Marc is one of the most prolific performers and instructors in the northeastern US, a man who has excelled at both bluegrass and old time playing styles since the late 1950s. He designed this new banjo along with Wayne Rogers of Gold Tone and Tom Nechville of Nechville Musical Products over two years of experimenting with different components, and the result is the OT-MH.
It appears that Horowitz started this process mostly for himself. He serves as a representative for both Nechville and Gold Tone in the northeast, has a close relationship with both companies, and a familiarity with both lines. They each serve a slightly different segment of the banjo market, but Horowitz saw the value in perhaps pairing a composite graphite neck from Gold Tone with a Nechville Atlas pot to give him an old time instrument that would be light weight, yet stable in varying weather conditions, and could be quickly and easily adjusted for different playing situations.
When he first got one together, and discovered the ideal set up combination, he found that it was even better than he had imagined. As Marc describes it…
“After a year and a half of playing this banjo around at festivals, house parties and gigs, the reactions I got from players that tried it were uniformly favorable. Last October, I was playing music with two other banjoists at a party in a casual situation when one of them, Dr. Ian Alexander of Australia, asked to try my banjo. He played a few phrases and then said, ‘I want one of these, but only if it’s exactly like this one; can you do it?’ I said, ‘Sure, probably, why not?’
Then he handed the banjo over to the other player, my friend Hilarie Burhans. She played it at some length, then declared, ‘I’m not a gearhead. I’ve been playing the same banjo for fifteen years and didn’t ever want anything else, until now.’ I now had two orders for a banjo that technically didn’t exist. When I got home, I told this story to Tom Nechville and Wayne Rogers (president of Gold Tone) and each said the same thing: ‘Why not a Marc Horowitz Signature model?'”
And as they say, the rest is history. Tom and Wayne decided to offer this banjo in limited quantities as part of the Gold Tone line.
The OT-MH model is made to a 25.5” scale with 18 frets and the upper position scooped, and the fingerboard of a single piece with the neck. The rim is made of blocked wood construction, with a cocobolo wood tone ring.
Marc says it’s the perfect combination of old and new.
“The pairing of the Nechville Atlas pot (built by Nechville and modeled after an Ashborn design of the late 1800s) with its all-wood, block-style rim with integral wood flange, mated to Gold Tone’s graphite composite neck (with traditional peghead and scoop) with its uniform density and immunity to changes in humidity and temperature, results in a tone palette that’s warm and round, yet focused and powerful. It lacks the distracting overtones that muddy the notes in many open back banjos and when I play it, I always get comments like, ‘I was three campsites away, but I had to come over here to see what was making that sound.'”
Gold Tone offers the OT-MH through its network of US dealers for $3495.00 with a gig bag, though dealers set their own prices and may offer discounts. A street price of $2600 seems to be the norm.
The supply is limited primarily by the availability of the graphite necks, but orders can be placed at any dealer as long as you are willing to wait a few months for delivery.
A full list of specifications can be found on the Gold Tone web site.