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12.29.2014

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Stan M. Jay, Seller of Strings to the Stars, Dies at 71

10.28.2014

Stan M. Jay, Seller of Strings to the Stars, Dies at 71

 

Stan M. Jay, owner of the Mandolin Brothers musical instrument store on Staten Island, which has been a pilgrimage destination for recording stars, collectors and other connoisseurs of the guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukulele for more than 40 years, died on Wednesday in Staten Island. He was 71.

The cause was Mantle cell lymphoma, his wife, Bea, said.

Mr. Jay played a virtuoso behind-the-scenes role in the musical lives of performers such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffett and Paul Simon — not as a performer, but as one of the country’s premier dealers and restorers of new and vintage fretted instruments.

The walls of his office at Mandolin Brothers, located in a tiny commercial strip, were papered with snapshots of him with those musicians and others, a collage of a Woodstock that might have been: Bruce Springsteen, Judy Collins, Lenny Kravitz, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow and Crosby, Stills and Nash, as well as celebrity guitar connoisseurs like Conan O’Brien and the filmmaker Christopher Guest.

Joni Mitchell bought an antique mandolin from Mr. Jay in 1976, and composed a tune, “Song for Sharon”, that documented the purchase as provably as any sales slip: “I went to Staten Island, Sharon/To buy myself a mandolin ...”

Paul McCartney did not come personally but sent an assistant to have his Hofner 500/1 violin bass repaired. It was one of two Hofners he had played since the Beatles’ early days. The other had been stolen in 1968, so his assistant was apparently under orders to be vigilant. During the two days of repairs, the assistant watched over the work by day, took the guitar back to his hotel overnight and returned with it the next morning.

“Never took his eyes off it,” Mrs. Jay recalled. “High-strung fellow.”

Mr. McCartney’s testimonial appeared in Bass Player magazine some years later. “My bass never played in tune,” he was quoted as saying, “but I brought it to Mandolin Brothers and they set it straight.”

His fellow Beatle, George Harrison, walked into the store unannounced one afternoon in 1990 and went on a 40-minute shopping spree, buying a very expensive ukulele and a bundle of other things, as Mr. Jay remembered it.

As his wife recalled, “I was just about to take the kids to see ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ ” the movie, “when Stan calls — ‘George Harrison just walked in, get over here,’ ” she said in an interview on Friday. Someone had to watch the store. “Oh, the kids were so disappointed,” she said.

Mr. Jay kept about 900 instruments in his store, which was laid out like a rambling house or a private museum, with room after room hung with instruments and furnished with comfortable couches and chairs for customers to sit in while testing the merchandise.

They were high-end pieces by any measure, including vintage guitars by Martin, Guild, Taylor, Fender, Rickenbacker and Gretsch. (“Mandolin Brothers is not here to sell you your first guitar,” Mr. Jay told The Staten Island Advance in 2006. “We’re here to sell you your third guitar.”)

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story He defined a vintage instrument as one produced roughly between 1830 and 1969, using materials currently not available or no longer considered cost-effective, he said in a 2005 interview with Forbes magazine. One example was a Martin acoustic guitar made before 1969, when the company stopped using the Brazilian rosewood that gave it its characteristic clear tone. Another was any mandolin made in the early 20th century by Lloyd Loar, the Stradivari of the mandolin. Mandolin Brothers sold many instruments for sums in the six figures.

Stanley Michael Jay was born in Newark on July 29, 1943, to Irving and Clara Jay. His mother was a homemaker. His father, a salesman, discouraged him from becoming a musician, and on his father’s advice he majored in English at Pennsylvania State University. After graduating in 1965, he pursued postgraduate studies in education and English at Wagner College on Staten Island and at Teachers College, Columbia University.

While teaching English and giving guitar lessons at the College of Staten Island, he and a friend, Harold Kuffner, started Mandolin Brothers in 1971. Mr. Jay bought his partner’s share in 1983 and ran the company with his wife and two children until illness forced him to stop work several months ago. Mrs. Jay said no decision had been made about the future of the store.

Besides his wife he is survived by his children, Eric and Alison Reilly; a sister, Andrea Jay; and two grandchildren.

Mr. Jay’s famous customers inevitably featured prominently in the many articles and media profiles produced about him and his store. But famous people were only a tiny fraction of his clientele, he always stressed, and most of the instruments he sold were not collector’s items.

Selling an instrument, he once said, was more like arranging an adoption than making a cash transaction. At its best, he said, one’s purchase of an instrument (“the right one,” he liked to say) marked the beginning of a transformational long-term relationship.

“If you play music, life somehow takes on a new meaning and a new color,” he told the public radio station WNYC in 2012. “You become expressive in ways you never knew you could be. That is why we’re here.”

As reported in the New York Times, 10/28/14: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/nyregion/stan-m-jay-seller-of-musical-instruments-dies-at-71.html?_r=0 
 

Feature Article on Mandolin Brothers

10.27.2014

Mandolin Brothers is honored to have a feature article in the new issue of Guitar Aficionado Magazine.    “Since 1971, Stan Jay has bought, sold, and restored many of the world’s finest stringed instruments from his celebrated store in Staten Island.”  Writer, Harold Steinblatt; Photos by Justin Borucki, ©2014 by NewBay Media, LLC.   Click here for a sample.  We sell this extremely high quality magazine at our showroom.