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Thread: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Friend

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    Default Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Friend


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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    Great piece of mandolin history. There's some stuff that we could argue about but that's actually a pretty amazing glimpse into Bob Given's the mandolin builder. Lovely. This was before the grand sharing of information we call the Internet.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    This was a really, really interesting project I felt strongly about and there was so much that could have been included here, but if you even read the two PDFs attached it's a lot of content. Ostrow is a really interesting guy who gladly offered to have this shared. Enjoyed a single phone call with him. He has a lot more mandolin content and I haven't fully investigated it all and don't know that I need to but it's an option.

    As you might surmise in the article, Ostrow is still active in his calling from the late 1960s and 70s and works or teaches in a holistic health center I believe he told me.

    I learned a lot about Givens that I didn't know. I'd heard he was quite the "character" and that was certainly true but that detail is for someone else to share. Everyone should definitely read the article linked to in the Additional Information section on Charles Johnson's site that is about Givens. Quite the eye opener.

    Like every builder whose mandolins I've played, not every one was a real ringer (nothing more than my sole opinion), but the best ones I've played were nothing short of phenomenal. I ran into someone at Folk Alliance a few years ago with an F that still haunts my memory. It was immediately to my mind one of the single finest mandolins I've every played and I would give anything to own, but the current owner was quite happy with it.

    As part of this, some of you may wonder, I did contact Steve Weill who worked with him but did not hear back so possibly that email ended up in his spam folder or was just missed. Can't say. Email is not a 100% proposition and if he wishes to weigh in here he'd certainly be welcome.

    Happy to see this information come to light and be discussed. Suspect many reading it barely know the name and nothing more but Givens was the real deal in the luthier community and probably one of the first to study in-depth the work on the best Gibson mandolins for the short period in the early 1920s.

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    Note from Ostrow just now and happy to hear he was pleased with this. His words below:

    I was an avid reading of James Joyce and have spent a lifetime enjoying Finnegans Wake. Also no apostrophe. And why I left it out.

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    I would have liked to ask him why he chose not to use a truss rod in his mandolins. I have seen/played a number of Givens instruments that had badly bowed necks.

    I realize there are other builders these days who do not use them, but given the choice between a mandolin with a truss rod and one without I will take the one with the truss rod every day... especially one with double action.

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    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Great article. Thanks for bringing this to light.

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    Quote Originally Posted by Glassweb View Post
    I would have liked to ask him why he chose not to use a truss rod in his mandolins. I have seen/played a number of Givens instruments that had badly bowed necks.

    I realize there are other builders these days who do not use them, but given the choice between a mandolin with a truss rod and one without I will take the one with the truss rod every day... especially one with double action.
    I bought a new Givens A3 in 1990. When I took it in for a little work recently I was told that Bob Givens wanted to keep the neck slim so he didn’t install a truss rod. However there were stories that he sometimes put a rat file in a groove under the fretboard for extra strength. I heard he was a real character so it could be true.
    mandomurph

    Joyful pickin'!

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    I just read the PDF's at the end of the article. I would like to order a Givens A mandolin and a Givens 16 guitar (I didn't even know he made guitars) at the catalog prices.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Benjamin T's Avatar
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    The first really good mandolin I ever played was a Givens F. I wish I had listened to everyone that told me to get one then in 1992. I remember the Banjo Player I was playing with told me, "Just save your money, around $5,000 and get a good one." You can play this as much as you like until then. I ended up special ordering a Flatiron, which I wish I had listened to my mentors. My immediate feeling from the Givens I played was the heft of that first one. It felt like a Bluegrass Machine!

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    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Great article - thanks!

    And, yes, I'll also take two A's and two F's at the catalog prices....!

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    2nd Edition print copy of The Guitars Friend on eBay for only $20. Tempting but I have so much stuff laying around I'll let someone else if they wish.

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    I may have published the last word on Bob Givens, a two part article that appeared in Bluegrass Unlimited, January and February 1992. Bob passed not long after that.

    During his last months of productivity, Bob and his apprentice Steve Weill worked in an old Quonset hut outside of Hayden, ID. The state of Idaho had long since revoked Bob's privilege to operate a motor vehicle, so he walked to the hut from a small hotel room down the road. The only clue to what went on inside the hut was a truck muffler that hung by wire over the entrance door. Bob liked his privacy, and it took some doing to broker a meeting with Bob. After that, he opened up to a microphone and camera in a series of interviews that I conducted.

    In 1992 I bought an A6 from Bob, and soon after a Gilchrist F5 as a backup ax. The A6 and F5 are the only two f-hole instruments in my tool box, and either one can readily substitute for the other.

    If anyone would like a pdf copy of my article, or if you are really interested, a CD with all the interviews, let me know.

