A group of Master Masons talk about topics of Masonic interest--each from their own unique perspective. You'll find a wide range of subjects including history, trivia, travel, book reviews, great quotes, and hopefully a little humor as well on topics of interest for Freemasons and those interested in the subject of Freemasonry.
The story of the Master Mason Mandolin’s journey from
concept to completion needs an atlas. Brother Joe Hardwick and I have lived and
breathed bluegrass music for most of our lives, so it’s easy for us to forget
most people don’t know what we’re talking about. For the benefit of readers,
our families, and random strangers, here’s an introduction to mandolins,
bluegrass, and various random facts as they occur to me.
The mandolin is an old instrument, evolving from the lute
family during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but its modern form
emerged in the nineteenth century, and it was the Gibson Company that most
effectively manufactured it and with which it is still most popularly
associated. It has four pairs of strings, tuned GDAE, like a violin, and in the
first part of the twentieth century was a mainstay of dance bands and mandolin
orchestras. The Gibson Company marketed their mandolins aggressively, both
their A series, in a teardrop shape, and their fancier F series, with scrolls
and points, and oval or f-shaped soundholes, with the F5 standing at the top of
the heap as the fanciest and most expensive of them all.
Master Luthier Lloyd Loar
The 1920s and early 1930s are generally thought of as the
golden age of American mandolin manufacturing, with the best those F5s produced
under the guidance of Lloyd Loar, a sound engineer and master luthier for
Gibson from 1919 to 1924. He’s credited with introducing f holes to the top of
the mandolin (like a violin’s), a floating fingerboard, and longer neck. Of the
many F5s produced under his supervision, some 300 sounded good enough to
warrant his signature. About 225 Loar-signed F5s are known today, and command
prices in excess of $200,000 on the rare occasions they come on the market. The
Gibson F5 became the mandolin to
play, and now “F5” refers to any mandolin made to look like the original
Gibson, rather than a Gibson itself.
How mandolins came to be so closely associated with
bluegrass music, why Loar-signed F5s are so expensive, and why I wanted my own
F5 so badly are all stories for my next post.
W.B. Michael H. Shirleyis Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development
Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the
Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern
Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the
newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The
author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern