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  1. Slope Jumbos family picture

    26 October 2017 - 11:05 AM

    For the first time in years, all our slope Jumbos are home -- 1935-1954. So I decided I need a new family picture. I thought some of you might enjoy the picture. The RW guitars are all on the back row.

    Posted Image

    Best,

    -Tom
  2. The day of the dreaded big banjo

    16 October 2017 - 10:07 AM

    I posted this over o the vintage corner of the UMGF, but then I thought this might have been a better place or it.

    Quote

    So...

    We have a lot of old instruments. They were bought mostly long ago as an investment, but they are also sort of like a wardrobe to us. We play several different styles and hang out in several different musical communities. We can do that because we are retired.

    Perhaps our favorite community is the north Georgia bluegrass community and our favorite places are small bluegrass venues in rural Georgia. Well last weekend was a picking camp-out at the Armuchee Bluegrass Park. Wonderful because we had the RV, there was no show (so we did not have to play on stage), and all we had to do was jam (and jam and jam).

    So we had choose what to ware and what instruments to play. Of course we had to have my wife's 1939 S-51 (5- string Kay) bass -- that goes without saying. My job is to move it from place to place so my wife can play it. We also took -- 1930 Studio King banjo (Gibson TB-3 conversion), 1921 Vega Whyte Laydie, 1944 J-45, 1944 D-28, 1939 D-28, 1930 Larson, and 1935 Jumbo. So we were ready for serious bluegrass, as well as a bit of old time (Vega) and even some folk revival (J-45 and Larson) in a corner sometime. Well we usually also bring some other "odd" (from a bluegrass perspective -- things like non dreadsPosted Image) sort of instrument of for "show and tell." This time I chose bring our dreaded big banjo -- a 1923 GB-4 with a 14" head. I had bought it on ebay long ago because I liked the way Norman Blake played ragtime on his and it was the only guitar banjo whose tone I liked -- very deep and thunky.

    Well then disaster struck. After the truck was loaded, I tipped and fell flat on my face on the concrete garage floor -- ouch! Well other than my pride, the only thing that was hurt was my right wrist -- it sustained a sprain. Not super bad, but bad enough I guess. The question was what could I play? Well anything that used my wrist energetically was out -- so no claw-hammer -- but also heavy guitar rhythm in a bluegrass session requires a lot of wrist. The latter was a serious loss, since when we sing I play the rhythm guitar role quite a lot. However there is always harmonicaPosted Image, and anything that only involved fingerpicks -- BG banjo and ragtime/gospel guitar. Well we almost went home, but we got into a quiet ragtime guitar session with the J-45 pretty early and since that worked, we decided to stay.

    Well we were looking forward to playing with our friends Nikki and James McKenny. Jame is pretty well know since he won the bluegrass banjo national title a couple of times -- in addition to bluegrass is also plays jazz, classical, blues, and big band tunes -- all on the banjo. Amazing stuff. But his other characteristic is that his banjo setup is the heaviest I have ever seen -- and I guess he may be the loudest player I know (and I know a lot of loud banjo players). Playing rhythm for James is an aerobic activity. So I was sad. Not wishing to whine or embarrass myself, I did not even take out either of the old bones. I decided this was a novelty opportunity, so I brought out the GB-4.
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    Well strumming the GB-4 is out of the question -- it sounds like a cat being sucked into a vacuum cleaner. But alternating thumb ragtime and banjo rolls work fine. It has a wonderful thunky tone. But here is the thing -- it was the loudest instrument in the session. You could hear every note. With all that power and thunk, alternating thumb rhythm could actually drive a bluegrass session -- who knew? For four hours one day and ten hours the next, we turned it every way but loose. Undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience all because I had a sprained wrist and a GB-4.


    Let's pick,

    -Tom
  3. I guess I fell off the wagon

    23 August 2017 - 02:11 PM

    I guess I fell off the wagon. I talked about it over on FB, but hey this is the Gibson place.Posted Image

    Our areas of interests have been pre 1950 Martin and Gibsons, folk revival era, and 1950s Martins -- so 1950 Gibsons not so much. We do have a 53 J-45 and a 59 LG-1 (which is really folk revival era). So in a weak moment I traded for this. 1954 SJ.

    It is a bit less strong than than the Banners and quite a bit less strong than the 30s Js, but overall still a strong guitar.

    Posted Image

    Let's pick,

    -Tom
  4. 1944 J-45 double rescue

    13 March 2017 - 01:22 PM

    After seeing the thread about the 1954 J-45 restoration, I thought I might tell a story about one of our guitars that has had a rough life. It is a 1944 J-45.

    We acquired it about 20 years ago, and when we got it it was already very messed up. We bought it from a old guy while waiting in line to enter the Galax Fiddler's Convention. For those of you not familiar with this event, it nominally starts on Wednesday, but in those days its gates opened the previous Sunday morning. As a result hundreds of RVs started lining up on the roads on Saturday spreading out for miles in all directions. Saturday night is a giant party, with jam sessions all up and down the roads with temporary neighbors.

    There we met an old man on a motorized wheel chair who wanted to sell his guitar -- he had decided his lifelong days as a musician were over, and he was planning to spend his time now fishing. The guitar was a c. 1944 J-45 that had an old, cosmetically bad refinish, a replaced belly bridge, and a number of repaired cracks. It was not a collector piece at all, but it sounded fine and his price was quite reasonable -- so we bought it as a player.

    Here is an old picture:
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    So for ten years we just used it -- a fine sounding and sad looking player. But then in 2006 we had a disaster -- a pipe broke in our kitchen. The guitar was stored well away from the kitchen, but as bad luck would have it the water ran along a beam and made a waterfall on the guitar -- for three days!

    Well the guitar was total toast -- it wrinkled up and fell apart.

    Posted Image

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    Well it was insured for $1500. After it dried out, we took it to Randy Wood and said "we have $1500 -- can you do anything with this?" Here is the result.

    Posted Image

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    Not perfect but hey -- what do you expect. A great player.

    Here a video from a jam show at the Osprey Theater in Shelburne NS five years later -2011. The guitar is being played by (Dr.) Kelly Moore, who is in the wheelchair because of MD and who with my daughter (also Dr.) Tracy make up the folk duo "Dead Girl Songs." Both teach at the University of Houston.



    This is what you get when you mix wonderful instruments with wonderful people. You can't make this stuff up -- no one would believe you.

    Let's pick,

    -Tom
  5. Small Gibsons Flattops -- 1926-1946

    11 February 2017 - 11:10 AM

    I made this picture and posted it on FB, but then it occurred to me it might be fun to post it here too.

    Posted Image

    26 L-1, 31 L-2, 33 HG-CENTURY, 34 KG-11 (CARSON ROBESON), 34 KG-14, 35 L-00 3/4, 36 KT-14, 38 L-CENTURY, 39 HG-00, 42 LG-1, 42 SPORT MODEL, 46 LG-2.

    Best,

    -Tom

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