I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #325

From October 1, 2010 through to the end of September 2011, we will, each day, celebrate the life of Bill Monroe by sharing information about him and those people who are associated with his life and music career. This information will include births and deaths; recording sessions; single, LP and CD release dates; and other interesting tidbits. Richard F. Thompson is responsible for the research and compilation of this information. We invite readers to share any tidbits, photos or memories you would like us to include.

  • August 21, 1856 Orville H Gibson was born on a farm near the small town of Chateaugay, New York. *
  • August 21, 1918 Orville H Gibson died of endocarditis in St Lawrence State Hospital, Ogdensburg, New York.

* Orville Gibson was a luthier who founded the Gibson Guitar Company, makers of guitars, mandolins and other instruments, in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1896.

With no formal training, Gibson began in 1894 in his home workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan, creating an entirely new style of mandolin and guitar, with tops carved and arched like the top of a violin. This led to him being granted U S Patent No. 598245 for his designs on February 1, 1898.

The instruments were louder and more durable than contemporary fretted instruments and demand soon outstripped supply.

In 1902, on the strength of his ideas, five Kalamazoo businessmen formed the Gibson Mandolin Guitar Manufacturing Co. Ltd., effectively buying Gibson out, although he did have some shares in the company.

Although he remained an employee of the Gibson Mandolin Guitar Manufacturing Co. Ltd. until 1908, maybe even beyond that year, his last known mandolin was made in 1906.

His later years are clouded in recurring poor health, being first hospitalized in 1907 and again 1909 and 1911.

His designs were the forerunner of those by a later Gibson employee, Lloyd Loar, who made Bill Monroe’s Gibson F5 Master model mandolin [No. 73987], signed off on by Loar on July 9, 1923. Monroe played this mandolin for most of his career.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.