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Dual Birthdays Celebrated at Mandolin Brothers!




March 21, 2014   
Two mandolin-family instruments, each co-designed and signed by Lloyd Loar, are fêted on their 90th birthday.   

At Mandolin Brothers, Staten Island, New York, one of the most widely known dealers of high-end and vintage guitars, banjos and mandolins, are an original Lloyd Loar Master Model F-5 mandolin, signed and dated on March 31, 1924, and a Lloyd Loar signed H-5 mandola, signed by Professor Loar on that same day.    Eleven days after the vernal equinox, 2014, these renowned pieces together celebrated their 90th birthday.   This is a time for celebration.
Stan Jay, President, says:   In discussions of notable mountains the most oft spoken name is “Everest,” in violins it’s “Stradivarius.” In the field of American fretted instruments is the name which, when said aloud, makes all conversation in the room cease – and that’s “Lloyd Loar.”   Loar was an employee of the Gibson Guitar Company from 1918 to December 1924 who had worked his way up to “Acoustic Engineer.”   He is credited with having contributed to the design of the famous F-5 mandolin (built on violin principals and tuned like one); also the H-5 mandola (equivalent of the viola), the K-5 mandocello (fretted equivalent of the cello) and the L-5 acoustic f-hole archtop guitar (think Carter Family recordings from the 1920s and ‘30s).   Loar called this new series “Master Model.”   In doing so he and the Gibson Company not only produced some of  the finest instruments of their kind, but they also changed the course of Western music as we know it.  After all – if it hadn’t been for Loar’s L-5 guitar we might never have had the Gibson 1936 ES-150, an electric archtop guitar whose pickup was endorsed by musician Charlie Christian, and if we hadn’t had that we might not have had the solid body electric guitar – and if we hadn’t had that we might not have had The Beatles.  Thank you for The Beatles, Mr. Loar.
Loar began his relationship with the Gibson Company in 1911 when he signed on as a musician who traveled the country in bands for the purpose of promoting the Gibson brand name.  Three years later, during a time in which he became a concert master for Gibson, Loar was arranging and writing music for the traveling groups, he let factory owners and investors know that he had some ideas about construction techniques and how sound is produced and projected.   In 1918 he was named acoustic engineer at the Gibson factory, where he also assisted management.  He did not do this heavy lifting entirely alone, he worked with Gibson then president Guy Hart and other members of Gibson’s supervisory and administrative staff.  During his tenure at Gibson, which lasted through December 1924, the changes brought about by this group and other designers included  the elevated fingerboard and slimmer neck shape that allowed for great playability and projection, instruments built to those elusive principles which design changes affected the curvature and carving of the top, rims and back, newly introduced twin f-holes to instruments which, up until then, had oval or round soundholes, necks that have an adjustable truss rod (up until then the support system was non-adjustable) and a bridge that is two-piece and adjustable and so user serviceable.  
Mr. Loar is said to have walked the production area, inspecting and approving the product being completed, and, if it met his criteria, he signed a special label affixed inside that reads:  “The top, back, tone-bars and air-chamber of this instrument were tested, toned, and the assembled instrument tried and approved, (date), (Lloyd Loar’s signature), Acoustic Engineer.”    In addition, the label typically found in the bass f-hole indicated that this was a Gibson “Master Model” – meaning “highest grade” - as seen through the bass f-hole, and the Loar-signed label is typically below the treble soundhole.
The rest is (actual) history, but if you are interested in knowing some of this, um, lore there is a well-written, brief biography of this understated genius found at    It is felt, today, that around 290 signed F-5 mandolins were made that bear his signature, but only 19 Loar-signed mandolas have so far been found.
Stan Jay continues:  “During this period of festivity and solemn celebration, visiting our showroom dressed in clothing as might have been worn in 1924 will get you the opportunity to see and play these pieces, and to have your picture taken.” Actually, even if you don’t wear the period garb, you are still invited to see and congratulate these nonagenarian siblings.
For more information:    
Photo Credit: Eric Jay 

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Mandolin Brothers Ltd. 
629 Forest Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10310
(718) 981-8585 

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