A tune of rebirth, named by the man who repaired Bill Monroe’s iconic mandolin.
November 27, 2017
On November 13, 1985, Bill Monroe’s wife Delia Streeter returned home from lunch to find two mandolins smashed in front of the fireplace. Someone had forced their way through a second-story door and vandalized the living room and pierced a fire poker through the top of Monroe’s famous July 9, 1923 Loar-signed Gibson, which he had owned for nearly 40 years and on which he composed almost all of his most famous songs and instrumentals.
The splinters were carefully collected and sent to Gibson where, over the next three months, Charlie Darrington painstakingly repaired the mandolin and returned it to Monroe on February 25, 1986. An audio recording of this reunion can be found here.
After this, Charlie and Bill maintained a relationship. Monroe would call him over and play tunes and at one point asked him to name a tune. Charlie named it “The Lloyd Loar.”
Lloyd Allayre Loar was a sound engineer, consultant, and master luthier for Gibson from 1919 to 1924. He created the F-5 Master Model, which could be described in quality, price, and prestige as the Stradivarius of mandolins.
Although Monroe bought his famous mandolin at a barbershop in Florida around 1945, it was built, like all “Loars,” at the original Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Gibson shifted production to Nashville starting in 1974 but the old factory is still occupied by Heritage Guitars. I was helping a friend drive his car across the country and realized that the factory was only slightly out of the way (thanks for stopping, Michael). Although “The Lloyd Loar” was never recorded by Monroe (not counting Grand Ol’ Opry bootlegs), it was recorded by Skip Gorman on Old Style Mandolin Vol. II / Monroesque. I didn’t have the recording with me on this trip, though, and my memory of the tune was a little dodgy, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to play it in front of its birthplace.
Learn Monroe-Style Mandolin with Mike Compton on Peghead Nation.
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