Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

With today being a holiday from work (yes we both have full time jobs) we had a delightful visit with Alan Bartram of the Del McCoury and the Travelin’ McCoury’s.  Alan flew in from Nashville (Southwest, $50 up charge for the flight case) with his flight case to pick up his 1939 American Standard that he auditioned a month ago.  The bass was all tuned and ready to go.  The first few notes were met with an “ahhhhh” it sounds better then I remembered.  Then some serious scales and slapping.  Yep this bass is heading to Nashville, music city USA.   

Ahhhh, those first notes

Some serious scales and slapping

The bass is a keeper.  Smiles all the way around.

Getting packed into the SBS flight case

Ready for that long journey home to Nashville...yeah baby!

Alan said he is working on a banjo album with Robbie right now and borrowed a 1950’s American Standard for the recording session.  He can’t wait to get this bass home so the band can hear his new sound.  He plans to take the bass to the Opry and play on stage…that is so very cool.  I am sure if he runs into Kent “Superman” Blanton, the Opry house bass player they can geek out test driving the American Standard.  Kent is a huge fan of the American Standard basses and maintains the American Standard and King Mortone database and website. 

This was a delightful day and we hope to have a great jam tonight to make it just down right awesome.

Merry Christmas everyone.  This has been a fantastic year for collecting basses, restoring some tired vintage basses, meeting new friends and making some wonderful music.

We look forward to 2012 with great anticipation. 

Wendy & Lonnie

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stanleytone Banjo #25 of the 50 first edition gold plated from 1984

Lonnie spent most of the day Saturday working on the Stanleytone banjo.  He disassembled the banjo so he could clean all the parts and polish the gold plating to a glistening shine.  The banjo was dirty and had a film of dust, dirt, and sweat; it needed a good over all cleaning.  The metal parts cleaned up really well.  The tuners were loose and the tail piece was not adjusted properly. 

As Lonnie reassembled the banjo he put on a new Five star smooth white banjo head.  He is making a custom fit Snuffy Smith bridge by taking the excess wood out of the bridge.  He has a gram scale and knows just about how thin to make them for the best tone.  He keeps checking the head tension to let the new head settle in before he makes too many tweaks.  The banjo has lots of potential; Lonnie will keep playing around until he finds that sweet spot that brings it to life with the classic Ralph Stanley sound.

The banjo before disassembled

Frank Neat (banjo maker) with Ralph's name

The serial number, this banjo was finished 11/19/1984 and is #25 of the first 50 gold plated banjos custom made for Ralph Stanley.
With the resonator back off you can see the 40 hole tone ring and fancy engraving

The outside edge of the resonator.  Fancy Birdseye maple with gold sparkle and ivory binding
Fine engraved tail piece

Top is original bridge that came on the banjo.  Middle is Snuffy Smith bridge before detailing.  Bottom is Lonnie's Bart Veerman red dot is a little piece of art.  Beautiful well crafted banjo bridge.

Lonnie at work.  He loves to take something old and make it look as good as new.

The back of the neck with out the tuners.  The banjo is a reddish pink brown.  It is very bright an showy with the gold sparkle resonator binding

After re-assembly.  The new Five star head needs to settle in before final tweaking begins.  The banjo looks so much better cleaned up. 

Popeye is going home…

Today was jubilation day; Popeye is finished and heading home.  The King Mortone restoration took about eight month of on again, off again efforts to get it back into to fine playing condition.  After a nice leisurely visit with Mike and Sharon today, a few thumps on Popeye and a good meal…all is well.  Popeye got the full Bass Monkey treatment and is looking good and sounding great once again. We know he will be appreciated and will make some fine bluegrass music.  It sounds like his first jam will be later this week.  We are anxious to hear how the bass is receipted by the band members.  This was a great bass project for two wonderfully nice people.  

We are moving along to the Stanleytone banjo next.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Its official…the King Mortone bass is completed

We took the bass out Thursday and Friday to our local jam and it was a big hit.  I am always amazed at what folks pay attention to.  We no sooner had the bass out of the gig bass then the questions started…

That’s a new one. 

Where did you get it?

It sure is pretty, I like that dark finish.

What year is it?

How does it sound?

What’s the U.S.N. stand for on the back?

Wow…that thing sounds great.  I can hear it all the way in the bathroom.

Is it for sale?

I like it, bring that one back any time!

And it goes on and on.  The bass looks and sounds great.  It was a joy to play and even more of joy to watch the grin on Lonnie’s face grow larger with every question I answered.  First time out with a new bass is always a challenge especially when it is a three hour jam.  You never know how it will sound in the mix of the other instruments and there is no opportunity to make adjustments.  You need to play it through, no matter what.  The bass seemed a bit tight early in the evening but once it warmed up, the strings settled in the bass really began to open up.  With some serious play time this bass will be a boomer…I liked it! 

At the end of the Friday night jam a gentleman I never saw before came up and began to ask questions about the bass.  Come to find out he was a retired Navy guy and was really enamored by the U.S.N. carved in the back of the bass.  We had a very nice conversation and he was delighted to know this bass had a past life in the Navy Band and was singing proud again. 

That is the stuff that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.  Every bit of effort and Lonnie’s TLC was worth it. 

Here are some quick pictures from Lonnie during the jam.  He’s not much of a photographer, so I’ll take what I get.