Gibson "Lloyd Loar" K-5 Mandocello (1924)

UNLIKE THE K-4 MANDOCELLO which retained the shape of the F-4 mandolin in giant size, the K-5 Master mandocello had a guitar-shaped (L-5) body. Like the H-5 mandolas, very few K-5s were made; there just weren’t enough wealthy mandocello players! This example has the Virzi tone producer, purported to increase amplitude and improve tonal quality. Apparently Loar believed in their worth, making them a standard option in the Master line of 1924. This particular K-5 is very unusual; its “f"-holes are smaller and wider than those found on standard L-5s or K-5s, and the contour of the headstock is unique. The instrument was discovered with L-5-style guitar tuners, bridge and tailpiece; however, a K-5 mandolin-style tailpiece cover was found in its case, and four plugged holes were observed in the headstock. This may well be a prototype that was tested as both a mandocello and a guitar. To further complicate (or clarify) this mystery, a drawing of this exact instrument appears as a guitar in a small Gibson Guitar brochure from the period. This instrument was restored to its presumed original mandocello state by the renowned Australian luthier, Steve Gilchrist.

Track 3: It Had to be You
(from Tone Poems II CD booklet, used by permission)

Photography by D. Brent Hauseman