Mandolins, guitars, and banjos

A very good friend of mine received a special gift in the mail recently. An unusual gift, one that holds a couple generations of memories – Mountain Memories. Close friend and fellow Kentuckian, Phillip Hartsock was the recipient of a vintage Epiphone Strand Mandolin, handed down to him from his 2nd cousin, Merrell Boggs. And seein how Phillip and I have bluegrass music runnin through our veins, the instruments used in the production of this genre of music are only slightly less important than our wives and children.

Take my guitar for instance. Several years ago, during a rush to get to a family picnic, I backed over it in a van we used to have. Severed the neck, a clean break, but one that also broke my heart. It took many years for me to finally decide to have it repaired. I just couldn’t come to the realization that I had been so careless. After years of beating myself up over it, I had it repaired by a licensed luthier from the Martin Guitar Company. I had my doubts about it sounding the same as it did before the accident, but my doubts were erased when I played it once surgery was complete.

Music is such an important part of my being. And that of Phillip’s also. We both have much in common. It’s fate that we finally made contact. His past and mine met when we both realized our roots ran close together deep in the hills and hollers of Kentucky, where bluegrass music got its start. Phillip’s Mother, may she rest in peace, loved bluegrass music. She played guitar and sang with members of her family. Phillip has a cassette tape (remember those?) of her and some of her relatives pickin and singin that’s as good as anything you’ll hear from today’s top bluegrass stars.

Mother listened to Flatt and Scruggs, and Bill Monroe quite often, and we came to realize the same love of bluegrass music that she had, and still has. I know very little about my maternal and paternal grandparents like or dislike of the genre, but I do remember a banjo my dad got from his dad, I’d like to know what happened to that old instrument.

Merrell Boggs with his banjo

This discussion could get even lengthier than it already is, and since I’d hate to think y’all might get bored, I reckon I’ll end my little essay with Linefork playin “Linefork” by Merrell Boggs.

(For more info on the history of bluegrass music, click here.)

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