April 19, 2021

A collection of Larson made mandolin family instruments I purchased about 10 years ago

The guitar with the metal rod running through the body is a Stahl brand. In the center is the classic Larson Harp guitar and on the right a Maurer brand.

These guitars, from the same collection which included a rare "f" hole model.  Larson built guitars for many different company and some of these are marked Stahl, Prairie State or Maurer. On the right is the only other "thin" Larsen we have seen.

NEWSLETTER Leland Mando-Guitar Brilliantone

April 19th, 2021

Good Morning Folks,

I have been chasing old guitars, banjos and mandolins for most of my adult life. There’s always one back in the memory banks, the one that got away, the one that always tickled your memory. Around 40 years ago my friend Jay Scott (author of several books on vintage guitars and a McQuaid Jesuit alumni)  and I were touring around seeking out interesting guitars. We came upon one that absolutely stumped us. It was marked Leland Mando-Guitar Brilliantone and it sounded absolutely amazing. The problem was it shouldn’t have sounded so good. It was only 2 inches deep.... similar to a Gibson ES-335 but this guitar had more sound than any guitar we had ever picked up. It had an interesting construction.... the top was slightly arched but, at the time, we had no idea who built it. Furthermore it was not for sale; it was in the hands of a collector who had no intention of ever selling it. Jay and I discussed that guitar often over the years. Why did it sound so good? Of course, with years, came knowledge and after handling many, many guitars we were able to determine that this guitar was made by the very famous Larson Brothers of Chicago. Now back 45 years ago there were no catalogs or information or Internet to look things up so we had to go on our own observations. The fact that this guitar had a slightly arched top was one of the indicators of a Larson build instrument. The top is actually built over the arched braces giving it a slightly forward look. The braces themselves are laminated spruce and rosewood and in a different pattern than seen on most steel string guitars. Rather than the common "X" pattern this guitar was braced in an "H" pattern. Now we’ve been lucky enough to have many Larson instruments over the years and actually had another one of these thin guitars that came out of a collection. However, that one that got away was always in the back of my mind.

While sitting at the store a couple of weeks ago I happened to open up my iPad to an advertising section. Lo and behold, this same guitar was listed for sale. I gasped..held my breath and sent Ryan Yarmel over to buy it. This is a very special guitar and I thought, since I’ve pursued it all these years and finally landed it maybe it will be the one that I keep. Alas, its sold in a week.


John Bernunzio


Julia’s been working at the store for the past few weeks and I have been home in Penn Yan. Most days I’m spending working on my physical therapy and puttering around the house. I am always available by phone, messenger, text, FaceTime, email or any other type of communication....In fact, I had a great conversation with my old friend Howard LaBrie from the Netherlands. We contacted on messenger and then had a video chat for about 30 minutes. Just amazing.


Built by the Larson Brothers for distribution by L.H. Leland within their Brilliantone Mando family instruments, this is a fantastically rare guitar which prominently features an impossibly narrow body (2-1/16" at deepest point), along with other Larson-specific design features. The body measures 14.5" at the lower bout, 10.25" upper bout, and the width tapers slightly toward the top (1-7/8 wide at upper bout, 2-1/16 wide at lower); this instrument has slight arches in the top and back and was "built-under-tension"; a hallmark Larson design, the original specialized laminated bracing is present in a unique H pattern that succeeds in projecting enormous volume from a guitar barely 2 inches deep; the back and sides are of Brazilian rosewood, bound top is of a straight grained and yellowed spruce; marquetry present around top edge, backstrip into heel, and around rosette; ebony bridge with Style 45 bridge pins. The mahogany neck has a 25" scale length ebony fingerboard w/ V profile and 1-11/16" nut width; original frets present with little wear at all; rosewood peghead overlay; original geared plate tuners w/ ivoroid buttons.

This is as thin as a semi-hollow....

Classic Larson peghead shape

From the original Catalog.