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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Lo Gordon (Cedar Mountain) banjos

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

harvey - Posted - 03/01/2008:  17:21:55

Does anyone have any experience of Lo Gordon's "standard FH" model? I notice Zepp has it in stock, and it appears very nice indeed. Could anyone comment on how it plays and how it compares to the Reiters, Ramseys, Lees, Romeros out there.

You can see the banjo here:

It's the one at the very top.

Thanks in advance


rinemb - Posted - 03/01/2008:  18:08:37

Harvey, While you are waiting on more precise answers to your question let me make a couple of comments. You have named all nice comparison banjos. I own a Reiter and a Lee. Both well made, great craftsmanship, and great tones in the various tone rings, etc. I do not yet own a Cedar Mountain banjo by Lo Gordon, but will someday. I have played and listened live to many of his banjos at Clifftop and at Brasstown. Again, excellant craftsmanship, and great wood tones.

Have you checked Zepp's sound files out to see if he has done any tunes on them?

You have great tastes in banjos.


May not the incidence of success, nor the pretense of retirement-
Lessen the want of enlightenment.

Edited by - rinemb on 03/01/2008 20:45:20

dixie kiwi - Posted - 03/01/2008:  18:12:16


There is an active link in this forum where someone was looking at and playing all these models (at Turtle Hill?) and he ended up getting one of Lo's models. Check that thread and maybe conact him.

I too am eyeing these banjos. I'm interested in the Appalacian model, sim to Foothills but I think the App is G and FH has a narrower and shorter neck.

harvey - Posted - 03/01/2008:  18:26:40

Thank you for your comments.

I'm looking at upgrading and, to be honest, am getting rather snowed under with the choice of great banjos out there. I noticed the FH Standard is in stock at Zepps and it has a shorter scale, which attracts me. I also recall people commenting positively about Lo's banjos in the past.

Brad, Zepp even provides a video of him playing the Lo Gordon ( Sounds very good indeed.

dixie kiwi - Posted - 03/01/2008:  19:19:01

here's that link to the previous discussion:

toward the bottom Tinpan has a long post showing his openback tests. He sez he played 3 kinds of Lo's models but doesn't say which ones they were. They must have been nice as he walked off with one.

Edited by - dixie kiwi on 03/01/2008 19:19:53

banjonit - Posted - 03/01/2008:  19:45:39

Lo's work is top notch. I about a 10-year old L model. It is an absolute blast to play. Nothing against any of the comparators you mentioned, but a Cedar Mtn. banjo is a banjo you will want to keep.

mrphysics55 - Posted - 03/01/2008:  20:01:33

rinemb quote ...

I won a Reiter and a Lee.

Really! Dang! How!


Do you need a Fiddle Player to Practice With 24/7? Go To

rinemb - Posted - 03/01/2008:  20:44:37

MP55. Oops! typo error. I wish I w-o-n them, but I do o-w-n them.

gotta go fix that. bye.


May not the incidence of success, nor the pretense of retirement-
Lessen the want of enlightenment.

harvey - Posted - 03/02/2008:  06:48:29

cheers Dixie -- I'll check out that thread.

I must confess, rinemb, I stopped for a second when I read that you "won" a reiter and a lee, but decided it had to be a typo before I got jealous...

Tinpan - Posted - 03/02/2008:  11:02:21

Hi Harvey,

Well I wasn't logged in last night when I replied to this so, that reply went into la la land, let's try this again.

I picked up this Cedar Mountain at Turtle Hill:

I'm not exactly sure what model it is but it has an 11" pot and a brass tone ring. I love this one it has a nice plunky sound but it also has a lot of volume.
The workmanship is top notch. Keep in mind I am a newbie to banjos but I played a whole bunch of them the day I picked this one out. For me this one
had the sound and feel I was looking for. All of the other banjos were also excellent and I would love to have any of them.

As far as comparing them that's kind of tough since I am in the newbie catagory, but you asked so here it is.

