Ratliff mandolin to be given away in honor of Alan Niederland

We’ve mentioned several times that nothing beats bluegrass people for their kindness, and willingness to help others as they learn to play the music. Most of us who have been involved for some time will have stories to tell about the generosity they’ve been shown along the way, many times by top performing artists, and the responsibility they feel to pass that benevolence along in turn.

Here’s another such story, inspired by the recent passing of mandolinist Alan Niederland, who was a friend to everyone he met, especially among fellow pickers. Among those friends was Jim Koweek of Arizona, a longtime player who performs every Thursday evening as The Amazing Front Porch Show at The Café in Sonoita, AZ.

Jim has offered to give away a Ratliff Mandolins RA-5 model, valued at close to $2,000, as a tribute to Alan’s philanthropy, and plans to choose its recipient based on the need to upgrade for a deserving picker.

Let’s let him explain…

The bluegrass community, and all acoustic music, lost a good friend with the recent passing of Alan Niederland. Alan was a fine player, and an appreciator of good mandolins, but most of all was a generous soul who loved sharing all things music related. Sometimes that was showing a lick, at others it was giving away picks, straps, or recorded music to anyone he thought might appreciate them. I believe he liked sharing these things as much as anything, well, except for a good jam. If you would like to know more about this, read any of the testimonials in this publication or on the Mandolin Café. 

My time with Alan goes back to the mid ’70s (that is 1970s, not 1870s) before either of us played an instrument. We both loved music so much that we just needed to be a part of it. Alan chose the mandolin. Or, maybe the mandolin chose him. Life, careers, and geography took us in different directions. Right now, I wish we had stayed in better contact. If you know someone, especially of the musical kind, you have lost contact with, I recommend, in Alan’s honor, that you reach out and say hi to them. Life shouldn’t be that busy. 

In honor and tribute to the person that Alan was, I would like to donate a mandolin to a deserving picker. The mandolin is a Ratliff A model. I am looking for someone who plays and could really use, but not afford an upgrade. The only string attached, well other than the eight that are supposed to be there, is that when the recipient wants to upgrade from this one, the mandolin is not to be sold. It is to be given away to another deserving player in tribute to Alan. For practical reasons, no shipping out of the US. 

If you know someone who is deserving, please contact me at jim@azreveg.com with a brief explanation why. I plan on making a decision in mid to late May. 

Well done Jim! What a wonderful way to keep Alan’s memory alive in the mandolin community. Just think… over the life of this instrument, it may pass to many new recipients, all getting a leg up in learning to play inspired by one man’s generosity.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.