Thanks to the folks at Mandolin Cafe, who first published it over the weekend, mandolin lovers and fans of bluegrass history can watch video of the day Bill Monroe’s iconic F-5 was returned to him in February 1986 after being restored at the Gibson shop.
And we’re not talking about a spruce-up here. The top of the mandolin had been smashed with a fireplace poker in an act of vengeful vandalism, which also left major cracks and breaks in the back and the headstock. When Monroe discovered it at his home, he is said to have despaired of ever having it in playing condition again.
But up stepped Charlie Derrington, head of mandolin production at Gibson in those days, who said that he could put the many pieces back together and rebuild Big Mon’s Loar. It was an imposing task, as there were pieces of the top no larger than a toothpick which had to be glued back in place, but Derrington pulled it off, forever cementing his place in mando-luthiery lore.
So it was a very happy day when Monroe visited Gibson to retrieve his prized instrument. Gibson president Henry Juszkiewicz was there for the presentation, along with guitar master and Gibson loyalist Chet Atkins.
Mandolin Cafe obtained the video from Scott Wright, a TV reporter in Denver who made the trip to Nashville specifically to record this moment. Pure chance had alerted him to the occurrence, as he had interviewed Bill in Denver a few days earlier. A bluegrass fan and picker himself, Scott recognized its importance when Monroe mentioned it to him in Denver.
And now the video is available for all to see and enjoy.
Both Bill and Charlie are lost to us now, with Monroe dying 10 years later after a long illness, and Derrington being killed by a drunk driver in 2006. What a wonderful way to remember them both.
You can read more about this day at Mandolin Cafe.