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.

(from Tone Poems II CD booklet, used by permission)

Photography by D. Brent Hauseman