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Thread: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

  1. #1

    Default The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Are you watching the PBS doc, Country Music? Come join a FB group dedicated to identifying the instruments shown (not just guitars, there are some interesting mandolins too). Lend a hand with ID, dates, performers, provenance, current whereabouts if known!

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/484598412092468/

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    Here's a nice sample. I'm not sure who these dual mandolin players are with Charlie Monroe. But I suspect it reflects the rivalry with Bill. TWO mandolins, and neither a Gibson F model! ;-)
    Last edited by BradKlein; Sep-18-2019 at 10:19pm.
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    Registered User Craig the Mad's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    The one on the left looks like a Gibson A-something snakehead to me. The other one definitely isn't a Gibson, though I don't know what it is.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    The one on the right is either a Martin style 15 [oval hole] or style 2-15 [f hole].
    Hard to say for sure which one it is with that deep shadow on the face of the mandolin, but I think it's a 2-15.

    Back then, nobody in country music had an F model except Bill.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    I seriously doubt the provenance of those two particular mandolins is known to anyone unless thy happen to have the mandolin and it was owned by one of their relatives and it stayed in the family.

    If enlarge the image and lighten it up you'll see the faint outline of the oval hole on the Martin.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  7. #5

    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    I think that the mandolin players are Orne Osborne (l) and Red Rector (r). Searching for the answer I found a thread here at the Cafe from 8 years ago where I provided the answer to my own question! Shows I've forgotten more than I've learned over the years!

    Red did a great album with Norman Blake, btw.

    Anyway, lots more musicians and their instruments to identify on the new FB Group.
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    I'll check out the FB group tonight.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post

    If enlarge the image and lighten it up you'll see the faint outline of the oval hole on the Martin.
    I tried that, but couldn't see anything for sure. You must have better video than I do. Oval hole 15's were probably better sounding than the f-hole models. Martin never quite figured out how to build a really strong f-hole instrument.

    Red Rector to the young Norman Blake, circa 1960:
    "If you're going to be a mandolin player, there's two things you have to know. One is that you're never going to make any money. The other is that you're never going to be in tune."

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Red Rector to the young Norman Blake, circa 1960:
    "If you're going to be a mandolin player, there's two things you have to know. One is that you're never going to make any money. The other is that you're never going to be in tune."
    Well, mandolin is the Italian word for out of tune so it works! That's a great quote.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    When the Monroe Brothers broke up, one of the sidemen Charlie Monroe hired was Curly Seckler on mandolin. Charlie insisted on calling Seckler "Smilin' Bill" which, according to Seckler's bio Foggy Mountain Troubadour, was to cover the fact that there was no longer a mandolin-playing Bill Monroe working with Charlie.
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
    I think that the mandolin players are Orne Osborne (l) and Red Rector (r). Searching for the answer I found a thread here at the Cafe from 8 years ago where I provided the answer to my own question! Shows I've forgotten more than I've learned over the years!Red did a great album with Norman Blake, btw.
    Anyway, lots more musicians and their instruments to identify on the new FB Group.
    Are you saying that's Red on Charlie's right? Couldn't be him on right looking at picture, hay mandolin has a strap, can't really tell on other.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    For anyone so inclined, the Facebook Group is fun and informative.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Are you saying that's Red on Charlie's right? Couldn't be him on right looking at picture, hay mandolin has a strap, can't really tell on other.
    I did think that was Red on the right holding the Martin. Am I wrong? (both mandolins are on straps, although I don't know the significance of that!)
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    What has amazed me is the number of Fender Shenandoah guitars (with the Stratocaster-style peghead) that keep popping up. I didn't know anybody except the VERY young Neil Diamond ever played one of those.

    The other thing that is amazing to me is how my wife and I have been totally drawn into the whole series. We are decidedly NOT country music fans, especially the so-called country music of today - but Ken Burns really hit it out of the park with this. Bravo!
    "I don't want to get technical or anything, but according to chemistry, alcohol actually IS a solution."

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    The left with the mid 20's A model Gibson is Zeke Morris from Black Mountain, NC. On the right with the 30's Martin 2-15 is Bill Calhoun who also sang the tenor and played a tenor guitar. Charlie had as much of a problem keeping band members as Bill.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    It is so amazing to have a walking encyclopedia like you around Tom!
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  23. #16

    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Jones View Post
    What has amazed me is the number of Fender Shenandoah guitars (with the Stratocaster-style peghead) that keep popping up.
    So many Fender acoustics! I suspect they had a look and comfort level, and maybe did not put out too much sound which could be an advantage when an off-camera band is providing most of the music?
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    I'm going to guess that Fender knew enough to build these with low action making them easier to play. They were never known for their acoustic sound.

    I'm amazed that we've only seen one Frank Gay guitar thus far. In the 50's they were popular among the Nashville crowd because of the way they looked. It had nothing to do with sound. They went well with the Nudie Suits.

    At one point with all of the massive pickguards, leather coverings and such installed you have to wonder how much the sound entered the picture. I think the way the instrument looked was as much a part of the show as the sound was at that point.

    Yet, when you see the artists playing in an intimate setting other than for the TV and movie cameras you see mostly well built and expensive guitars.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  25. #18

    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    The left with the mid 20's A model Gibson is Zeke Morris from Black Mountain, NC. On the right with the 30's Martin 2-15 is Bill Calhoun who also sang the tenor and played a tenor guitar. Charlie had as much of a problem keeping band members as Bill.
    Thanks for the info, Tom. I'll add it to the photo's caption on FB. The way the internet works, photos move around much faster than accurate information that needs to stay with them!
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Being a Guild fan, I’m fascinated to see so many of them in the background!
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  28. #20

    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Also a surprising number of the tiny Martin 5-18 guitar. I expected to see exactly ONE, but there's been four performers seen with them so far, I think.
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
    Also a surprising number of the tiny Martin 5-18 guitar. I expected to see exactly ONE, but there's been four performers seen with them so far, I think.
    I'm not sure if anyone of note was playing one before Marty Robbins but it appears it was his instrument of choice. There is one in his display at the Grand Old Opry Museum. I was surprised to see Johnny Cash playing one and I wonder if he didn't just borrow that one for that song. Bobbie Gentry on the cover of her album kind of surprised me. I can't remember the fourth one.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  30. #22

    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I can't remember the fourth one.
    I thought Eddie Arnold was #4, but when I look again, I think he's playing a 00 12-fret. Two more episodes to go though... ;-)
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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Ha! Here we go. Number four. At the opening of tonight's show. Marty Stuart speaking of Marty Robbins.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
    I did think that was Red on the right holding the Martin. Am I wrong? (both mandolins are on straps, although I don't know the significance of that!)
    Rector rarely if ever played with a strap, most players use one.

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    Default Re: The Guitars (and Mandolins) of Ken Burns' Country Music

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
    Ha! Here we go. Number four. At the opening of tonight's show. Marty Stuart speaking of Marty Robbins.

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    I thought of you the minute I saw it
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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