“Woody’s Rag;” Woody Guthrie on mandolin 

Photo credit: unknown 

Irish musician Andy Irvine was inspired to pick up the mandolin from following the life and music of Woody Guthrie.  While Irvine went on to pioneer the use of mandolin in traditional Irish music, there was little ever mentioned about Guthrie’s mandolin playing.  People may remember his guitar that read “This machine kills fascists,” but need to go deeper to know more about this complex individual than what is popularly known (even who he had for a landlord at one time).

On a Mandolin Café discussion forum, members observed Guthrie’s 100th birthday in 2012 by highlighting his mandolin playing.  Guthrie played mandolin, as well as guitar and harmonica, with The Almanac Singers, the left-wing folk singing group of the 1940’s that also had Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, later of The Weavers, as members.  Guthrie also composed an instrumental, “Woody’s Rag,” that is a folk and bluegrass mandolin classic.  Pete Seeger performed it on mandolin in a 1965 episode of the NET series “Rainbow Quest,” accompanied by Rambling Jack Elliot and Malvina Reynolds on guitars.

While Huntington’s* disease ate into his muscularity, it was rather an accidental burning of his arm during a campfire (gasoline used to start the fire caused an explosion) that finished Guthrie as an instrumentalist.  He continued to write lyrics when he could no longer play music.  By the late 1950’s, the disease took most of what was left of him, and Guthrie remained hospitalized (transferring to three different hospitals over the years) until his death in 1967.

(*In the previous blog posting about Andy Irvine, Woody Guthrie’s illness was misidentified as Hodgkin’s disease. )





The Springfield Mandolin Orchestra is always looking for new members.  If you play mandolin, or any other instrument in the mandolin family, and can read music, you are welcome to join.  Please visit the Web site http://mandolinorchestra.org for more information.

The Springfield Mandolin Orchestra is a 501(c) 3 non-profit dedicated to providing educational performances and events throughout the Metro Springfield area.


The American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Guitarists

banjo-contest-many-entriesAn announcement about the formation of a new organization from a 1902 issue of  The Music Trade Review trade publication:
The American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Guitarists, (AGBMG) is an organization whose membership is intended to include music publishers, manufacturers and teachers of these three instruments, was formally launched at a meeting held at Hotel Marliave, Boston, on Jan. 23. A number of the men well known in these departments were present.
The organization, which has been in process of incubation for the past two years, has been persistently agitated by C. L. Partee through columns of his interesting paper, The Cadenza. It was only last week, however, that the plans, so long formulated, were put into effect.
The objects of the guild as set forth are to further advance the interests of the instruments named, in their literature, music and manufacture; to set the standard of competence and establish a higher average of ability among those desiring to teach; to provide a bureau of acknowledged authority on instruments and their study and to conduct examinations and grant diplomas throughout the United States.
The organization went on to publish both The Cadenza and The Crescendo. Boston publisher Walter Jacobs founded The Cadenza, and Philadelphia teacher and publisher Herbert Forrest Odell started The Crescendo as the official organ of the Guild of Mandolinists, Banjoists and Guitarists. Both magazines included group arrangements, columns by leading musicians, news and advertisements for sheet music and instruments. Odell also published a 90 page manual in 1913 called “The Mandolin Orchestra, A Book for Directors Managers, Teachers, and Players”
From its humble beginnings in 1902, the AGBMG grew into an organization of thousands of members, and hundreds of local chapters in the United States and Canada. During their 1923 annual convention held in Washington, DC, members were invited to perform at the Whitehouse.

Here’s a news clip from the Adams Transcript (1921) announcing the formation of the Adams Mass. Chapter of  The American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Guitarists. My great grandfather J L Ivers is the founding chapter secretary and musical director. Also mentioned are my great grandmother as a founding “executive board member”, and  my grandfather George Ivers as the organization’s first treasurer. You might say my great grandfather took control of the chapter from the start, appointing himself as Chapter Secretary, his son, in charge of the money, and his wife on the “executive board.” The purpose of the society is, “to advance the art of music and to encourage the cultivation of musical talent, particularly among players of the various fretted instruments, and to furnish means whereby the people interested may meet in a spirit of co-operation and promote good fellowship.” A lofty goal, but also, I’m sure, as with any of my great grandfather’s efforts in this arena, JL Ivers was strongly motivated by the prospect of moving more Gibson product, and developing and marketing financially successful musical groups. new-musical-club-is-formed

Springfield Mandolin Orchestra

The Springfield Mandolin Orchestra is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit dedicated to providing educational performances and events throughout the Metro Springfield area.

A little about ourselves

The Springfield Mandolin Orchestra was founded in 2012 by Adam Sweet and his mandolin students in South Hadley, Massachusetts.  Since then, the group has performed concerts all over the Metro Springfield area with colleagues and friends from Mandolin New England, including L’Esperance Mandolin Ensemble, Mando Paradiso, the Albany Mandolin Orchestra, as well as individual musicians and students.

We are always looking for new players!  If you would like to play in a mandolin orchestra, join us!  There is no cost to join.

If you would like to find out more about joining the orchestra on mandolin, mandola, mandocello, bass or guitar, fill out the form on our Contact page.  Thank you