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Thread: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    In other posts over at the vintage, they were discussing the sound of the F4 over the F5. I've always wondered why did Jimmy Martin, the undisputed "King of Bluegrass" prefer the sound of the F4 in his style of bluegrass over the F5. Was it because the F4 was all he could afford at the time and just found a used teens F4 cheap and that's what ended up with the majority of his mandolin pickers? Or was it because he wanted a different mandolin sound in his style since he knew what the F5 had done with Monroe's sound? It's strange in that Jimmy fought some of the mandolin pickers over the decades to keep that F4 sound in the live shows, while a few didn't go that route preferring the F5 sound. Jimmy even later bought a Gibson 50's F12 for band members to use. You have the ultimate Martin mandolin man, Paul Williams and he sure wore out that F4 during his time with Jimmy. Paul plays an F5 today. Then you have some real F5 guys like Vernon Derrick, Herschel Sizemore and Ronnie Prevette who liked the F5. If I remember right, Vernon always used Jimmy's F12, Hershel played his F5 and Ronnie would use the F4. Jimmy's gone now, so we can't ask this question to him. There may be some interviews published where he discusses it but I don't recall the real reason as to why he liked the F4 sound. So I open up this thread to discuss the mandolin sound of Jimmy Martin's style of Bluegrass. Maybe some of you guys have heard first hand from some of Jimmy's many mandolin guys about the use of the F4.

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    "It fits my music," is what Jimmy said in some - if I remember correctly - BU interview, as to why he preferred the F4 over the F5. I'm sure there's more to it.

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    If you've ever watched the DVD ''Jimmy Martin - King of Bluegrass'', you'll understand that JM had some very bitter feelings towards the way that he thought he'd been treated by the Bluegrass community & especially the 'Opry'. Maybe it was bit of a JM 'snub' to the other bands. Well never really know. We can carry on guessing for ever,but,the F4 sounds great to my ears anyway - next guess please,
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Simple. He was The King. The King needed new clothes.

    The King Is Dead. Long Live The King.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    I thought it was based in NOT being what Bill played. Hadn't they had a falling out? The Opry thought is within reason to me too, I don't really have an answer, just opinion.
    Timothy F. Lewis
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    Jimmy's gone now, so we can't ask this question to him.
    You probably have a better chance of getting a realistic answer by doing just what you're doing...asking those who were around then or "heard first hand from some of Jimmy's many mandolin guys".

    From what I've read, and what I've heard first hand from those who dealt with him, you might have gotten a blunt answer, or a mean, sarcastic answer from Jimmy Martin, but not necessarily a thoughtful and accurate one. It's too bad really. Jimmy had some great music and a pleasant, entertaining stage persona.

    And I know f5loar (Mr. Isenhour), that I've said nothing that you don't already know.

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    While I can't shed any light on why Jimmy used the F-4 rather than an F-5, I've always thought that his use of the F-4 led him to use the snare drum to more than make up the lack of an F-5 type chop.

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    I have heard a lot of Jimmy`s recordings both with the F-4 and F-5 and I enjoyed the sound of that particular F-4, I never was a fan of oval hole mandolins in bluegrass but his was an exception along with Red Rectors and Ira Louvins.....I believe the above post where Jimmy said "It fits my kind of music" is pretty accurate, he wanted his music to stand apart from other bluegrass bands that is also why he insisted that his banjo player try and sound like J.D. Crow, just a sound that he created and wanted to keep...As far as the drums go that might have been a snub to the rest of the people that seemed to dislike Jimmy as a person, which was many....

    I wonder if Chris Warner could answer your question Tom? The next time I see him I`ll ask him or maybe he will chime in here on the cafe...

    Willie

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    Smile Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    I have no answer to the question. I would like to say, however, that I have sentimental reasons for enjoying Martin's music. My wife and I went to the Cub Hill Inn in Maryland and saw Jimmy Martin, on our first date.
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Well I have heard and read that Jimmy Martin was known to have a lot pride and even hold strong opinions about things. Maybe it was just a position he had staked out and that was that.

    I met him once along with a crowd of fans at his bus at a BG festival in 1973 -- I think it was Culpepper, VA. At the time I was really new to mandolin and also new to bluegrass.

    Earlier in that same summer I had managed to buy a 1919 F-2 only to find out from every bluegrasser in Columbus (Ohio) that it was "no good" for bluegrass. So I was happy to see that his mandolin player had that Gibson F-4, oval hole mandolin. I was going to ask him that very question about why the F-4 but someone else started talking to him and I never got an opening in the conversation again. Maybe I'm lucky that I didn't!
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    I'll see if I can get some information from Audie Blaylock.....
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    I'll see if I can get some information from Audie Blaylock.....
    or Ray Martin.....

    but the argument that an oval holed mandolin is no good for bluegrass when you sight the Sunny Mountain Boys example sure gets blown out the window!