My criteria for looking for my next banjo was I wanted something without a lot of fancy looking trim or high gloss finishes since I will probably take it out on the creek when we go prospecting ( sorry Dave). I also wanted something with a little punch since we are usually way out in the hills and valleys and trees and I want something that will stand out in that environment.

The Ramsey i played was in a different store and it looked like it has been there a while. It was out of tune and I'm not one to retune other people banjos, but that being said, it was still an awesome banjo. It felt good playing it, it was easy to make notes on it and it had a great sound. Compared to the CM I would say it was softer sounding.

The Reiter's I played were the special and White Ladye models. Again both great banjos, they were set up great, sounded great felt great playing them, it was easy to make notes on them. They were a little softer compared to the CM in sound.

The other CM I played was this one:
This one was actually prettier than the one I got and it also sounded great. I think it has a wooden tone ring.

Here's the other CM I played:

It's an A scale

The only critique I would have about my CM is the strings. They are definately heavier than what is on my other banjos. It does take me a little more effort to make notes on this banjo, I might try lighter gauge strings on it down the road, but I love the sound on this and I really don't want to change that. I can bounce a plunk off a tree at 50 feet :) . Maybe i just need to build up my finger muscles :) .

Oh yeah, one more thing, the action on this banjo is a little higher than what is on my Gold Tone Whiteladye and Goodtime. I actually love that, it makes doing slides, hammer ons and pulls offs alot easier.

The Cedar Mountain banjos look and sound great in person. I am sure the one you are looking at on Zepp's site would be a great banjo for you.

Keep in mind my criteria for this evaluation was a little different than what most peoples would be. I wanted rugged and plain looking for an outdoor environment.

I love my CM and it's not out of the question that i don't end up with another one. I really like the gingseng inlay since we usually see that stuff when we are out on the creek.


C'ya on the creek

rinemb - Posted - 03/02/2008:  12:02:26

Tinpan, Hey, Newbie. Nice review. You qualified your opinion and gave a good explanation. I learned by it.

Brad (ol dude)

May not the incidence of success, nor the pretense of retirement-
Lessen the want of enlightenment.

harvey - Posted - 03/02/2008:  13:18:31

Thanks for your thoughts, Tinpan.

Edited to add: the banjo you bought appears to be the J-300. Zepp also has it -- you can see it here: at the bottom of the page.

Edited by - harvey on 03/02/2008 13:21:36

maryzcox - Posted - 03/02/2008:  14:33:33

I have a Cedar Mountain A2 with the gingseng inlay on the peghead. It has a Honduran rosewood rim and tone ring and a mahogany neck.
It is beautifully crafted and a joy to play.

We are friends of Lo and his lovely family and have been to their home and shop many times. Lo is a wonderful banjo builder and player and we all love him here! Both of my sons have their eye on the Cedar Mountain to be theirs when I drop dead. It is an heirloom quality banjo.

Here's pix of Tim Gardner (Mary and Lo's son) at work in Lo's shop.

Here's a pix of Lo and I with twin Cedar Mountain Banjos and matching banjo T's recording a duet of Peach Bottom Creek.. It will be out very soon on our new Florida Banjo CD.

Best wishes always,
Mary Z. Cox
If you suspect you need a new banjo--you do. Trust your musical instincts. If a banjo calls to you to buy it, don't fight destiny. It was meant to be. :)

banjo bill-e - Posted - 03/02/2008:  14:35:51

harvey, Lo Gordon is going to be just up the road from me next weekend at the "Breakin' up Winter" festival put on by the Nashville Old Time String Band Assoc. I am looking forward to meeting Lo and checking out his banjos. He asked me in an email if I had any model in mind, and I told him to be sure and bring a FH model if he had one ready. If I get to try one, I will give you a report.

frailin - Posted - 03/03/2008:  19:02:50

I've owned 3 of them (all "L's"). Fine instruments.

Here's me with "Faith", one of my favs!

And here's my bride (DeAnne) with Lo when we visited him in his shop in Brevard, NC a few years back.

