Mandolas, as you know, are somewhat larger than mandolins, most typically have a longer scale length and are tuned down one fifth to C G D A, low to high. These produce a tone that is mellow and rich with warmth, enveloping the listener and player in an aura of sweet melancholy combined with maple syrup that was actually drawn from living trees. This is a teardrop shaped mandola – made in (probably) Japan and imported by Saga Musical Instruments of South San Francisco, CA. In the mid-1980s a collaboration was cobbled comprised of three illustrious individuals – John Monteleone of Long Island, New York, considered today the dean (i.e. the head of a university faculty or department) of American archtop f-hole carved guitars and mandolins, David Grisman, legendary practitioner of the plectral arts who has, in the past 50 years, re-introduced and redefined the use of the mandolin as a melodic progenitor of mellifluousness in the modern and traditional music of the Americas (and that wasn’t easy, lemme tell ya) and Richard Keldson, President of Saga of South San Francisco, importer of Kentucky, Trinity College, Blueridge and Gitane.
Monteleone has his own unique style, characterized by specific motifs, designs, contours, abbreviations and forms – and these are well represented in this Dawg Model Mandola. Grisman, who doesn’t live far from the Saga Company, consulted and made sure that the completed product was satisfactory and suitable.
This is a handsome mandola that has a 16” scale (most mandolas have a 17” scale while mandolins normally come in 14"). It has the bulbous Monteleone headstock, with its unique shape and design, the brand “Kentucky” inlaid in script mother of pearl, a 3” long flower in a vase inlaid below, gold-plated tuners with delicately floral-etched back plates and pearloid buttons. The ebony fingerboard is bound in crème, as is the headstock, and the sides, and inlaid with 7 mother of pearl dotmarkers in 6 positions. The end of the fingerboard has a 2 3/8” extension on the treble side, hosting 6 partial frets of varying lengths, in the Monteleone tradition of this time. It has a two-piece ebony adjustable bridge.
The playing action is moderately low (this is good), and there is a small amount of room for adjustability if needed in the future. It displays a gold-toned heavy, metal tailpiece that allows string loading from the top. The maple back, sides and neck show a modicum of “curl” or grain pattern; the top is spruce, close-grained and all named surfaces are finished in vintage sunburst. Its f-holes are large and sweeping, being almost “S” shaped instead of lower case “f,” but this too is in the Monteleone tradition. The top is bordered in crème and black purfling lines, and all other binding is single-ply. This is a very beautiful mandolin, designed by a builder of genius reputation. While it was made in Japan by trained luthiers, it will not really sound like a hand-made Monteleone mandola – however, it shares some design ideas with what John was doing back then and because he is so amazingly good at what he does its sound, playability and attractiveness all benefit considerably.
When we received this mandola it had a crack on the top paralleling the treble edge of the fingerboard down to just past the bottom of the bridge, but our amazingly competent staff of repairers has humidified and glued the crack and now one might not even notice it if it wasn't pointed out. This repair does not, in our opinion, present any sort of impediment to longevity or performance quality. Even in the accompanying photos, taken before the repair was completed, one has a hard time seeing the crack - but now it's all better. The hard shell case shows normal wear and its covering is, in some places, peeling.
We present to you an opportunity to own a small piece of the Legend of John Monteleone, in an affordable variation, in a model seldom encountered (being a mandola and all - it is said that only 5 or 6 of this model were shipped in total!) and, best of all, which is being made available at an attainable price. WAS $2263 BUT NOW ON SALE FOR: