A mandolin many can only afford to dream about

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11811547797076.jpg’, ‘Image courtesy of www.gibson.com‘, ”);

Most musicians—even some pros—don’t always spend big dollars on instruments. However, it’s fun to dream about certain gear and having enough money to own it.

When it comes to mandolins, Gibson has teamed with legendary country and bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs, and has hit a homerun with its Ricky Skaggs Distressed Master model.

The mandolin itself is a fun instrument to play, and most solid models are quite affordable. However, if you are looking for one that is, without question, at the top of its game, this Gibson is it, despite a price tag that’s larger than some automobiles.

With only 30 of these mandolins on the market, Gibson and Skaggs have patterned them after the 1923 Lloyd Loar F-5, which was known as one of the greatest bluegrass instruments ever made.

The eight-string Distressed Master has a beautiful spruce top and sides, neck and back made of hard Eastern maple, and boasts prolific and natural flame finishes—all applied and distressed by hand.

The headstock is articulately crafted with a signature 1923 inlay, which creates a vintage look, complementing the silver Waverly tuning keys.

The neck is very unique, with rounded frets that allow the player to effortlessly slide up and down the ebony extended board and intricately-placed pearl dot inlays. The body connects with the neck in a finely-crafted radiused dovetail joint that gives the appearance that the instrument was carved out of a single piece of wood.

This mandolin does not come with a pickup, as electric instruments did not exist in 1923; however, professionally installing an electric rig is possible, if defacing this little guy won’t upset you.

I have to admit that I won’t be buying this mandolin any time soon; however, playing it was an experience I won’t soon forget. Despite being just two years old, the Skaggs model sounded like it’s been around the world and in the mix for years, an aged ring that makes bluegrass a distinct genre of music.

The Ricky Skaggs Distressed Master retails for $25,500; however, most dealers are taking between $20,000 and $23,000 for them. Each member of the 30-unit comes with a certificate of authenticity, and was personally inspected by Skaggs to ensure it met the high standards the team set for each instrument in terms of appearance, tone and playability.

Getting hold of this model may be difficult; however, all Gibson dealers have the inside track on it. If owning the Skaggs F-5 is just a dream, more information, including a video of Skaggs playing the mandolin, can be found at www.gibson.com.

Jim Hagerty is a contributing writer for The Rock River Times, covering the national, regional and local entertainment scenes. He is also the creator and editor of Streaks (www.streaksonline.com), an arts and entertainment Web site, and the publisher of the North Central Illinois Edition of The Builder’s Journal. He can be reached at jimmyhags@hotmail.com.

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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