Like that other guy (initials L.Loar) this supervisor was also a famous person associated with the building of mandolins in the 20th century who did not have his own name on the headstock of the products he approved. Charlie Derrington was a Gibson employee. In the fall of 1985 he was entrusted with the task of “putting back together from splinters” Bill Monroe’s famous (and intensely valuable) Lloyd Loar signed F-5 which had been attacked (in Bill’s absence) by a crazy person with a fireplace poker. Derrington assiduously performed one of the amazing fretted instrument restorations the world has ever seen and, in a special presentation on February 25, 1986 the reassembled mandolin was placed in the hands of The Father of Bluegrass who proclaimed it “as good as new.”
Charlie Derrington continued his association with Gibson Guitar Company in Nashville, TN by supervising the production of Gibson’s mandolin family pieces and, when he approved a completed high-end example he signed a special second oval label that was affixed to the back of the instrument as seen through the treble f-hole. This reads “The top, back, tone bars and air chamber of this instrument were tested, tuned, and the assembled instrument tried and approved. . . .” In this instance the date follows (typed) “October 7, 1998” and then hand signed “Charles Derrington.” The brown oval label in the bass f-hole has three patent dates (1906 to 1931), “The Gibson Master Model,” “Style F-5L (typed),” Number 81007039”, “Gibson Inc., Nashville, TN, U.S.A.”
Charlie Derrington was a fine musician, well-versed in the history, materials and techniques utilized by Gibson when they made The Stradivari of Mandolins during the 1920s, and also a very nice and extremely interesting person. He died in a crash when a drunk driver, traveling in the wrong direction, struck his motorcycle moments after Charlie had left work at Gibson OAI on August 1, 2006. On that day the world lost a bright, shining star in the world of fine American fretted instruments. The instruments that bear his signature and testament of approval have become modern monoliths of what is potentially possible when producing prodigious and painstaking products of perfection . . . . and this one is no exception.
On its back, sides and neck this F-5L displays heavily flamed to the point of being nearly quilted, the grain of the perfectly parallel carved spruce top is close and without aberration; headstock, fingerboard, elevated tortoise shell celluloid pickguard, top and back are bound in grained ivoroid; the top, back and headstock display crème and black purfling and there is an ebony underlay underlain beneath the fretboard binding. The fingerboard ends in an 8-partial fret peninsula; the headstock is inlaid with “The Gibson” and a fierce, man-eating fern in abalone, parts of which curl around the black bell-shaped truss rod cover like fingers of flame in an uncontrolled conflagration The black ebony fretboard is inlaid with 6 mother of pearl dotmarkers in 5 positions; the bridge is carved of ebony in two adjustable sections, the tailpiece is a special gold-plated slide-on etched “The Gibson” and filigreed around its top perimeter. The side piece on its L-bracket pickguard clamp is layered tortoise, ivoroid, ebony and ivoroid. Its f-holes are sweeping and unbound; its tuners are high quality, gold-plated (probably) Schallers with pearloid buttons. But that’s not all – you also get a large body scroll, a medium sized headstock scroll and a small headstock curl plus a 3 fearsome points at the central upper headstock and on the treble side of the body. The tailpin peg, she is ebony.
The fretboard shows light fret wear – not, in our opinion, worth dressing at this time. Although overall in incredibly clean condition there are crazing lines (chiefly on the back of the headstock), some extremely minor signs of being held that are of no consequence. The adjustable bridge is set to a moderately high elevation, but the mandolin sets up fine, plays easily and sounds utterly incredible. Mandolins that are signed and supervised by Charlie hold an extremely special place in Gibson mandolin history and are considered some of the “best of kind” in a modern Florentine body f-hole professional instrument.
NOW ON SALE IN A MAJOR WAY: WAS $10,500 Cash Discount Price, but not any more. NOW: