Saga Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of Bill Monroe

This is the 100th Anniversary of Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music. Throughout the United States festivals celebrate the event and Japan’s premier radio and television network NHK has created a special program in honor of Big Mon. For all of us who were influenced by his work it really is a special event. For me “influenced” doesn’t seem quite strong enough—I would not have chosen this career at all if I hadn’t heard the call back when I was a 16 year old kid in Michigan.

It wasn’t long after that the banjo and I took up a partnership that lasts until now. About 18 months ago I received a telephone call from the Family of Bill Monroe wondering if Saga Musical Instruments would be interested in creating a mandolin to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Bill Monroe’s birth. George Gruhn had mentioned that no company would do a better job on this project and so a long conversation ensued. The design would be based on the classic F-5 mandolins of the early 1920s with the body bound in the same style as Bill Monroe’s iconic mandolin. In addition to the careful hand graduation of the top and back, the depth of the mandolin would be carefully calibrated to balance the treble and bass response.

I pulled in my Upper Michigan pals to select the Northern Michigan Maple for the back, sides and neck. Bill’s Mandolin had been made in southern Michigan using that same Maple variety. The maple that grows up there in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is really special. The growing season is about two weeks in August (It’s cooooold up der, eh?) and so the grain is tight, carving characteristics are amazing, and the tonality is unbeatable. Adirondack spruce (also on the Bill of Materials back in 1923) is used for the top. One hundred of the mandolins will be produced and the first shipments have been sold out on arrival. It is the most special project that we have ever done and we invite you to be apart of it!

Richard Keldsen
San Francisco
November 2011