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1924 Gibson Tenor Lute

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In the early 90’s I was playing in Madison, WI and did a pick up gig at a retirement home (hey, you gotta pay the bills).  That night I met 2 very interesting people. The first was a former cast member of the WLS Barn Dance, a life long friend of Lula Belle and Scotty.  The other was an elderly woman who loved the vintage instruments I was playing.  She told me about her late husband who had been a musician then mentioned he had left her an old Gibson instrument of some sort.  She said she had turned down an offer of $150.00 for it a year before and wished she had taken it.

I told her I’d pay $150.00 for anything that said Gibson and she offered to show it to me.  After about 45 minutes of following her all over Madison in the dark, I ended up at an apartment building where she showed me the tenor lute.  I didn’t know just what it was but I knew it was worth more than 150.00.  I was on the road at the time with little cash and it was late at night but I gave her every dollar I had on me since I was heading to Chicago to stay with family later that night.  I was feeling pretty good about all of this as I was heading into Chicago until I saw the toll booth just up ahead.  I had to pull over and dig through my gig bag for change! Fortunately I found enough to cover the toll.

I later found out this is a 1924 Gibson Tenor Lute which they built for only 1 year to try to capitalize on the tenor banjo craze.  An oversize mandolin body with a tenor banjo neck, it has a thin reedy sound that makes a beautiful counterpoint to other stringed instruments.  I had used it as a rhythm instrument on the Lincoln CD but I wanted it to play a bigger role this time.

Used on: Shenandoah

Track: Shenadoah