LUTHIERS HAVE BEEN BORROWING construction techniques and design elements from each other for hundreds of years. It’s not surprising to notice similarities between different instruments, particularly when they occur in different countries, where patent and copyright infringement laws are much harder to enforce. The Hofner Company of Germany, probably best known throughout the world as the manufacturer of Paul McCartney’s “Beatle” bass, began as a builder of violins in the last century. As the cutaway archtop guitar craze was gaining momentum in the USA, Hofner began focusing a lot of attention on building guitars based on the Gibson and Epiphone designs. In the mid-1950s they introduced a few carved mandolin models, all borrowing the unique “cat’s-eye” sound holes from the Gretsch Synchromatic series. This example from the early sixties, built entirely of mahogany, is a combination of ornate (fancy carved slotted headstock) and inexpensive (plastic pickguard screwed into top) features. Although it lacks volume, the tone is quite pleasing.
Track 13: Mairzy Doats
(from Tone Poems II CD booklet, used by permission)
Photography by D. Brent Hauseman