Wynn Stories- Stories and photos of Great Wynn Instruments.

On June 24, 2010 John Franklin Wynn was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Museum as a "Pioneer of Bluegrass."  It was an honor bestowed upon the man whose life has been centered around Bluegrass Music.  From the early 1950's John Wynn has been involved in the music, he began playing music while in California. It was during this time he joined Bob Ensign & The Stump Jumpers and they began playing across the west. It was during this era he came into contact with many other Bluegrass Pioneers who were in California at the time; Roland White and Clarence White along with The Dillards just to name a couple.  It was also during this time John began building instruments which would later become his life's passion.

In May 2010 photojournalists from the Museum came to the little Red Barn and spent 3 days with John. Documenting his life's work along with an evening of musical entertainment while Southwynn played.  It is part of an ongoing documentary in which the Museum is gathering history for future generations to enjoy. It will be available in video format sometime in the future.

The above photo is one of John Wynn and Curly Seckler (original member of The Foggy Mountain Boys) as they enjoy visiting together prior to the induction ceremony in Owensboro, KY.

This is a wonderful accomplishment for a man who has spent his life building great musical instruments for others. Congratulations to John Wynn for this great honor!!

International Bluegrass Music Museum- Owensboro, KY

December 2009

Recently John Wynn was cleaning out some old boxes in the shop when he happened upon a lost treasure, this Album of The Stump Jumpers from 1972-73.  This album was recorded in California and is was under the Rural Rhythm Label.  Photos are from left to right- Back row; Ginny Ensign (Betty Wynn's sister), Bob Ensign (Ginny's husband), Betty Wynn (John's wife). Front row; Mike Davis, John Wynn.

Wooley Creek Bluegrass Festival 2009- Cape Fair, MO

Here are two of the premier Banjo pickers in S.W. Missouri, Danny Bradley of Missouri Mountain Gang and Bob Gideon of Missouri Boatride.  This photo was taken during a break in the jam session going on in the campground.  Both Danny & Bob play Wynn Banjos and wanted to send along this photo to John Wynn the builder of their great Wynn Banjos!

Jerusalem Ridge 2006

I was fortunate to attend the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Festival in October 2006. It was held at the "ole home place" of Bill Monroe just outside Rosine, KY. On the last day we were there several people gathered in the front yard of the home place and jammed to the tunes of Bill Monroe. We played; Jerusalem Ridge, On my way back to the home place and several other favorites. It was a great experience to stand at the place where Bluegrass Music was born and jam with many great players.
The photos below are;
1- Owner of the Wynn "Red Pepper."
2- Larry Dobbs from Sand Springs, OK enjoying his time playing the Wynn "Red Pepper."

This photo comes to us from 879 Productions. It is a picture of Berry Wynn, son of John Wynn, as he records the mandolin track of the song titled Mandolin Maker. The song is a tribute to John Wynn and is being recorded by The Millers a Bluegrass band from Springfield, MO. It is on their CD entitled "I Believe." Berry is playing "Blondie" one of his favorite Wynn mandolins.

This photo comes to us from 879 Productions. It is a recent photo of Berry Wynn playing a break on the song Mandolin Maker at The Millers CD release party. If you notice Berry is the only one "in color" in this photo. That is because he plays his mandolins... In Living Color.

The following is an email interview from Frank Sox
who has the largest collection of Wynn Mandolins.

What possesses a man to have a collection of 14 Wynn Mandolins?  I asked Frank Sox of Lexington, SC this question in a recent email interview. His response is listed below.  Frank Sox also is a builder of mandolins and is just completing #63 at the time of this interview.  

