Lloyd Loar Mandolin Gibson F-5 # 71635: Crusher
Gibson F-5 #71635 signed on 12/20/22 "Crusher". An incredibly famous Lloyd Loar mandolin, "Crusher" is the favorite Gibson F-5 of David "Dawg" Grisman, a phenomenal mandolin spirit and a treasured friend. Appointments on F-5 #71635 are very similar to #71633 except the sunburst is much lighter in color. The sound has tonal presence and dynamic ranges which are truly amazing, and the power is such that luthier par excellence Steven Gilchrist named it "Crusher". This mandolin has enjoyed much limelight as Dawg has toured the world with it, and it is even the focus of a two CD Acoustic Disc album called "Tone Poets." David Grisman invited 43 musicians from all over the world to play Crusher and his OM-45 Martin guitar on this album, to demonstrate the aural differences that various performers bring to one instrument. I was one of the musicians chosen to contribute to the solo portion of the album, and Dawg invited me to his home to stay with him and work in his studio. On the ride over to the airport, Randy Wood called to tell me that we had lost our dear friend Vassar Clements to lung cancer. I knew Vassar had been sick, in fact I had performed with him on his last public performance earlier that year. Even though I knew he was losing the battle to lung cancer, it still hit me hard to accept the finality of the loss. Once on the airplane, I picked up a copy of a Time magazine, and there was a story on the life of Percy Heath. Just recently touched by the loss of Vassar, I realized that Percy had passed away as well. The article was a retrospection on his life and amazing career from a kid playing with Charlie Parker to the world class innovations of the Modern Jazz Quartet to his band with his siblings, the Heath Brothers. I was so touched by this great article and the loss of these musical giants, and during the flight I fell into a quiet reverie: The year was 1978, I traveled to New York City with my mandolin (Lloyd #75941) in the original case (did not yet have a flight case) and realized the Heath Brothers were playing at Storyville. Into Storyville with Lloyd in hand, my friends and I acquired a seat at a table in front of the stage and settled into an amazing evening--one of the best live concerts I have ever attended. Before the concert I ran into my hero Percy Heath in the men's room. Somehow, there was a conversation and connection concerning a mutual friend from Bolivia. Percy's comment, in a deep baritone: "beautiful." At the end of the program, Percy himself came and sat at our table. He had noticed the old case and inquired about its contents. I told him it was a very special mandolin made in1924. He observed that his bass was made in 1787. He asked if I would play something for him, so I took Lloyd out of the case right there amidst the clink of mixed drinks in Storyville. I could have played it safe and selected a tune that would have been easy for me, something from my heritage and cultural background, reflecting my rural North Carolina roots. Instead, I proceeded to play for Mr. Percy Heath the jazz standard by Ray Noble, "Cherokee", that I had arranged for mandolin. This is the song that inspired Charlie Parker to split the musical atom in 1945, a song that Mr. Percy Heath had explored to full potential on that 1787 bass. It was a bold choice. When I finished Percy smiled and the deep voice rumbled: "beautiful, man."
When I arrived in California, this was fresh on my mind as Dawg picked me up at the San Francisco airport. After an extremely exhilarating ride to Petaluma, we sat up into the night playing mandolins from the Dawg vault. At the end of the evening, Dawg presented Crusher to me. I restrung with my favorite D'Addario EXP74 strings and set the action to my specs. I even slept with Crusher in the bed with me that night (in the case of course) and was totally dialed into this amazing mandolin by the next morning. I could not help but be astounded by the power throughout the frenquency range, especially clear and clean on the high end; this mandolin just keeps giving more and more as you lean into it. When Dawg asked what I wanted to play, my choice was clear: "Cherokee." As I did my version of Cherokee, I included a little twist that I had learned from our dear friend Vassar. Dawg coached me into adding the ending which I thought was a wonderful addition and this track appeared on David Grisman's "Tone Poets" album on Acoustic Disc. I am very indebted to David Grisman and Craig Miller of Acoustic Disc for allowing me to reproduce that performance in this program.