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Mandolin Mondays #395 w/ Special Guest Tony Williamson

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This week on Mandolin Mondays we're joined by renowned mandolinist Tony Williamson playing a rendition of the swing standard "Moonglow" on his July 9th 1923 Lloyd Loar Gibson F5 mandolin.

2018 North Carolina Heritage Award recipient Tony Williamson is a visionary musician, composer, musical instrument expert, teacher and mentor. He has played stringed instruments, most famously mandolin, for six decades and has been receiving awards and honors for his music for nearly 50 of those years. Never content to rest on his laurels, today Tony continues to perform live and travel internationally and has recordings with fresh new concepts in progress.

Tony was born and raised in rural Piedmont North Carolina to a family of wood-workers and musicians. His grandfather, Alfred, made his own musical instruments (at one time his banjo was on display the N.C. Museum of History) and inspired his grandchildren, who began playing music around 1957. With Tony on mandolin and his brother Gary on banjo, they became child sensations and by 1969 had won first places in the coveted "World Championship" in Union Grove, North Carolina. In 1968 the Williamson Brothers recorded "John Henry" for Follett Publishing Co. for an anthology called "Discovering Music Together". Also included in this book and LP record album collection were contributions from "Blood Sweat & Tears" and the Boston Symphony.

After taking a degree with highest honors at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1975, Tony answered the call to go on the road with a touring band, the Bluegrass Alliance, whose alumni include Vince Gill, Sam Bush and Tony Rice. Afterwards, working in a succession of bands led him to the top of his field playing classical, jazz and folk music as well as bluegrass. His credits include performances on stage and/or in the recording studio with Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Bobby Hicks, Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Don Stiernberg, and Robin and Linda Williams of Prairie Home Companion fame. In addition to the prestigious NC Heritage Award, his list of honors includes the IBMA recorded event of the year in 1994, many on-stage highlights such Mando-Mania at Merlefest and an unforgettable performance for Luciano Pavarotti!

Here's a word from Tony about this video, "The reason I created that arrangement of “Moonglow” was to show off the sustain of that mandolin. It is really quite incredible. It’s an arrangement with lots of space, and in places where one would normally use tremolo, you can just let the chord ring. It is Gibson F5 75753, from the first set of the July 9, 1923 batch. Yes, it just had its centennial birthday. It was originally the pride and joy of a lady in upstate New York, Florence Blakely.

This mandolin and her story, along with other more famous mandolins, are profiled in the latest episode, “The July Revolution,” of my ongoing journal “Breaking News 1923.” Going into its second year, the “Breaking News” journal takes an in-depth look at primary source documents that tell the story of the creation of the F-5 and the endeavors of Lloyd Loar and his many associates. It is available for free with no ad interruptions, and is the first link on my website, mandolin central."

Be sure to connect with Tony at the links below for more info about his music:

And as always, tune in next week for more Mandolin Mondays! Until then...

Happy Picking!

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  1. Todd Bowman's Avatar
    Beautiful arrangement! It does show off the sustain of that F5! Bravo! Thanks for sharing!
  2. Andy B's Avatar
    That’s a beautiful arrangement beautifully performed. Maybe Florence Blakey played Moonglow on 75753 when it was new(er). If so, you are taking that mandolin back to its musical roots. Thanks for brightening my morning.
  3. ccravens's Avatar
    Loved it!
  4. Brian Ebie's Avatar
    Beautiful, and joyful playing, Tony. Just what I needed to hear this morning. Thanks!!
  5. Hubs's Avatar
    With no words I can express how much I like that! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
  6. Billy Packard's Avatar
    Bravo Tony!
  7. Paul Statman's Avatar
    Bostin! Bravissimo, Tony!
  8. Alfons's Avatar
    Beautiful arrangement, and the sound that instrument brought out of you was just great. Masterfully played.
  9. Steve Roberts's Avatar
    A beautiful instrument superbly played- what a great way to start the week. Thanks Tony!
  10. BillWilliams's Avatar
    Great to hear.