All About That Bass 

Most people first saw Paul McCartney's violin shaped bass on The Ed Sullivan Show  February 9, 1964 with The Beatles. It's hard not to think of Paul when you see a violin shaped bass. It's almost always the unique shape of a guitar that makes it identifiable with the artist. It doesn't look right to see anyone else playing Lonnie Mack's Flying V, Jack White's '64 Airline or  Bo Diddley's rectangular-bodied Gretsch. 
   
Whenever one sees a Fender Performer bass with it's radically angular shape, it's hard not to think of Mandolin Bridge's own Mike Willis. Mike has been playing this rare bird since the eighties when he was in Wizard. He played it so much he wore a hole in the back of it with his belt buckle so deep you could bury your fist in it. Mike eventually sold the bass and missed it so much he searched until he found a replacement in Australia minus the hole. 

The Fender Performer bass guitar was only sold between 1985 and 1987. It was designed to be an elite version of the iconic Fender Jazz Bass. The idea was to help the conservative Fender line compete with Kramer, BC Rich and Jackson guitars who at the time were very successfully selling radically styled instruments. Even the Fender logo was changed for this guitar. During this period a lot of guitarists were switching to bass so they gave it a narrower neck to facilitate the "lead guitar" approach that was popular with the hot artists of the era like Billy Idol and The Cars. The Japanese models have a rosewood fingerboard while the American version comes in ebony. The Performer was also available as a six string guitar and there was a five string bass version for a short time in 1987. 
  
Mike loves his bass and he enjoys telling about it. The next time you come to a show be sure and ask him about it on break. Just give him a polite nudge when the rest of the band is back on the stage.

PHOTO BY KATHY ABBOTT

Who's this Kathy girl? 

Long ago before they were famous, Astrid Kirchherr heard The Beatles in a Hamburg, Germany night club. She soon decided that she wanted to be as close to the Beatles as she could.  

Another thing about Astrid is that when walked into the room every head would turn her way. 
  
Astrid asked the Beatles if they they would mind letting her take photographs of them and most of the pictures you see of The Beatles from their early days in Hamburg were taken by Astrid. 
   
Mandolin Bridge has their own "Astrid" called Kathy Abbot. When Kathy first saw Mandolin Bridge she determined right away to become friends. Most of the pictures you see on our website and  promotions were taken by Kathy. 
  
Kathy comes to most of our shows and she's usually the first one on the dance floor. She dances with free-spirited abandon and people often ask us what her connection is with the band. 
   
If they ask her directly, she will answer, "They allow me to help them set up and tear down their equipment" as though it's a privilege. It's true we don't let just anybody help us. There's an exact science to the way we wrap cables, things to do and not to do, and an order in how and when each item goes into the van. Most help however well intended is more often a hindrance. Kathy has watched closely how we do things and has learned the ropes. When she's not there we miss her. So the privilege is ours. 
   
Kathy has been to so many of our shows that she has become friends with many of the people who come to see us. She's often the thread that ties one group of people to another. Because of Kathy, two big tables of friends soon become one bigger table of friends. 

We're happy and proud to call Kathy our friend. If you haven't met Kathy and you love to dance, be sure and introduce yourself. Once you get to know Kathy you'll soon find you have more friends than you could ever have imagined! Kathy has a way of bringing people together.  PHOTO BY WILLIAM DAVID DICE

Where our name "Mandolin Bridge" came from: 

Naming your band is like naming your baby only much harder. You want  your baby to have a good name so you buy a book of names and pick out the best one. When you name your band there's no book of names to chose from. You want a good name that no other band has. With the advent of the internet it's even harder. If you think you've picked out a great name and Google it you will probably find bands with the same name in various cities all over the country.

You can get quite slap-happy after spending weeks and months trying to think of a name. Then you start throwing out names like "Harmonica Lewinsky". Even though you don't want to name your band Harmonica Lewinsky you can still Google it and a band out there has it.

People often tell us Mandolin Bridge is a pretty cool name. Then they ask how we came up with the name. We didn't come up with the name. The name came to us. That's part of what makes the name special, even magic.

Over a decade ago I fancied I was going to get into the vintage guitar business. Every week I would scour the auction lists in the newspaper in search of guitars. Then I would plan which auction I would attend with the idea I would get the guitar for less than I would sell it for. I soon discovered many others were doing the same thing. The only guitar I ever won I paid too much for caught up in the excitement.

I decided to go to one last auction and it was more of the same. I spotted a crude hand-made mandolin on a table of junk. I ended up winning it for $7.00. It wasn't until I got home that I found a tag on it that read, "Made by cousin Chas G Herber in 1895." The tag even gave the Cleveland, OH address where he made it.  A hand inked label in the sound hole was inscribed "Made by G Herber"

The strings were in bad shape so I removed them. The strings were holding the mandolin's bridge in place. When I removed the strings the bridge fell off. The bridge is the  grooved narrow block of wood the strings cross over near the sound hole of acoustic instruments like guitars, fiddles and mandolins. To prevent me from misplacing the bridge I placed it in an empty shaving kit bag and labeled the bag with a sticker that read "mandolin bridge" and put it away. The shaving kit bag ended up in a storage tub when we moved. Then we moved again and in spite of my precautions the bridge was lost amongst dozens of storage tubs in our attic.

I was in the attic going through the storage tubs looking for something else at the time we were trying to come up with a name for this band. I picked up a shaving kit bag not realizing for a second what it was, seeing the name "Mandolin Bridge" in another light as a bridge across a river called Mandolin Bridge rather than a musical instrument device. In one moment I found the old mandolin's bridge and the elusive band name I was searching for all for only $7.00.

Robin