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Thread: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

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    Registered User Peter Mix's Avatar
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    Default Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    In 1961 during the filming of The Hustler in NYC, Jackie Gleason is said to have bought this black Gibson EM200 Electric Florentine mandolin as a gag for his co-star Paul Newman.

    He meant to buy him a banjo....

    Gleason’s niece remembers the gift, but doesn’t know what happened after that. Clearly, it has been played extensively and cared for lovingly over the years. The finish has been carefully removed from the back of the neck from the nut to the fourth fret and the bare neck resealed. The tailpiece cover has a very thick layer of lacquer over it. At one point, the large scroll was broken and the repair was made with a healthy amount of glue and a large wood screw from the side.

    After all these years, it blends in reasonably well and it sounds so great I cannot change anything. Here it is through a Carr Lincoln amp:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4RQirZW085I
    Peter Mix
    Carbon Fiber & Kevlar Mandolins
    Based On Lloyd Loar's Designs
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  3. #2
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Cool. Any evidence that Newman ever touched it?

    Is it the peghead that makes you call it Florentine?
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

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    Registered User Peter Mix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Nope, no tangible evidence. The fellow I acquired it from corresponded with Gleason’s niece (dunno how that came about) who told him of its history as she knew it. I don’t know any particulars, but it is a good story. The year is right and if it was sold by an NYC dealer in 1961 there can’t have been many, but I haven’t been able to trace it through Gibson.
    Peter Mix
    Carbon Fiber & Kevlar Mandolins
    Based On Lloyd Loar's Designs
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    Registered User Peter Mix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Oh, almost forgot.....Florentine body points, hence the name.
    Peter Mix
    Carbon Fiber & Kevlar Mandolins
    Based On Lloyd Loar's Designs
    Waterville, VT 05492

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    FWIW, Newman plays a banjo in Cool Hand Luke, a movie from a few years later.....

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Peter: I love the sound you are getting with the original metal saddle. Sounds great with fingers. I found that mine (I think from 1964) had an annoying ringing sound. I kept the original saddle but replaced that on the instrument with a standard ebony one. One pkayed with a pick it sounds much better.
    Jim

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    Registered User Peter Mix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Thanks, Jim. I changed the saddle on the EM as the originals are stainless steel, sound really harsh and cannot be modified. I have brass saddles made that look identical, but sound much sweeter. I can also space the strings as wide as the fingerboard will allow.

    I’ve been spending a lot of time on fingerstyle. There is a universe of possibilities with fingers and the EM is the perfect way to explore.
    Peter Mix
    Carbon Fiber & Kevlar Mandolins
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Interesting. Now you got me wondering. I should take out my EM-200 and fool around with it. It is a sweet electric. Interesting about the brass saddle. Can you post a close-up photo of the saddle? Who made your saddle? I would also wonder what an aluminum saddle would sound like. IIRC the original is just a metal down with some notches for the strings.

    BTW I usually play mine through a '64 (around the same year of manufacture, I guess) Fender Vibrolux or, if I am real lazy and '85 Champ.
    Jim

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    Registered User Peter Mix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Hi Jim,
    I’ll post a photo shortly of the brass saddle next to an original. For some reason, the original stainless steel saddles had angled slots for the strings and there is no way to modify them. They also sound far too harsh to my ears.

    The brass versions are made for me by Absolute Precision in Morrisville VT at a cost of $75. I may have an extra saddle.

    Much as I love Fender amps, I have found it a constant struggle to tame the wild nature of the P90 on a short scale instrument.
    I have tried many different Fender amps and the struggle continues- too much treble, too harsh. I’ve been performing with Carr amps recently and love their golden, liquid tone, completely different from Fenders.

    Feel free to email me at rhparis1924@gmail.com

    Cheers, Peter



    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Interesting. Now you got me wondering. I should take out my EM-200 and fool around with it. It is a sweet electric. Interesting about the brass saddle. Can you post a close-up photo of the saddle? Who made your saddle? I would also wonder what an aluminum saddle would sound like. IIRC the original is just a metal down with some notches for the strings.

    BTW I usually play mine through a '64 (around the same year of manufacture, I guess) Fender Vibrolux or, if I am real lazy and '85 Champ.
    Peter Mix
    Carbon Fiber & Kevlar Mandolins
    Based On Lloyd Loar's Designs
    Waterville, VT 05492

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    Registered User Peter Mix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Hopefully, you can see the contrast between the original ‘65 saddle and the new brass version. I always thought the originals were brass, but they are in fact stainless steel.
    I don’t know what the thought was behind the angled string-slots.
    Peter Mix
    Carbon Fiber & Kevlar Mandolins
    Based On Lloyd Loar's Designs
    Waterville, VT 05492

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  15. #11

    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    I love the sound you’re getting from the EM, great finger style.
    " Practice every time you get a chance." - Bill Monroe

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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    How Sweet It Is!

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    Registered User jefflester's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    Is it the peghead that makes you call it Florentine?
    As I understand it, the "EM-200" name was actually not used for that long. Most of the period of the instrument it was billed simply as "Florentine." I am unsure of which years it was called "EM-200" and which years it was called "Florentine" or maybe "Electric Florentine."

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Yes, It is called Florentine here. 1962 catalog page.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Jim

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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Jim and Peter, If you take the coupling caps .1 and .047 and change them all to .02 you will get a much warmer sound from your Fender amps. This works well for slide and harp players so the sound is not so harsh.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Newman’s 1961 Gibson EM200 mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Mix View Post
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Hopefully, you can see the contrast between the original ‘65 saddle and the new brass version. I always thought the originals were brass, but they are in fact stainless steel.
    I don’t know what the thought was behind the angled string-slots.
    Here are a few pics of mine — the standard sunburst not the rarer black. Also the original saddle from mine. Yes the slanted grooves and you can see the plating worn off. I haven't a clue why only two of those buttons shrunk and the rest are OK. I do have a set of period replacement gold Klusons with those same buttons.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Jim

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    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

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