Folks, Murphy and I have arrived safely back in Winchester after an excellent International Bluegrass convention. A highlight for us was to see Casey's set with The Dixie Bee-Liners on Saturday, along, of course, with seeing many old friends, some of whom we only run into each year at IBMA.
Since I'm a mandolin player, I'm glad to report that the mandolin-making world is alive and well. There were LOTS of excellent mandolins for sale at the convention booths, a suitable testimony that this really is the golden age of mandolin building.
Not all of the mandolins for sale were new ones. One booth with quite a few older mandolins was Elderly Instruments. Stan and his crew had brought (along with lots of new instruments) several old Gibsons, including an F-2, an F-4, and two F-5s. One of the F-5s was from 1927, and the other one was signed and dated on the label: July 9th, 1923.
In case that date doesn't ring a bell, it's the same day that Bill Monroe's famous old F-5 was signed and dated. However, this instrument of Elderly's looked about the opposite of Bill Monroe's. Bill's mandolin is so beat up that one instrument expert said it looked like it had been "dragged along behind the car on a doggie leash." This F-5 at Elderly, on the other hand, was really pristine---played very little, and preserved in extremely nice condition for 86 years. (Sounded mighty fine, too.)
I spent a little while visiting with Bob Fehr at the Martin Guitars booth. He had a great many innovative new models on display along with Martin's traditional line, and I wasn't disappointed by a single one. The Martin company is doing a fine job these days.
There were also a whole lot of really fine banjos for sale, by a lot of companies. I could spend a while just naming them. There was the First Quality company with their excellent Sullivan banjos. There was Steve Huber with his genuinely prewar-sounding tone rings and banjos. There were Nechville banjos and Recording King banjos and Gold Tone banjos and a great many more. If you ever would like to find yourself a banjo, you might come to the IBMA convention, and just go around and play every banjo there! It won't take but a day or two to find the one you like best!
The same thing goes for anyone who needs a string bass. There was one company there with thirteen (yes, THIRTEEN) basses on display, and I expect that every one of them was for sale.
I’d brought a couple of mandolins with me (to play, not to sell!) but since I had to watch our own Murphy Method booth a good part of the time, I didn't do a great deal of picking. But what I did was fun. Thanks to those who participated. We'll look forward to more next year.