Frank's email:
Well, someone gave me a .10 cent mandolin when I was 12 years old and I plunked on it for a while till it got buried in a closet for years, so after I was married I found it at my mother's house and restrung it and tried to learn to play it.
I was a subscriber to the Picking Magazine at the time and I saw an article about John Wynn, and after reading it I decided that I wanted a really good custom built mandolin so I called John and we talked and he built me a great mandolin.
We became good friends, on the phone, so I decided I wanted another of his mandolins so we got together and came up with what I wanted and it went from there.
I had John build me about 2 or 3 mandolins each year for a couple of years so I ended up with 13* of his mandolins.
He knew the whole time that I would like to build some myself and encouraged me to do so, when I retired from the Bell System I bought some wood and started.
I am finishing up #63 now and evidentially this is much better than #1.
John has been such a great friend and help when I needed to know how to do a certain thing on the mandolin and never hesitated to help me and I am thankful for that so that is about all I can say.
John is a great friend.
Thanks again,
Frank Sox

*- Mr. Wynn sent Frank a prototype Wynn as a gift, which makes 14 mandolins.

Interview by Pepper Jackson

Jesse McReynolds Wynn Mandolin Story
as told by Mr. John Wynn

During the early days of Wynn Mandolins, Mr. Wynn had the opportunity to display his mandolins to many great first generation Bluegrass musicians.  One of which was Jesse McReynolds.  Jesse really liked Wynn Mandolins and purchased three from Mr. Wynn before being "Gibsonized."  The following is a true story told to me by Mr. Wynn concerning one of Jesse's mandolins.

Mr. Wynn had just completed a mandolin for Jesse.  It just so happened that Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys were in Springfield for a show at the Fairgrounds.  Mr. Wynn had met Bill a few years earlier and went out to see the show.  Prior to the show Mr. Wynn saw Bill down in front of the stage and he went down to say hello.  Bill remembered Mr. Wynn and the two exchanged small talk for a few minutes with Mr. Wynn mentioning that he had just completed a Wynn Mandolin for Jesse McReynolds.  Bill then mentioned he would be seeing Jesse the following evening in Nashville, TN at the Grand Ole Opry.  Mr. Wynn said he did not know what posessed him at the time but he asked Bill if he would be willing to deliver Jesse's mandolin to him?  Bill's response "I'd be glad to, we'll just load it up on the bus and take it to Jesse." Mr. Wynn said he gave the mandolin to Bill and thanked him for his assistance.
A few days passed and Jesse called Mr. Wynn on the phone.  He wanted to know what the "big idea was" having Bill Monroe deliver his mandolin.  They both had a big laugh and enjoyed sharing the story.
And that my friends is the story of "Monroe X shipping" delivering Wynn Mandolins worldwide to musicians in waiting!!

During a recent visit to Eureka Springs, Arkansas Berry Wynn happened upon some old friends who he visited with for awhile.  Of course when Berry visits with anyone it involves talking about mandolins...most notably Wynn Mandolins.  Here is one of the best mandolin players in the world checking out the Wynn known as "Blondie."  Berry says "Blondie is not for sale."

Mr. Wynn has created some of the finest handmade mandolins in the world.  Above is the story about Jesse McReynolds and his mandolin that was played on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium.  During the 2007 IBMA Awards/Fanfest week I had the opportunity to take the "Red Pepper" to the Ryman.  In another historic moment for Wynn Mandolins the "Red Pepper" appeared on stage.  
Mr. Wynn, now two great Wynn Mandolins have been on the stage of where Bluegrass Music made it's world wide debut. 

The Story of a 1929 Gibson Mastertone


In the late 1960's John Wynn was in search of a banjo. He did not own a good banjo and was playing regularly with a group called The Stump Jumpers. He decided to go shopping and went to several pawn shops in search of a bargain. What he found would be the basis for a wonderful story covering over 30 years, two owners, a man named Earl Scruggs and a wonderful lady named Mrs. Conel.

Upon entering a pawn shop in West Los Angeles, CA Mr. Wynn saw a banjo that caught his attention. It was unique in the fact that it had "D-Tuners" built into the peghead. This was an action that allowed for a quick change to the D chord. Mr. Wynn played the banjo and fell in love with it.  The price $250, a lot of money for a man with five children and a wife. Mr. Wynn knew the banjo was worth the money and he purchased it. It was a 1929 Gibson Mastertone that had been customized with a new neck and the "D-Tuners." He found out who the man was who had customized it and called him on the phone. A short time later he found himself in the shop of Walter Pittman. 