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    I doubt Ray would know as the F4 was long into his sound before Ray or Jimmy, Jr. got into it. And I guess you guys know Ray is selling that F4 with an asking price of $60,000.00. And the drums is a good guess but he didn't always have that snare drum. In recordings yes, but generally guys like Herschel and Ronnie got that good Monroe chop in there. There's a few good 70's videos on youtube with Ronnie playing the F4. Ronnie was in and out with Jimmy several times. The last time he was in there was around 2001 and I noticed Ronnie had the F4. He told me Jimmy really liked it and it was actually a good playing mandolin. But yet a few of them did go with the F5 while with Jimmy. And Jimmy almost gave them a choice with the F12 he owned. You would think with Jimmy it would be a do or die situation with the F4 or should I say do it or hit the road. Yes, do ask Chris and Audie. I'd like to hear more from those that were in the band. Anybody up to naming all of Jimmy's mandolin pickers? It's a long list. Some only lasted one summer season, some only a few weeks. Jimmy was tough on those Sunny Mtn. Boys.

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Quote Originally Posted by barney 59 View Post
    or Ray Martin.....

    but the argument that an oval holed mandolin is no good for bluegrass when you sight the Sunny Mountain Boys example sure gets blown out the window!
    Well maybe the sentiment was more like that the F-4 "wasn't right" for bluegrass. I'm not sure at the time I bought it that I was even aware that that the was an F-5 or oval versus f-holes either -- maybe I was don't remember. I bought the F-4 because Paul Miller was willing to sell it to me for $275!
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Is this mandolin player Ronnie Prevette? I think this is the fella that was with Martin's band when I saw them in the summer of 1973. And he was playing the F-4.

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Jimmy Martin told me all about that F-4. How he bought it for $45 if I remember correctly. And how he had everyone in his band play it "Because it's the Jimmy Martin sound." I think he meant it and that really was the reason. He didn't want to sound like Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs, or anyone else. Because Jimmy Martin was the GREATEST, and if you didn't believe it just listen to him a while and he'd tell you.

    Steve

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Somehow someone declaring themselves "The Greatest" doesn't really bother me when they actually are-Jimmy Martin, Mohammed Ali--people like that can get away with it!

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    A friend of mine will be seeing Audie in the next couple of weeks, I hope she remembers to ask him about it, I will continue bugging her about it. I have planted the "inquiring minds want to know" seeds.
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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Bernie, That video reminded me of Sunday mornings at Culpeper. Yes, I was there. Great memories of my youth and all those wonderful bluegrass songs!

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    All I know, is Paul Williams sounded fantastic in Mr. Martin's band and Mr. Martin's band never sounded better than when Paul Williams and JD Crowe were picking with him.

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    Bernie, That video reminded me of Sunday mornings at Culpeper. Yes, I was there. Great memories of my youth and all those wonderful bluegrass songs!

    f-d
    Cool. Well if we are thinking of the same event (i.e., same year) the Lilly Brothers were there too and lead the Sunday morning gospel songs IIRC. And here is another coincidence I was a lot younger then too!
    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Jan-30-2016 at 11:50am.
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Honest question:

    If you guys did not know or see that Martin's mandolinists used an oval hole Gibson mandolin rather than an F hole model, could you really tell by just listening?

    It sounds like any normal mandolin to me. I don't get the big deal about which mandolin type is used.

    BTW, I liked the use of ELECTRIC bass in his band on that video!

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    . . . like I can remember the '70s! I remember it was like $5 bucks a car and we had all sorts of folks in my '62 Volvo. One of these Culpeper affairs (perhaps the Culpeper-Warrenton festival) had Old and In the Way there. Being from DC such festivals were quite the eye opener for me. What an eclectic mix of folks - hippies, farmers, car salesmen, preachers, men, women, kids and the unbathed! Most living in tents for the weekend. Bliss with an added touch of humid heat!

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidkos View Post
    honest question:

    If you guys did not know or see that martin's mandolinists used an oval hole gibson mandolin rather than an f hole model, could you really tell by just listening?
    yes!

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    Default Re: Why did Jimmy Martin prefer the sound of the F4 over the F5?

    I think if I knew I was listening for the difference I would hear it...if not, probably wouldn't. I was surprised to see CT playing the oval hole Gilchrist in "Sleek White Baby." Not a big shocker, but it just sounded like CT playing to me before I saw it...
    Chuck

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