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Chapter 10.13 – Lloyd Loar (1886-1943)

Lloyd Alayre Loar (January 9, 1886 – September 14, 1943) was a musician, inventor, lecturer, professor of acoustics and "musical authority and composer"1.  He is best known to instrument collectors for his association with the Gibson Guitar Co.

Loar was a well-regarded performer on the mandolin, viola and musical saw. He toured the United States and Europe with several different musical groups and performed on the Chatauqua and Lyceum circuits. Loar also performed as a feature artist at many American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Harpists Conventions during the 1920's and 1930's2.

From 1919 to 1924 Loar worked for the Gibson Guitar Co. as an instrument designer and sound engineer. He introduced many innovations at Gibson including: F-shaped holes on the tops of guitars and mandolin family instruments, longer necks and elevated fingerboards. He also promoted the use of the Virzi Tone Producer in Gibson instruments. A Virzi Sound Producer was a oval disk of spruce attached to the underside of instruments by two or three feet. It was sensitive to vibration and was theoretically supposed to amplify the tone produced.

Loar is most famous for the "Master" grade instrument he created for Gibson, including the F5 mandolin, L5 guitar, H5 mandola, K5 mandocello and A5 mandolin. Between 1922 and 1924 the "Master" instruments received a special oval label signed by Loar himself. A F5 "Lloyd Loar" mandolin, or any of the other Master instruments from this period, are often spoken of in reverential terms and are highly sought by collectors and musicians.

 

Figure 431

Musical Celebrities at the 22nd Convention of American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Harpists in 19233

 

After leaving Gibson, Loar was involved in a wide variety of musical enterprises all while continuing an active concert schedule.

From 1925 until at least 1927 Loar was a contributor to Walter Jacobs' Music Magazines4.

Between 1925 and 1930 Loar created a number of teaching methods for the Nicomede Music Co. publications. In 1925 he wrote "Loar's New Method Ukulele, Ukulele-Banjo and Tenor Banjo" in four volumes5. This was followed in 1927 with the four volume "Loar's Orchestral Tenor Banjo Method"6 and, in 1930, a six volume method named "The American Violin System"7.

After the death of Herbert K. Martin in early 1927 Martin began a search for an outside salesman to replace Herbert. One result of this search was an interesting letter written by Lloyd Loar to Martin on June 3, 1927:

"Mr. Buttelman, with whom I am associated in Walter Jacobs' Music Magazines, tells me that you were recently inquiring as to the probability of my being interested in a proposition from you.

As you doubtless know, I have had considerable experience in all angles of small stringed instrument manufacture, and while I have not been actively engaged in it for the past two years, I have still kept in touch with affairs connected with it and have by any means not lost my interest. Of course, I am unable to say without further information as to whether I could be definitely interested in a proposition from you; if the position you had in mind, however, was such that I would feel I was competent to fill it satisfactorily both from yours and my own standpoint, I would be glad to hear further about it and to give you such other information concerning myself as you might be interested in having."

Nothing further seems to have happened with regard to Loar working for Martin. Loar was very busy at the time and probably has his own ideas on what he could contribute to Martin while Martin was focused on finding an outside salesman. However, it is interesting to speculate what contributions to instrument design Loar might have made for Martin if he had joined the company. In early 1927 Martin was still a very conservative company and were only just entering into the production of tenor guitars and carved top mandolins. Within a few years, however, Martin was innovating many new designs (Orchestra Model, C model, Dreadnought and F model guitars) in order to survive the Great Depression.

Loar wrote for other publications as well; including five articles entitled "Fretted Instruments: Their Origins, Development and Marketing" for the Music Trade Review magazine between 1929 and 19308,9,10,11,12.

From 1929 until 1943 Loar was also Professor of Acoustics in the Music School at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois .

B. A. Rose Music Co., a long time dealer of Martin guitars, wrote a letter to the company on February 27, 1933 with some interesting information on Lloyd Loar:

"Mr. Lohr (sic) who was the engineer and designed all the Gibson instruments, especially the $300 model, was in town last fall and gave a talk at the State Music Teacher's Convention. He is now with the Vibrola Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He said he had an idea for using soundposts in guitars and fretted instruments but at that time he was very busy with experimental work for the Vibrola Company but at a future date, he would again go back to the manufacturing of guitars and come out with instruments with soundposts."

Nothing more was heard of Loar's idea for making guitars with sound posts but this letter does establish that he was working for the Vibrola Co. in Kalamazoo in early 1933. Loar didn't work for that company very much longer since he co-founded the Vivitone Company with Lewis Williams, a former Gibson executive, on November 1, 1933.

See Roger Siminoff's Biography of Lloyd Loar (https://www.siminoff.net/lloyd-loar) for much more information on Lloyd Loar, especially his interesting later career.

Loar died in Chicago on September 14, 1943.

 

Notes:

  1. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1930-89-8/26/)
  2. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1920-70-24/45/)
  3. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1923-76-18/27/)
  4. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1925-81-18/25/)
  5. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1925-80-26/42/)
  6. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1927-84-18/36/)
  7. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1930-89-8/26/)
  8. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1929-88-28/67/), pages 65 and 77
  9. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1929-88-29/91/), pages 91 and 95
  10. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1930-89-2/37/), pages 37 and 39
  11. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1930-89-4/39/),pages 37 and 39
  12. The International Arcade Museum (https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1930-89-6/57/), pages 55 and 61

 

 

 

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