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    Quote Originally Posted by elephantrock View Post
    I may have published the last word on Bob Givens, a two part article that appeared in Bluegrass Unlimited, January and February 1992. Bob passed not long after that.

    During his last months of productivity, Bob and his apprentice Steve Weill worked in an old Quonset hut outside of Hayden, ID. The state of Idaho had long since revoked Bob's privilege to operate a motor vehicle, so he walked to the hut from a small hotel room down the road. The only clue to what went on inside the hut was a truck muffler that hung by wire over the entrance door. Bob liked his privacy, and it took some doing to broker a meeting with Bob. After that, he opened up to a microphone and camera in a series of interviews that I conducted.

    In 1992 I bought an A6 from Bob, and soon after a Gilchrist F5 as a backup ax. The A6 and F5 are the only two f-hole instruments in my tool box, and either one can readily substitute for the other.

    If anyone would like a pdf copy of my article, or if you are really interested, a CD with all the interviews, let me know.
    You'd be welcome to attach that interview here if you'd like. Just go to advanced mode and click the paper clip icon. It's the same as adding an image. Or if you have problems happy to assist.

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    I can only speak for myself but I'd love to see that here on the Cafe.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    +1. Not available on Bluegrass Unlimited.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    +1

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    Here is the interview elephantrock put together for Bluegrass Unlimited. Not sure if Bluegrass Unlimited will have issue with this but I'd think since those issues are no longer in print nor for sale and unlikely to ever be digitized that we're OK doing that. I like to err on the side of being safe but for information that may just virtually disappear or is in the process of doing so should be preserved if possible and posting that here accomplishes that.

    Edit: new version of article with improved readability:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	givensarticle.pdf 
Views:	116 
Size:	2.39 MB 
ID:	180478
    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; Oct-10-2019 at 12:54pm. Reason: uploaded improved version of document

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    If I ever run into Roger Sprung again I'm going to ask him about that "D-45"! This is great stuff.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Russ Jordan's Avatar
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    Interesting read, thanks. I attended a session with Randy Woods, Will Kimble, and Paul Duff at Monroe camp that was very good, with most of the focus on Randy and his history. We should have been asking questions about Bob Givens!

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    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    Great reading! The photos are a nice bonus.

    Assuming the guy in the photo with Bob behind his company logo sign is Steve Weill and the other guy with full beard is Tut Taylor?

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    rock in rôle Paul Statman's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    Thanks so much. Bob Givens: The pioneer of that approach mandolin building we are enjoying today?

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    It would appear from the last interview posted that Bob Givens kind of created the A-5 market. It does not say that he ever took apart the Ms. Griffith Loar as is the rumor that has been around for years. I'll also note that he apparently surmised, as did Darryl Wolfe, that the body of the Ms. Griffith Loar was based on the standard Gibson A models of the time. Lot's of good stuff here. I love seeing his jig for fitting bridges to tops.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    On same weekend Russ mentions above at Monroe Camp, Randy Wood was sharing Tut Taylor stories later that evening and I specifically asked about the rumor of Givens taking apart the Griffith A. Mr. Wood indicated that never happened (at least to that instrument). Thanks for sharing the Givens article. Cool stuff.

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    Thanks for posting the interview! It brought me back to Memory Lane.

    I bought my first mandolin in Missoula, MT, when I was studying at the U of M. It was a $60 beater. Two years later after graduating, I saw an advert in Mandolin World News for Givens mandolins and if I recollect correctly, the A model was going for either $650 or $675 and the F model for $950 or so.

    Anyway, with my first paycheck I called up Bob and ordered an A model. He told me that the top would be Sitka spruce. This was Autumn of 1978. I sent a check and several months later the Givens A arrived via US Post. I still own that mandolin and play it every day. It is one of the few things I still have from that time period (mostly textbooks) and pre-dates meeting my future wife. (I remind her of that and then she hits me in the shoulder.)

    As for the lack of a truss rod, the neck on the mandolin slowly warped over the years, but a refinish of the neck in 2013 brought it back straight and the instrument never sounded better than it does now. There is a Guitar Friends sticker visible on the back through the treble sound hole, and #176 penciled on the back visible through the bass sound hole.

    Thanks again for featuring Mr. Givens. His contribution to society was great IMHO.

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    Default Re: Article: The 1978 Bob Givens Interview from The Guitars Frien

    Quote Originally Posted by dbilello View Post
    On same weekend Russ mentions above at Monroe Camp, Randy Wood was sharing Tut Taylor stories later that evening and I specifically asked about the rumor of Givens taking apart the Griffith A. Mr. Wood indicated that never happened (at least to that instrument). Thanks for sharing the Givens article. Cool stuff.
    Luthiers that held the Ms. Griffith Loar in their hands said the same thing, that the back had never been off.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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