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Thread: Adieu to a friend

  1. #1
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Adieu to a friend

    Forty-four years ago I purchased a Gibson F-5, Serial #A17518, from Stutzman's Guitar Center here in Rochester. My first (turned out to be my only) bluegrass band had just broken up, but I knew that if I wanted to continue to play bluegrass, I needed an F-5 like all the "real" mandolinists played; I'd played first an A-1, then an F-2, in the Flower City Ramblers, briefly experimented with an F-5 copy, but now I had the real thing!

    From the white label and the serial number, I figured the manufacture date to be late 1954; the mandolin was in excellent shape, other than the pickguard was a bit warped, so I detached it and stored it in the case. The F-5 had a sturdy "chop," a slightly bassy voice, and plenty of volume. I took it out to my gigs with Bluesgrass, an eclectic bar band playing everything from Bonnie Raitt to Flatt & Scruggs. I only did a couple of mando medleys per night, Salt Creek/Cherokee Shuffle and Ragtime Annie/Soldier's Joy, but I played it (along with guitar, Dobro, harmonica and Autoharp) in local clubs for years.

    Then I got into different genres -- Celtic, klezmer, backing singer-songwriters, "general purpose folk" -- and picked up mandolins (and mandolas, octave mandolins, resonator mandolins, mandocelli) to fit the new sounds. Ol' #A17518 would sit in its case for months, pulled out for a bluegrass jam or a particular recording session, but generally neglected.

    In my "golden years," most of my solo jobs involve guitar, banjo and ukulele, seldom mandolin; I have mando-family instruments for backing others and taking to sing-arounds and jams, but seldom need that "bluegrass sound." Can't remember the last time I put new strings on the F-5...

    Then Satan came up to me, and whispered, "What you really need is that Stelling Longhorn banjo at Bernunzio's!" I do all my gigs with a long-neck "Pete Seeger" style banjo, and this Stelling's the Rolls-Royce of such instruments -- only two were ever made! But my basement's clogged with instrument cases, and I've made a resolve that if one comes in, at least two have to leave.

    So, with heavy heart, I took the F-5 down to Bernunzio's today, along with a mint-condition 2007 Eastman MDC805 mandocello, and made the deal. I want my long-time F-5 friend to be in the hands of some picker who'll have it out of the case frequently, and who'll appreciate it as a fine example of Gibson's post-war continued solid workmanship, before Norlin took 'em straight to hell in the next decade. Good ol' #A17518's gonna pop up on John B's website soon, I'm sure, and I hope she'll give her new owner another 44 years of great music.

    And don't worry, I've still got plenty of mandolins...
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    that took a lot of guts, and then some!
    but i totally understand.

    how about some pics of the Stelling!

    d

  4. #3
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    This was a great read! Thanks for sharing the F5 story with us

  5. #4
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Quote Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
    ...how about some pics of the Stelling!
    d
    I put in a link to the pics on Bernunzio's website; it's marked "Sold" as of 3:30 p.m. today.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  6. #5
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Good for you, I guess, sacrificing that fine, sweet, loyal mandolin to satisfy your BAS. You make good points, trying to justify kicking her out into the cold. Oh, I kid, I kid. It makes perfect sense, given how your music has evolved, as has the instrumentation designed to serve it. God bless the good times and memories with your old friend; good luck with the times to come with your new friend.

    I've never sold or traded an instrument. Same with cars. They come into my life, where I proceed to drive them into the ground. The cars, I mean. The instruments keep hanging on. I gifted my first one, a teens plain A, kinda sorta, to an ex-girlfriend to help defray accrued rent during my time there. Though really, I had recently acquired my F-12, and hitchhiking with two instruments was a bit much. Then thirty years later, that F-12 was stolen. That led me to join the Café in an effort to find her, and to eBay as well, which led to buying two teens plain A's, one from each source. So, a rather roundabout story of circular evolution. Those are the only two instruments to have left the fold, neither willingly. I have no idea what someone selling an instrument that has been a longtime friend would go through, the thought processes and changes of heart this would entail. Good for you, for having the courage of your convictions, to do what had to be done to make what you wanted to happen, happen. Happy trails for the road ahead.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  7. #6
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Well, we are only caretakers, and we all make our choices, but ...........

