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1924 (Loar Period) Gibson Snakehead Ajr Mandolin #75079


1924 (Loar Period) manufacture date (traditional estimates)
1924 shipment date, according to Spann's Guide to Gibson
Mandolin, Style Ajr
Serial 75079
Factory order number unknown


Gibson style A-Jr snakehead mandolin #75079, issued in January of 1924, formerly owned and played by Howard Frye. This remarkable Lloyd Loar era mandolin was the primary instrument of one of the 20th century's greatest American mandolinists. Howard Frye used this mandolin almost exclusively during his career which included Broadway shows, prestigious concert halls and a best selling major label recording called “Gypsy Mandolin.” In the wake of David Grisman's landmark disc, “Tone Poets”, much has been made of the fact that “its the player, not the mandolin.” There is one point that has not so often been made, and that is that an instrument mellows and takes on the characteristics of its player over time, especially when that player is a master who plays every single day for a lifetime. For example, Bill Monroe's F-5 owes some of its coarse rugged power to the way it was played constantly for so many years. The same is true of this A-Jr. According to the photos, Howard Frye acquired this instrument as a very young man and developed his style under the expert guidance of Luigi Paparello and by the 1940s was performing classical repertoire at concert venues in New York City. By 1948, he had the A-Jr customized by a master luthier whose work seems to have been guided by angels. The alterations included violin varnish finish, long scale Dave Apollon style fingerboard and wooden marquetry top border. The result is an amazing sounding and playing mandolin. Silky pure highs, deep warm bass with enough power to fill Carnegie Hall without a microphone (which Howard did on Dec 27, 1964). You can almost sense the incredible finesse of the maestro as your fingers glide effortlessly up and down the scale.


Categories this instrument is a member of

  • Played by a well-known musician
  • Refinished instrument
  • Snakehead peghead shape


From Tony Williamson.
Tony Williamson founded Mandolin Central, which has now become an international resource of mandolin lore, vintage instruments and accessories

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