Lloyd Loar Mandolin Gibson F-5 # 71633: The Twenty-Two

Gibson F-5 #71633, "the twenty-two". This is the earliest mandolin in our program, one of a rare batch that represents some of the first mandolins signed by Lloyd Loar on 12/20/22.  Of the known Loar F-5s, this is the 15th serial number issued issued.  Features and appointments on Gibson F-5 # 71633 are consistent with factory specifications for this model and year and like all the F-5s played here, they include the classic carved top and parallel tone bar construction with f-holes and long, one-piece curly maple neck  (which places the bridge in the center of the f-holes); headstock inlay consisting of “The Gibson” and abalone flowerpot; pearl button tuners with notched endplate; hand-engraved tailpiece; pick guard following body points; all hardware silver plated; and medium dark Cremona shaded-sunburst varnish finish. The standard tuners for F-5 had evidently not been developed at this time, as the tuners are the same as was used on style F-4 at the time, except they have been modified to accept pearl buttons.  The period from 1922 to the beginning of 1928, called “the Loar era”, for acoustical engineer Lloyd Loar, is considered to be the “Golden Era” of American mandolin building and the Gibson Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan is considered to be the premier standard for excellence in quality, precision, taste and musicality.  Model F-5 is the top of the Gibson line and the Loar signed Gibson F-5 mandolins are considered by many to be the Stradivarius of mandolins and the finest mandolin every built.  This mandolin, as well as others from this batch, proves that the F-5 was fully formed by this time, and indeed, some of these early 1922 F-5s are considered by many to be among the very best in terms of workmanship and sound.

My choice of songs for this mandolin, like most of the material on this CD, was a "first-take" response to having this great instrument in hand.  The fiddle tunes flowed easily and naturally, and in retrospect, I find an interesting parallel in the fact that I have matched the first songs I ever learned to play (my father showed me how to play "Soldier's Joy" when I was four years old) with one of the first F-5s ever built.