Gibson A-50 Modified by Ray Matty Carved Top Mandolin (1962)

Gibson  A-50 Modified by Ray Matty Carved Top Mandolin  (1962)

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Item # 8001
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Gibson A-50 Modified by Ray Matty Model Carved Top Mandolin (1962), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 49457, sunburst lacquer finish, mahogany back, sides and neck; spruce top, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, black chipboard case.

This old Gibson mandolin has been gently modified and has an interesting backstory. It was formerly owned by Al Valenti, one of the best early New York area jazz guitarists and a lifetime personal friend of John D'Angelico. After John passed away, Al had his instruments worked on by Brooklyn luthier Ray Matty, a local legend sadly not well-remembered today.

This early 1960s Gibson A-50 was "tricked out" by Matty as a performance instrument for Valenti likely in the mid-'60s with a DeArmond pickup and some extra inlay on the fingerboard and headstock. Valenti had played mandolin even before the guitar, and continued to use it on gigs, although this one does not seem to have been much played since it was worked on.

The pearl inlay on the headstock is Matty's signature emblem, though we're not sure what it represents! The fingerboard has slotted diamonds at the 12th fret and an extra dot added at the first. The finish appears to have been lightly polished over when the instrument was worked on, but shows no heavy overspray. The bridge top is a handmade replacement with a bone saddle and the tailpiece cover is a fancier gold-plated one from a higher-grade period Gibson. The pickup is rigged up to a volume control mounted on the pickguard and an endpin jack. This is a very good-playing and sounding electric mandolin that maintains its full acoustic sound when not plugged in. All-in-all a very nice player's instrument and a cool piece of local history!
 
Overall length is 26 1/4 in. (66.7 cm.), 10 1/4 in. (26 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).

This mandolin remains in very clean condition, modified as noted above but apparently little played since. There is a bit of stippling to the back finish where it looks like a strap was left in contact with it for a long time, but it is very minor. The tailpiece cover has some plating wear and there are a few marks on the top where the bridge has been moved around. The frets show just a bit of wear and the instrument sounds and plays very well, with its own unique charm! Excellent Condition.