Gibson Style J *LOCAL PICKUP ONLY* Model Mando Bass (1920), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 64141, brown varnish finish, birch back and sides, spruce top, mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard.

The Style J Mando-Bass is one of the original Gibson company's most picturesque creations, always a conversation piece if not always a truly functional instrument. It was introduced in 1912 to round out the bottom end of the company's mandolin orchestra line, and made in very limited quantities up into the late 1920s. It survived in the Gibson catalog nearly up into WWII, although by that time it was likely just a desperate effort to clear whatever old stock was cluttering up the factory.

This is quite a large instrument, although somewhat smaller overall than a standard 3/4 upright bass. The carved spruce top has a round soundhole, arching over a somewhat bulbous birch body. The mahogany neck is carved in a thick "V" profile, topped by a fretted ebony fingerboard inlaid with pearl dots. The instrument was designed to be played either seated or standing, with a large spike retracting into the treble side to assist with the former position. Using a leather pick was the suggested playing method.

Gibson called the Style J "The instrument that is so much that all praise falls behind it". In 1918 the price was $95.85 including a canvas cover; for reasons easily apparent Gibson never offered a real case for it. " the deep, profound pulsations of the mando-bass are the heart and soul of true rhythm" Gibson noted in 1929, adding "The mando-bass is often featured for solos and "Hot Breaks" in the orchestra". That's something we'd still like to see! If nothing else the Style J remains a conversation piece par excellence, a truly colorful part of Gibson history.

Overall length is 64 in. (162.6 cm.), 24 1/4 in. (61.6 cm.) across at the widest point, and 6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 42 1/4 in. (1073 mm.).

This instrument is in structurally solid shape; we would describe it as playable, but not a joy to play! The neck has enough forward bow to make fretting something of a chore, even for a player accustomed to upright bass action. The frets are in good shape, anyway, and the fingerboard shows some light work. The original finish has numerous dings, dents, scrapes and chips overall but no really heavy wear.

There are some resealed seams on the body edges, small sealed cracks in the rim on both sides and one large sealed grain split to the top with some visible touch up. The instrument is completely solid, with the caveat that the neck is not straight. The tuners and tailpiece are original, as is the side extension peg. The carved maple bridge is old, but not original and the "arm bar" that once arched over the top is long gone. We would describe this as primarily a display piece, which can be played for demonstration or novelty effect but is not a professionally playable instrument. This Style J sat next to the piano in a Midwest home for the better part of the last century; there is no case or bag. Overall Very Good Condition.

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Listeda year ago
ConditionVery Good (Used)
Very Good items may show a few slight marks or scratches but are fully functional and in overall great shape.learn more
  • Style J Mado Bass
  • Brown Varnish Finish
  • 1920
Made In
  • United States

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Retrofret Vintage Guitars

Brooklyn, NY, United States
Joined Reverb:2015

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