During September 1973, I spied an inexpensive A-style Mayfair mandolin in a store in Grayson, KY. Besides being the town's only official record store, DJ Record Shop also sold a limited number of instruments, strings, and picks. The mandolin cost me $42.00 and I had it for nearly three years until I sold it to a friend for $42.00.
|Author in 1974 with his first mandolin|
My second was an Ibanez 552 – a copy of Jethro Burns' Gibson A5 – I still have it, and it remains one of my key instruments. Even though it only cost $110 in 1976, it is a beautiful instrument with good tone. I purchased this instrument at the Pied Piper in Huntington, West Virginia when they were located in a very small storefront on Fourth Avenue.
|Author in 2007 with current mandolin|
What got me interested in the mandolin was a recording by The Rolling Stones. Appearing on their “Let it Bleed” LP, “Love in Vain” was a Robert Johnson composition that was interpreted in a country-rock vein through the influence of Gram Parsons. Two instruments created that feel – slide guitar played by Mick Taylor and mandolin added by sideman Ry Cooder.
I first heard this recording in 1972 when Jim Roach on Pittsburgh’s WDVE played it during a three-hour long feature of The Rolling Stones’ best recordings. At the time, I didn’t have this album and was only familiar with three cuts: “Gimme Shelter,” “Midnight Rambler,” and “Monkey Man.” When I heard Ry’s playing on “Love in Vain,” I knew I wanted a mandolin and within a year, I had one.
On the original US pressings of “Let it Bleed,” “Love in Vain” was credited to one of Johnson’s pseudonyms: “Woody Payne.” Later copies corrected this and credited the song as authored by Robert Johnson. When The Stones used a blues song, they made sure they credited to the composer – even if it was their own arrangement. This is unlike Led Zeppelin who often passed off old blues numbers as their own – Superhype Music indeed.
Ry Cooder’s mandolin begins after the first verse. You can see why I was attracted to this instrument. This was the song that started it all. “The blue light was my baby and the red light was my mind.” Enjoy.