Walter shared with John the story of this banjo. Walter built custom necks for banjos. His custom necks were so well known that a famous banjo player named Earl Scruggs had Walter make necks for his banjos. Walter wanted Earl to endorse the "D-Tuner" design he had developed and market it nationally. After a period of time discussing it with Earl they came to the conclusion that it was not a good idea, having to build a new neck for each banjo was not feasible. Earl did like the "D-Tuner" feature and played this banjo for a period of time while Walter was working on one of his banjos. So this 1929 Gibson Mastertone had been touched with the mojo of one Earl Scruggs. 

Mr. Wynn knew he now had a treasure and spent the next 4-5 years playing this wonderful banjo. It was featured on the first two albums The Stump Jumpers recorded. During this time he did some beautiful customizing to the back of this banjo. The cover of a writing tablet belonging to his oldest daughter Terry led to a handcrafted tooled leather back being placed on the Gibson. But as fate would have it all good things come to an end. 

Being a family man John Wynn had the welfare of 5 children to consider. It happened that his youngest daughter, Vicki, was in need of braces for her teeth. The sum of money needed to pay for the braces was more than John Wynn had. However he did have a 1929 Gibson Mastertone that would probably pay the bill. Never thinking twice about it, an ad was placed in the L.A. Times- Banjo for Sale. Two weeks later a phone call came that would end the relationship John had developed with the banjo. A lady from L.A. paid $600 for the banjo; before leaving with the banjo John gave the lady a copy of the latest album The Stump Jumpers had recorded featuring this banjo. She thanked him for the album and drove away with the treasure. 

Years passed and John moved his family to Ozark, MO. He built several banjos during this time period but none could replace his love for this one of a kind treasure. He kept the writing tablet cover in his shop to remind him of the banjo and never had any regrets about helping his family. The investment in Vicki resulted in a wonderful smile that according to Mr. Wynn was the "best investment I ever made."

Over 30 years later the phone rang one morning at the little Red Barn in Ozark, MO. A lady on the other end wanted to know if this was "John Wynn who used to live in California?" John said that it was. The lady said she had found him through the website Wynnmandolin.com and had some questions to ask him. She wanted to know about a 1929 Gibson Mastertone she had bought from him over 30 years ago. Mr. Wynn said his heart jumped a beat and before she could continue he wanted to know "is it for sale?" Dodging the question for a few minutes the lady explained how she had purchased the banjo as a present for her husband. He had not played it but about three times in those 30 plus years. She got tired of it being in the way several years ago and put it out in the garage to "get it out of the way." The mice had chewed the banjo case pretty bad during that time, but the banjo was not harmed. Now her daughter was in need of upgrading her viola and she wanted to know "what the banjo was worth?" She had plans of selling it on EBAY.  Mr. Wynn spent the next several minutes negotiating a price and before the phone call ended he had purchased it back for $1500.  In a hurry to see his treasure Mr. Wynn asked Mrs. Conel to ship it immediately.  She said she would do so the next day. Mr. Wynn ended the phone call knowing that something bad would probably happen based upon his luck and he would never see the banjo.

A few days later the banjo arrived and Mr. Wynn said he was happy to see his old friend. In the box was a letter from Mrs. Conel. She explained that when she took the banjo to a local shipping and packing company two men had seen the banjo.  They both told her she was selling it way too cheap and wanted to buy it.  She told them she was committed to selling it to Mr. Wynn based on the deal they had made.  She also asked that Mr. Wynn consider selling it back to her in the future. Mr. Wynn thanked her for her integrity and let her know he would not be parting with his friend again. 

The Gibson now resides at the Little Red Barn along side the writing tablet cover that inspired the customized back. He knows that there were three things that brought the Gibson back to him;
1- Giving Mrs. Conel a copy of The Stump Jumpers album which allowed her to recall who she bought the banjo from.
2- The website Wynnmandolins.com
3- The fate of "doing good deeds for others will someday pay you in return."

Of course we all know that the mojo of Earl Scruggs could have played a part in it...a banjo of this caliber needs to have the touch of a "master's hands."

New Owner- Wynn Daniel Freeland
Great grandson, Wynn, inherited this family heirloom upon the passing of John Wynn.


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