Early Flatiron Mandolin Advertisements
My thanks to Two Very Important "Steves" by Bradley Laird
In late 1985 I purchased a Flatiron F-5 Artist mandolin from Jackson's Music in College Park, Georgia. Here is how that happened:
The salesman who first showed me a Flatiron mandolin was a guy named Steve Standley. I was playing an Alvarez mandolin and also had built my own rather crude F-5 (from Siminoff's book) but I was looking for a professional quality instrument.
Of course, I was interested in a Gibson but didn't have that kind of money. Though the Gibson sounded better than what I was playing, I didn't think it sounded good enough considering the price tag! After I tried out a Gibson and put it back, Steve S. suggested that I try out a new mandolin that had just come in. It was called a Flatiron and I'd never seen one. I knew that Flatiron made some flat-top "pancake" type mandolins because I had seen them advertised in a magazine. I also had seen the ads for their A-5 model but had never laid eyes on one.
Here are some examples of the Flatiron mandolin ads which I scanned from my ancient pile of Frets magazines for your enjoyment and for educational purposes. (You can click on the images for a higher resolution version.)
A-5 "It's Bark Is Worth The Bite", June, 1984
A-5 "Chomp - Chomp" July, 1984
F-5 January 1985
F5 March 1985
When Steve S. handed me the Flatiron F-5 Artist I was immediately in love! I liked it twice as much as the Gibson. The price was $1,800 if I recall correctly. (Update: 11/2/14 Amazingly I just found the receipts from when I bought the instrument. $1,575 looks to be the total. Found the warranty card too.) Remember, this was during the summer of 1985. I loved that mandolin but didn't have the bucks. I guess all up and coming musicians are in that boat at times. After playing it for a half-hour or so I handed it back and told him I'd start saving my money.
A couple of months passed and I finally had collected at least enough to put down some kind of down payment on that mandolin so off I went to Jackson's Music with a wad of hundred dollar bills (from playing gigs) in my pocket. I asked Steve S. about that Flatiron and he said he had just sold it! (I later found out that he sold it to a friend of mine and, like me, he still plays that mandolin and will not part with it.) Steve S. told me that he had another one on the way and he would call me when it arrived.
Here is Flatiron F-5 Artist #85100109
Sure enough, the folks out at Flatiron were soon finished with another great mandolin and Steve S. called me to come scope it out. I sped right over and this mandolin, to my ears and eyes, was even better than the first one! I knew my mandolin had found me and I made a deal to hand over the cash I had and make payments so the store would hold it for me. I didn't want this one to get away.
Everytime I played my Alvarez or "The Laird" it drove me crazy that "my mandolin" was still sitting over at that music store. That lit a fire under me and within a few days I had sold some stuff (a Hofner Beatle bass comes to mind among other things) scrounged up the money and I took her home. This mandolin, Flatiron F-5 Artist (Serial Number 85100109) signed by Steve Carlson was born in Bozeman, Montana and has been my loyal, patient and sonorous friend ever since. I have dragged her to thousands of gigs and rehearsals and she just sounds better all the time. Her picture adorns the front and back cover of my book The Mandolin Handbook and she stars in almost every one of my 60 instructional videos I filmed for Watch and Learn. (She missed a couple of shoots because she was getting new frets and I had to play a borrowed mandolin for a few weeks.)
It seems like people who own and play Flatirons, specifically the Bozemans, love them and they don't come up for sale very often. They can't bear the thought of parting with them. I am in that camp.
Thank you to two very important Steves. Steve Carlson for building her and Steve Standley for introducing me to her. I met Steve C. briefly at the Gibson booth at NAMM in'87 or '88 I think. I distictly remember being there. In fact, other than the booth of some guy with miniature fiddles, that is the only thing I remember doing at NAMM. I do recall that the suggested retail of a Flatiron F5 Artist was $2,879. Don't ask me how I mentally filed that number away. Some tidbits of information just seem to stick in the mind. Somewhere I have a price list I picked up at the booth. If I ever find it I will post it.
Update 6/11/14 : I am making a revised attempt at building a new mandolin using Siminoff's book. You can find step by step progress photos on my Twitter feed (@bradleylaird) or by searching for #f5build. Since 1985, my only measure of standard for any mandolin I play is "does it top 85100109?". Same goes for my amateur building efforts. I just want to see if I can make one that comes close. Probably not. It will most likely just amplify my admiration for the ol' Flatiron. As long as I can keep my fingers away from the band saw blade it will be a good learning experience.
Update 11/2/14: See scans of the 1985 Flatiron Mandolins 6 page sales brochure I recently uncovered in my "archives." Beautiful and informative.
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