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Thread: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

  1. #1
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    As most of you know, I have a lot of mandolins; those listed in my signature, plus others I've added that don't fit (anyone else have three mandocelli?). I have kinda stopped looking for mandolins to acquire, but I did have a couple gaps in my accumulation: i didn't have a mando-bass, and I didn't have a Larson brothers instrument.

    That changed yesterday, when I traded a sweet '57 Martin D-18, a Guild F-212XL 12-string, and a "The Gibson" TG-0 tenor guitar, to John Bernunzio for a Wm. Stahl mando-bass, from about 1913. John had just got done restoring and stringing the Stahl, and he'd fended off many other inquiries and offers to give me "first dibs" on it.

    There are always questions about Larson authenticity, since the Larsons never signed their work, and built for Stahl and a number of other firms. Mando-basses are rare, but there are others of a similar vintage, perhaps made by Regal, Lyon & Healy, and other Midwest manufacturers -- not Larsons. It would be nice to have some real documentation...

    Well, thanx to Bob Hartmann, Larson grandchild and official archivist, we have some: a picture (c. 1912) of August Larson with the instrument.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    Now, this is an "own" rather than primarily a "play" instrument, but musically, it's quite satisfactory. Bernunzio's strung it with a variety of steel strings, rather than a standard mando-bass set, and, while lacking the "boom" of my bass fiddle, the Stahl projects a strong bass sound. The plucked D string rang for 12 seconds, and the action is excellent, the construction not fancy but very clean, and the condition unusually good for a century old instrument. The end pin doesn't extend, so it's clearly designed to be played sitting, with the retractable side post. Intonation is spot-on, tuners work fine, and the somewhat crude brass tailpiece sturdy enough for its purpose. The headstock scroll is simplistic, uncarved on the sides, and binding and purfling are well-done but not gaudy.

    Not quite sure where the Stahl will fit into my music performance needs, but I'm sure I'll find a use for it. In the meantime, I'll be commissioning a custom gig bag for it, and enjoying its history and its connection to the legendary Larsons. I sometimes say I'm finished looking at possible new instruments, but this one was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for an instrument that may be, as Hartmann speculates, the only mando-bass the Larsons made.
    Allen Hopkins
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  3. #2
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    OK, come on, you can't tell us that without pictures at the very least

    Good on you for giving that great piece of history a home!

  4. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    OK, come on, you can't tell us that without pictures at the very least...
    I did attach the Larson pic, but it's in PDF format and perhaps not accessible to some...?
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  5. #4

    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    HERE is a link to the excellent mandobass survey by Paul Ruppa, including measurements of a number of instruments, and some information on Stahl's bass production.

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  7. #5
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
    HERE is a link to the excellent mandobass survey by Paul Ruppa, including measurements of a number of instruments, and some information on Stahl's bass production.
    Allen's looks much more like the illustration than the one photographed.
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    (anyone else have three mandocelli?). T

    Up until just very recently I had three (and I'm mainly a guitar player). They were all Gibson's and all different models.


    Phil

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  10. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Congratulations, Allen. Your wife must be as much of a saint as mine.

    You can see Allen's here, for the moment on Bernunzio's site.

    Here's the description from Bernunzio site:
    Wm. Stahl Mandolin Bass

    Bernunzio's Emporium of Large Musical Oddities happily presents a creature from the depths of the mandolin family of instruments, a Mandobass. This example was sold by Wm. C. Stahl, who was a Milwaukee-based music publisher and retailer, and likely was built by the Larson Brothers. Features an oval shaped body with a 19-3/4" lower bout, the top is spruce and is double-bound in ivoroid and marquetry as it the 3.5" diameter sound hole. The back & sides are mahogany and are also bound. 39.5" scale bound ivoroid neck with original bar frets, ebony fretboard with pearl inlay; pegbox has a crude scroll and geared plate tuners. Notable features include a unique a diagonal bracing pattern on back and top, extendable side end pin on treble-side corner, and original four string tailpiece. Peghead crack (very clean break never been repaired), several cracks present on sides/back/top center seam. A worthy project
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    Jim

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  12. #8
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Jim, thanx so much for adding the pics. At the time John Bernunzio wrote up the description, he wasn't sure about the Larson origin. Then Hartmann sent along the picture of August Larson with the instrument, and its Larson manufacture became as certain as we can be at this point.

    Stahl could well have gotten mando-basses from more than one source. My instrument is just like the catalog illustration; the soundhole's smaller and the body more elongated than on the Stahl in the photos. The bridge is also located just "south" of the cant, which is a very slight sloping bend in the top, not as pronounced as the photographed bass. I'm also not sure what the structure under the tailpiece of the photographed Stahl bass is, but my instrument doesn't have one.

    Hartmann told John B that he was unaware of any other Larson-made mando-basses. Of course, we can't be sure that the Larsons didn't build other instruments with different profile or dimensions. And, honestly, I don't care too much if they did. What I am happy about is the persuasive photographic evidence that they did build the one I bought. If it's unique -- the only attributable Larson mando-bass -- that's icing on the cake.

    For the record, John wrote up the trade value as $4.5K. No $$ changed hands; it was a straight swap. And I do miss the D-18, which is an exceptional instrument, but not one I was playing much.

    P.S. -- I should add that Bernunzio's did an exceptional job repairing the cracks; they're nearly invisible. The instrument has a patina that shows its century-old status, but not a bit of playing wear that I can find.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Here's Allen's photo uploaded as a .jpg for anyone having difficulty with the .pdf.

    Mick
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    That’s really cool! So glad it has a good home!
    Wish I knew about the 57 D-18 I kind of want one but, being unemployed and “Under gigging” can’t spend boo until the bathroom is re done (keep her happy, you all know) anyway.
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  17. #11

    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Great find, Allen! Enjoy it!

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    If you could track down that ukulele, that would be a spectacular companion piece!

    Congrats - and enjoy!

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  21. #13

    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Heartiest congratulations, Allen! That piece had caught my eye, and I contacted John about it a couple of months ago...just about the time it went on hold, coincidentally enough !

    I was just at Bernunzio's yesterday, and was trying out, amongst other things, a 1930 Gibson A, and a gold-top Eastman, both of which were very nice, and both of which I resisted. He and I had a good chat (as always) about mandolins and the vintage market, but I forgot to ask him where the Stahl went, but that mystery is solved, and I'm glad it's local.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Two things I miss about my daughter graduating college: visiting Bernunzio's and hanging with Allen. Allen and I only got to do that once. The other times one of us (usually me) was busy with family matters or packing up or unpacking my daughter's stuff.

    Ah, some day once again. And I would love to see that Stahl.
    Jim

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  25. #15

    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    WOW!!! Severe MANDO-ENVY as I am also a bassist......ENJOY that beautiful instrument and send newer pics when you can!!!!
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

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  27. #16
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    First very cool instrument. Second, the OP mentioned the that the end pin doesn't extend. It does have a thumb screw like a typical upright bass end pin. Is it possible that the end pin is just a poorly fit replacement?

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  29. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Family" addition, from the Larsons

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    ...Second, the OP mentioned the that the end pin doesn't extend. It does have a thumb screw like a typical upright bass end pin. Is it possible that the end pin is just a poorly fit replacement?
    The pic in Jim G's post, is of the "leg" that extends from the side of the Stahl, to support it when you play it in a seated position. The end post is fixed. I would play the instrument standing if I were eight inches shorter...
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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