"Gospel. The most powerful music in this world and the next."

Gopher,Everett? - Posted - 03/04/2008:  20:58:08

I'm lucky enough to live 30 miles from Brevard. I bought my Gold Tone CB-100 from Celestial Mountain Music, owned by Lo's wife, Mary. I've spent a few happy hours drooling over and playing Lo's banjos, and I can say that if my current streak continues (I've hit the lottery 2 weeks in a row now and have won a grand total of $19), I'll be heading over there to pick mine up. Lessee...if I average $19 every two weeks, I'll be about 132 years old when I get enough saved up. Hope Lo's great, great grandson turns out to be a banjo maker!

"Gopher, Everett?"
"No thank you, Delmar. I'm afraid one-third of a gopher would only arouse my appetite without bedin' her back down."
--Ulysses Everett McGill, O Brother, Where Art Thou

frailin - Posted - 03/04/2008:  21:16:04

Forget it, GE. By that time all of Lo's production will be prized as the "Stradivarius of banjos". You'll be coughin' up $250k for a used "L."

"Gospel. The most powerful music in this world and the next."

banjo bill-e - Posted - 03/10/2008:  18:05:40

OK harvey, here is the follow-up that I promised. I found Lo's booth, but no Lo anywhere around. He had six models on display, including some with 24.6 scale necks, but no FH models. I decided to help myself, and tried out everything on the table! Very pretty, well-made banjos, but just not right for me. The necks are a bit on the chunky side and I have small hands. The necks seemed thicker than the Bart Rieters that I have tried, and much thicker than the Goodtimes or Vega Little Wonder. I am afraid those are the only banjos that I have really played. The Cedar Mountain website says that the FH models have a slimmer neck, but alas, I was unable to try one of those. If you have large hands, then I would never give it a thought, but one fact rings true: You really need to try before you buy! All the glowing reviews in the world will not tell you how any banjo will feel in your hands, or how it will sound when you are the player. Since proper old-time banjos are rare (and I live in Music City USA!) then we are forced to either travel or order online and hope for the best. If you find that difficult. well, join the club. So do I. Happy hunting, and good luck.

jgwoods - Posted - 03/10/2008:  21:34:22

A few years ago I ordered a banjo from Lo, and I specified how I wanted the neck carved- how wide, deep, profile etc. so it suited my hand.
He can do the same for you.

Be yourself- everyone else is taken

harvey - Posted - 03/11/2008:  13:51:41

banjo bill-e: many thanks indeed for your follow-up. I personally would have nothing against a fatter neck (in fact, I can imagine I'd prefer it). But I take your point about trying before buying.

At the moment, 1 euro is worth 1.53 dollars. That sure makes a banjo purchase from the USA tempting!

jbalch - Posted - 03/11/2008:  21:08:24

I once had a very nice foothills model. My good friend David Emery got it from me in a trade (during a moment of weakness on my part ... I might add).

I loaded a sound sample of that banjo to my music page (see: Buckhorn on a Cedar Mountain Banjo). Here is a link to download the MP3:

It is a beautiful banjo too (more photos on my homepage):

Edited by - jbalch on 03/11/2008 21:14:18

Just Jim - Posted - 03/12/2008:  16:48:40


I'm amazed that no one has yet said the obvious about that banjo...WOW!!!

Now that's the way curly maple should look! Your clip surely shows that the sound was equal to the appearance.

I ordered one high-dollar custom banjo last year that proved to be a real disappointment, but I'm hoping to try again later this year. I'm a sucker for beautifully flamed maple, especially when finished in a good carmel color like a fine violin or a good long rifle, and your photo is a perfect example. Perhaps Lo Gordon is the man I need to call.

Thanks for the wonderful photo.

Cheers... Jim

Edited by - Just Jim on 03/12/2008 16:51:17

jbalch - Posted - 03/12/2008:  22:59:06

Yes looks great...sounds great too. The workmanship is equal to the materials.

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