Gibson K-4 Mandocello (1915)

MASTODON OF MANDOLINS, THE MANDOCELLO shares a similar history to the mandola, also appearing for the flrst time in the 1902 catalog with three corresponding “A-style” models (K, K-l, K-2). This guitarsized instrument is tuned a full octave below the mandola, the same relationship between viola and cello. Similarly, the “artist” model K-4 was introduced in 1912, with large scroll and points, patterned after the F-4 mandolin. Rudy Cippola was one of the first professional musicians to take up the mandocello, which he did in the early 1930s. In 1968 David Grisman amplified his 1925 K-4 and played it with the folk-rock band, Earth Opera. Since that time, David has used mandocello on many recordings, including those of James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and his own. Mandocellos (and mandolas) are still in use today by many eclectic musicians and groups like the Modern Mandolin Quartet and the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble. This example is an early model similar to the H-4.

Track 1: Swanee
(from Tone Poems II CD booklet, used by permission)

Photography by D. Brent Hauseman