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Thread: Mystery Gibson Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Mystery Gibson Mandolin

    I have sent the following message to several radio stations in the Richmond, VA area without much luck of discovering the story behind this mandolin and who "Roy M" is/was. I am hoping someone here might help me solve the mystery of "Roy M" and this vintage Gibson. Thanks!


    I am writing with the hopes that someone at your station, or someone from the early days of your station, may be able to help identify the long ago owner of an early 1950's Gibson mandolin. Allow me to explain. This past December, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, while sorting items in the basement of his recently deceases parents, my friend Jack came upon an old road-worn Gibson mandolin. It is a mystery as to where it came from, or how it got there, especially in light of the fact that there is not, and never has been, a mandolin player in the family. And as is the lament of all of us who have lost a parent, we call out questions concerning things like an old instrument in the basement, but mom and dad just aren't there anymore to answer. However, the owner of this instrument has left clues as to its history. As can be seen on the attached image of the mandolin case, there is a list of various radio and TV stations that I assume are places where the owner had played in the days when live performance radio was the norm. Most of these call letters are from the Richmond, Virginia area with a few in West Virginia and Tennessee. Also written on the case is the name "Roy" and on the truss rod cover are the initials "RM." Based upon the style of the Gibson logo, I would conclude that in perhaps the early 1950's there was a band that was good enough and popular enough to perform at notable radio stations in and around Richmond, Virginia. This band was also good enough to travel to significant Country and Western themed radio stations in neighboring states. Also this band had a mandolin player who had a first name of Roy and a last name that began with M. Furthermore this "Roy M" took his mandolin playing seriously enough that he purchased not just any mandolin but a Gibson mandolin. Given the condition of well worn frets, a missing pick guard, and from the pick wear on the top of the instrument, it suggests that "Roy M" played long, played hard and played with passion. As you have likely figured out by now your call letters, or your previous call letters, are written on Roy's mandolin case. He and his band very likely played live in your studio. This is where I am asking your help. Does any one associated with your station know of, or heard of, or would know someone who would remember "Roy M" the mandolin player of the 1950's? You know there is a practical part of me that thinks tracking down the owner of along lost mandolin is, well, a bit ridiculous and a waste of my time, and a waste of the time of others. In reality we all have much to do in this ever busy world. But there is a story here--the story of a man and his fellow musicians making music, playing out and performing in a golden age of live radio. It would have been a time when most households did not have TV and the radio was where folks turned to for entertainment. Really there could have been thousands who listened to Roy M and his band buddies banging out, jamming out well-rehearsed spirited tunes carried on radio waves throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond. As one who loves a good story, I would ask that if there is any information you may have on Roy that would connect this well-worn, but still beautiful sounding mandolin, to the man who played it so long ago, I would greatly appreciate if you could pass that info my direction.

    Thank you for your time!

    PS My friend Jack has lived in England with his wife and family for the past 30 years. Rather than taking it back to England, Jack has asked me to take the instrument to have it professionally assessed here in the states. I have done this and there were a very few minor repairs done to the mandolin to get it playable. Also, as you can see in the attached image, there is a Virginia state "Old Dominion" Sticker on the front and a "PG13" "Lady Luck" decal on the back, copyright 1941 on the Lady Luck decal."

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson Mandolin

    I doubt there is much institutional memory at radio stations today.

    There's a whole bunch of festivals and folklore centers and the like in Virginia. You might have better luck contacting them by email or phone.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson Mandolin

    Really a neat item! Rather than look for a mandolin player, I would look for a band, more than likely a country band, but maybe a bluegrass band. Most of these bands had 8X10 glossys made for promotion and booking and were sent to radio stations and venues. Unfortunately, most of this stuff has long been disposed of from most radio stations, unless they are the rare exception that still plays country music all these years later and hasn't remodeled their studio in the last 70 years -- you see what you are up against! I do, however, see these 8X10's at antique stores from time to time, but the search would take years, unless, you run across someone who is a local music historian. Music stores might be another source of information, find out who was a Gibson dealer, etc., but you would be talking about finding information on someone who is 75-85 years old, at the youngest, IF they are still alive. The other problem is finding a music store that has been in business that long, etc. Good luck with your search!

  4. #4
    Registered User
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    Oct 2017
    Richmond, VA

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson Mandolin

    I agree the radio stations won't have any institutional information. Also I don't see any Richmond, VA stations on this case. Most are Southwest Virginia AM stations I'm the 1950s and 60s. I see stations on here from Bristol, VA, Prestonburg, WV and Richland's, VA. Looking in Richmond is the wrong end of the state.

  5. #5
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Feb 2017
    Connecticut, USA
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    Default Re: Mystery Gibson Mandolin

    Speaking from experience . . . the radio stations themselves will most likely not have any information about bands that performed with them 70 years ago, but it is possible that they might know of a very elderly former employee, or perhaps the son/daughter of a former employee, who may have contacts and/or remember performers, bands, etc. Also, some areas have various types of local/regional 'Country Music Societies' with members and/or archives that my be of valuable assistance.

    Unfortunately, short of visiting each area and doing some serious digging, I am afraid that, given the long period of time that has potentially passed, this may prove to be a VERY difficult task.

    Best of luck, and keep us posted.

  6. #6
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Aug 2012
    Fallbrook, CA

    Default Re: Mystery Gibson Mandolin

    If anybody will know, then these guys will wpaq740 Mt. Airy NC

    Their song catalog and expertise extends back to the 1920s, with a lot of original vinyl still in their possession
    1994 Gibson F5L made by Bruce Weber's team

    "Mandolin brands are a guide, not gospel! I don't drink koolaid and that Emperor is naked!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

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