. No investment. We help sell. Territory assigned, protected and worked by our [??? can't read]. We pay for the advertising; you pay for goods when sold. Return goods if not sold. Enclose card. We will set you up in the small goods business. Gibson Mandolin Guitar Co."

    I wonder if anyone knows how much circulation that particular ad actually received? Did they run that same or similar ad for years and years in big magazines, or was it a one-time thing in a low-circulation catalog or something? I wonder what kinds of reactions they got to it, I can't imagine that everyone would have regarded it favorably at the time. Although that business-proposal thing likely lured in a lot of people, regardless of what they thought of the various instrument styles.

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  34. #70
    Registered User Russ Donahue's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    I'm still trying to piece together the time-line on all this. A quick quote from a MandolinCafe article "A Brief History of the Mandolin":

    "The mandolin entered the mainstream of popular American culture during the first epoch of substantial immigration from eastern and southern Europe...

    "It was in vogue in the 1850s... A marked increase in Italian immigration in the 1880s sparked a fad for the bowl-backed Neopolitan instrument that spread across the land. ... In 1897, Montgomery Ward's catalog marveled at the 'phenomenal growth in our Mandolin trade'.

    "...By the turn of the century, mandolin ensembles were touring the vaudeville circuit, and mandolin orchestras were forming in schools and colleges. In 1900, a company called Lyon & Healy boasted 'At any time you can find in our factory upwards of 10,000 mandolins in various stages of construction'. From the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, mandolins proliferated across the South. Attempting to beat the competition, the Gibson company sent field reps across America to encourage sales of mandolins, and to establish mandolin orchestras."

    So I guess the next thing is to determine when was the very first Gibson-sponsored mandolin orchestra. Anyone know? The current version of the Wikipedia mandolin orchestra page does not seem to mention it, curiously the word "Gibson" appears only once on that Wikipedia page in the caption of a photo.


    EDITED TO ADD:
    I'd always mistakenly assumed Gibson had invented the mandola (larger sized mandolin tuned lower, presumably an important component of a mandolin orchestra), but the aforementioned MandolinCafe mandolin history article says the mandola is a lot older than that:

    "In a gallery in Washington, a painting by Agnelo Gaddi (1369-1396) depicts an angel playing a miniature lute called the mandora. The miniature lute was probably contrived to fill out the scale of 16th century lute ensembles. The Assyrians called this new instrument a Pandura, which described its shape. The Arabs called it Dambura, the Latins Mandora, the Italians, Mandola. The smaller version of the traditional mandola was called mandolina by the Italians."

    More recently (historically speaking), according to a Wikipedia article, at the age of 22 the famous Italian mandolinist Carlo Munier had a "plucked string quartet" in 1890 in Florence Italy, consisting of 1st & 2nd mandolins, mandola, and something called "liuto moderno". The article credits Munier with "popularizing this kind of ensemble."

    Wikipedia describes the liuto moderno or liuto cantabile as a "10-stringed mandocello".

    So Gibson didn't quite invent the mandocello either, I guess... I had a lot of misconceptions!

    Hmm lemme look up "mandocello"... Wikipedia mandocello page:

    "It was during the Baroque period (1600-1750) that interest in the mandolin began to increase, along with its use in ensemble playing, resulting in increased interest in developing and expanding the mandolin family."

    Fascinating stuff.
    Thanks JL.

    These references point a bit more directly to a suggestion that Dave K has been gentle in making here all along. We tend to be so American and Americana -focused in our discussions of this instrument, that we overlook the fact that the instrument existed long before Gibson, Bill Monroe, and Bluegrass.

    That, in fact, our appropriation of the instrument for a highly specialized and tiny, tiny portion of the entertainment world is dwarfed by the instrument's much larger history and musical context.
    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    To continue the thought, we have applied our unique "manifest destiny" view of all we as Americans touch, to a wonderfully unique and adaptable instrument.
    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Russ Donahue View Post
    Thanks JL.

    These references point a bit more directly to a suggestion that Dave K has been gentle in making here all along. We tend to be so American and Americana -focused in our discussions of this instrument, that we overlook the fact that the instrument existed long before Gibson, Bill Monroe, and Bluegrass.

    That, in fact, our appropriation of the instrument for a highly specialized and tiny, tiny portion of the entertainment world is dwarfed by the instrument's much larger history and musical context.
    AMEN!

    This is partially why I asked the initial question!

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  40. #73
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
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    Martin's archtops were among their top of the line pre-war offerings, more expensive than a dreadnought, and they sold quite a few C-1,2,3 and R-17,18 and F-7,9 models.
    I did not know that. Cool.

    I am not sure I have ever seen one, certainly not knowingly.
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  41. #74

    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    I think there have been some good points made in this thread. And for those not familiar with Gibson's marketing efforts around the mandolin orchestra, well that is a fascinating part of the history of marketing, and a vital chapter in the company's history. It's like the 'ukulele' period in Martin's history where contemporary flat top players have a hard time imaginging a time when the company was supported by the ukulele fad.

    I do think that these conversations run a risk of way overestimating Monroe's influence. Views can swing wildly, when the truth is somewhere in the middle. If Mon had stuck with his F-7 for some reason or an oval hole, I don't think it would have stopped others from moving to the F-5. And if Loar hadn't overseen the development of the ff-hole models... well I've already expressed my belief that they'd have happened anyway. I understand the counter arguments.

    Lastly, it's does take some imagination to understand the original uses for familiar instruments of today. The banjo, moving from African folk roots to a 'parlor' instrument for light classical and popular song, to jazz and bluegrass and beyond. And not in a straight line. Likewise, imagine archtop guitars, not as jazz boxes, but as accompaniment for mandolin ensembles, which is the role many were designed for.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if Gibson had not existed?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    ...I am not sure I have ever seen one [Martin arch-top guitar], certainly not knowingly.
    There was a common practice in the 1960-70's of taking Martin arch-tops, removing the tops and necks, and putting flat round-hole tops and 14-fret necks on them -- converting them to quasi-OM "Martin" flat-tops.

    My current main guitar is a similar conversion of a 00-28G classical from 1940, re-topped and re-necked to create a "00-42."

    The Martin arch-tops weren't particularly successful, in competition with Gibson, Epiphone, Stromberg et. al.; the first of their "R," "C" and "F" model arch-tops was made in 1931, and they were last cataloged in 1941, though apparently Martin made the last 36 C-1's in 1942. Longworth's Martin Guitars: A History lists 2055 arch-top six-strings produced, plus a couple hundred tenors and plectrums -- and 2 mandocellos!
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