Monthly Archives: January 2010


Aerial daredevils existed in the age of ballooning, as well as the age of powered flight. One assumes this woman was a circus performer who got swept up in the ballooning mania. The image itself has a surprisingly dreamlike quality, which is at odds with its inherent horror.

Egyptian Retreat on potato bug

“Egyptian Retreat” is another tune I got from Ellis’ Thorough School for the Six or Seven- Stringed Banjo (PDF). In this recording I play the 1st banjo part on the Fairbanks potato-bug mandolin I just got and the 2nd banjo part on my parlor guitar.

Here’s the sheet music for people who are inclined suchlike and accordingly:

My recording is hereby in the public domain. Do whatever you want with it.

vintage guitar strings

I came across a set of antique Gibson guitar strings.

There’s no date on the box. Thinking about how to figure out the date, I don’t ever remember Gibson strings at the guitar store since I started playing in the late 1970s. (Long time!) The graphics on the box suggest a time between 1935 and 1965. The text on the box says that they make strings for guitar, steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and electric bass. The newest of these instruments is electric bass, which didn’t become popular until the 1950s.

So 1955-1965.

I posted these photos on Flickr:

antique box of Gibson guitar strings
antique box of Gibson guitar strings
high E antique guitar string
blurred guitar strings

They were a gift from the fine albeit curmudgeonly mandolinist Tom Marion. Thanks, Tom!

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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Fairbanks mandolin 1900

Bought from Bernunzio:

A. C. Fairbanks – Style 15. 1 at $375.00 ea. – $375.00

good, quality Neapolitan style instrument with 9 rosewood ribs, and colored purfling around the top. There are no cracks or repairs. The neck is straight and true. Set up with Dogal strings for a charming sound from the past. PRICE REDUCED….was $450 now on sale for only…

  • ca. 1900
  • Condition: VG

It’s a highly playable instrument in good working order. So far it’s been a little tough to learn how to deal with the roundback, which doesn’t sit easily on your lap, but I’m getting more comfortable with it day by day.

This round back style of this mandolin predates the flat back style of bluegrass instruments. I hear the difference in tone as being more antique. The timbre has woody corners, like the nasal quack of a cigar box guitar, but prettier. The mood is carnival or amusement park. If you play bottleneck blues on it the sound is like wailing spirits.

proposing to a centerfold

If I don’t make Vorbis and Flac versions of some recording, I’ll get complaints. But if I do make one I won’t get listens.

My heart is with the Vorbis fans. My head says that the time and disk space is wasted. For now I’m still sticking with it, but it I might as well be proposing to a centerfold for all the good it does.