    I’m sure you’ll be happy with your new love.
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

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  8. #7

    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    My condolences. I've downloaded a whole lot myself.

    Ever do the exercise of imagining losing the last 5 things you most value, one by one?

  9. #8

    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Quite the tale. Instruments certainly have a life of their own. Longer than that of their human caretakers, it seems, in some situations. With any luck someone will still be playing that Gibby in 2054 (or else it'll be in a museum.)

    One of the things (besides lack of $$$) that keeps my MAS in check is that I came to realize how delicate they are, and you have to take the march of time into account with a thing made of wood, bone, etc. It seems to be sitting still there in its case, but it's subtly changing with the atmosphere and age and whatnot.

    I was crushed when a favorite cheap mando of mine (a Rover) broke, and almost as traumatized when I pulled another much-liked mando of mine out of its case to discover that a long crack had appeared on its face seemingly overnight for no discernible reason.

    I figured out that if I were ever to invest in a serious instrument like your great F-5, I'd better invest in a top line case, humidifier, etc. and I'd still be a nervous wreck worried about the tiniest scratch so I just decided a few years ago I couldn't do it. Hats off to braver souls!

  10. #9

    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Ever do the exercise of imagining losing the last 5 things you most value, one by one?
    Yes, obsessively now as time marches all over me.

    My biggest thing right now is my increasingly unmanageable library (physical books, obviously) that occupies almost every room in my house in more and more disarray. I realize w/more than a little foreboding that there aren't enough years left in my life to read everything I own, let alone keep up with new stuff. I keep promising myself to "thin it out" by at least 50% (ha!) but it hasn't happened yet.

    Mandolins and other instruments are the least of the issue ... I'm down to 3 mandos (Breedlove, Gretsch, Fender), an unstringed violin (prob. late 19th cent., maker unknown), an electric fiddle (really a stick with a pickup attached), a 1/4 size child's violin picked up at an antique store by my mom, a djembe, a few Peruvian ocarinas, Hohner chromatic harmonica, a Kermane (Turkish gourd-resonator stick fiddle) and an autoharp.

    I suppose if I put it off long enough it'll be someone else's problem ... I suspect they'll just go thru the house and toss everything in the dumpster while cursing me for leaving them with all that work

  11. #10
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrus View Post
    I suppose if I put it off long enough it'll be someone else's problem ... I suspect they'll just go thru the house and toss everything in the dumpster while cursing me for leaving them with all that work
    Let them know that I will be more than happy to take Breedlove in and give it a good home.

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    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    I find myself wanting mandola and resisting letting go of a Collings MT2 that I bought for the sole purpose of playing in bars... which was my main gigging mando for a while - but has already been downgraded to second backup

    I am realizing I have problems.
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

  14. #12
    Registered User Murphy Slaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Wait.

    You swapped off a mandolin, but kept a ukulele.....
    1933 Gibson A-00 (was Scotty Stoneman's)
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Well, he needed to offer something with a good trade-in value.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    The big blowhard in his conch shell blowing championship form

  16. #14
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    I see this as a win win Allen. There's one less banjo available and one more mandolin available.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  17. #15

    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I see this as a win win Allen. There's one less banjo available and one more mandolin available.
    -that’s right, and then think of the maybe hundreds of people who will now consider this (very good) option and put their mandolins on the market. Sweet!

    Though if the mandolins are all bought by one person then that’s a lot more banjos actually being played out loud.

  18. #16

    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    a friend of mine, who gifted me his longtime Gibson Southern Jumbo, told me: "We don't own fine instruments. we are just their caretakers".

  19. #17
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Forty-four years ago I purchased a Gibson F-5, Serial #A17518, from Stutzman's Guitar Center here in Rochester. My first (turned out to be my only) bluegrass band had just broken up, but I knew that if I wanted to continue to play bluegrass, I needed an F-5 like all the "real" mandolinists played; I'd played first an A-1, then an F-2, in the Flower City Ramblers, briefly experimented with an F-5 copy, but now I had the real thing!

