KENNETH “JETHRO” BURNS, OF THE FAMOUS musical comedy team Homer and Jethro, was a true Jazz mandolin pioneer. In 1959 he was presented with a custom model A-5 mandolin made especially for him by Gibson. This beautiful instrument was a fancy version of the regular A-5 two-point Florentine model that was introduced in 1956. The headstock “flowerpot” inlay design and ebony fingerboard with pearl blocks are typical F-5-style appointments of the period, although the five-ply multiple bindings and burgundy red finish are unique to this instrument. Jethro used “Red,” as he called the mandolin, on most of his personal appearances and recordings throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and he is pictured with it on many album covers of this period. Jethro passed away in 1989 and today the mandolin is part of the collection at the Country Music Foundation in Nashville. As a good friend and collaborator of Jethro’s, David Grisman was honored to be able to play Jethro’s mandolin on his “Tone Poems II” recording.
(from Tone Poems II CD booklet, used by permission)
Photography by D. Brent Hauseman