The late R. L. "Bob" Givens earned a stellar reputation for the
mandolins he built under his own name, mostly while living in Idaho. He
was also involved in the design, if not every detail of the building, of
the ODE line of mandolins, made in Nashville as a joint venture with
Dobro legend/instrument dealer Tut Taylor. There are multiple versions
of the complete story of ODE mandolins, which I won't attempt to sort
This particular ODE is a copy of a Gibson snakehead
oval-hole instrument. It bears the ODE logo in the headstock, while the
label reads: "TENNESSEE: manufactured by Tut Taylor Music, Inc.,
Nashville, Tenn. O, Serial No. 75140." Single-bound spruce top; sides
and unbound back of figured maple with faint curl. Dark tobacco sunburst. Unbound soundhole, unbound ebony fretboard with no perceptible
wear. As far as I can tell, the adjustable ebony bridge, plain
tailpiece, ivoroid endpin and tuners are original and in good shape,
although the tuners are a little stiff.
I acquired this mandolin from a violin shop in
Fairbanks, Alaska, where it evidently hung on the wall for years and was
jostled about from time to time—though in overall good condition, it has
small nicks and dings here and there, and light surface scratching—but
wasn't played a ton. And that's a shame, because it has a strong tone
and projects well. Some ODE mandolins reportedly are too heavily
finished and rather quiet as a result, but that doesn't seem to be the
case here. It's suitable for all of the standard applications of an
oval-hole mandolin, and could even handle some bluegrass in a crisis.
It comes with a rectangular Saga-style case with bright yellow
lining, and would make an excellent instrument for someone who wants a
snakehead but can't afford the nearly $3,000 that a vintage Gibson can
fetch. Like that vintage Gibson, this ODE is a piece of mandolin
history—just a somewhat more obscure piece.
for more information. $1,350 plus shipping. 48-hour approval period.