    From the white label and the serial number, I figured the manufacture date to be late 1954; the mandolin was in excellent shape, other than the pickguard was a bit warped, so I detached it and stored it in the case. The F-5 had a sturdy "chop," a slightly bassy voice, and plenty of volume. I took it out to my gigs with Bluesgrass, an eclectic bar band playing everything from Bonnie Raitt to Flatt & Scruggs. I only did a couple of mando medleys per night, Salt Creek/Cherokee Shuffle and Ragtime Annie/Soldier's Joy, but I played it (along with guitar, Dobro, harmonica and Autoharp) in local clubs for years.

    Then I got into different genres -- Celtic, klezmer, backing singer-songwriters, "general purpose folk" -- and picked up mandolins (and mandolas, octave mandolins, resonator mandolins, mandocelli) to fit the new sounds. Ol' #A17518 would sit in its case for months, pulled out for a bluegrass jam or a particular recording session, but generally neglected.

    In my "golden years," most of my solo jobs involve guitar, banjo and ukulele, seldom mandolin; I have mando-family instruments for backing others and taking to sing-arounds and jams, but seldom need that "bluegrass sound." Can't remember the last time I put new strings on the F-5...

    Then Satan came up to me, and whispered, "What you really need is that Stelling Longhorn banjo at Bernunzio's!" I do all my gigs with a long-neck "Pete Seeger" style banjo, and this Stelling's the Rolls-Royce of such instruments -- only two were ever made! But my basement's clogged with instrument cases, and I've made a resolve that if one comes in, at least two have to leave.

    So, with heavy heart, I took the F-5 down to Bernunzio's today, along with a mint-condition 2007 Eastman MDC805 mandocello, and made the deal. I want my long-time F-5 friend to be in the hands of some picker who'll have it out of the case frequently, and who'll appreciate it as a fine example of Gibson's post-war continued solid workmanship, before Norlin took 'em straight to hell in the next decade. Good ol' #A17518's gonna pop up on John B's website soon, I'm sure, and I hope she'll give her new owner another 44 years of great music.

    And don't worry, I've still got plenty of mandolins...
    Sometimes in life you gotta do what you gotta do !

  20. #18

    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Geoff Stelling makes a fine banjo.

  21. #19

    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    That is a beautiful banjo.

  22. #20
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Thanx to all who've posted; the Stelling's as ornate and full-voiced as I expected it would be. And yes, I did keep a ukulele -- I actually have a half-dozen: Martin Sryle 0 soprano, Regal 8-string taropatch (my "gigging" uke), Stewart Collegian ukulele-banjo, Martin T-17 tiple (ukulele meets mandolin, sorta), Johnson Asian resonator-uke, and the dreaded Polk-A-Lay-Lee, four-foot-long "surfer uke." Oh, and a no-name, but nice, baritone uke. I've been teaching beginner ukulele locally for the past two or three years, taking advantage of the "uke boom" that seems to be infecting the country.

    And I miss the F-5; its spot in the closet looks sadly empty. But mandolins are meant to be played, and I wasn't playing that one, except once in a blue moon. Someone else will get a lot of good sound out of it -- might even get the gold plating on the "kidney" tailpiece cover touched up, who knows...
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  23. #21
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    It took a lot of will to part with your Gibson. But you now have a beautiful banjo that you'll enjoy playing for a long time. I love playing my Deering clawhammer banjo.
    Now about those six ukes?
    Ratliff R5 2007, Capek A5 2003, Washburn M5S-SB Jethro Burns 1982, Mid-Mo M-2, Epiphone MM 30 Bk mandolins, Harmony Batwing 1970's


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  24. #22
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adieu to a friend

    Great story. Even though you have moved the Gibson on, I still have to admire you for holding onto it for so long. Unfortunately for some of us, instrument trading becomes too much of a "thing". Have let too many nice instruments pass through my hands over the years.

    BTW, that is an incredible looking Stelling. And great to know it sounds as good as it looks.
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