I first met Michael Stevens back in the ’80’s here in Chicago at the N.A.M.M. show. He had brought Paul Glasse with him. I think they were positioned in Seymour Duncan‘s booth (as Paul’s original five string mandolin had Seymour’s pickups in it).
I had been playing five string electric mandolin for a few years at that point, so naturally the sound drew me! Fast friendships ensued, and happily they last to this day. I finally got it together and ordered my own five string mandolin, and if I were to tell you what I paid for it you would either laugh or cry. I soon realized I could get my sound on this instrument through any amplifier! Everything works on it, and about all I’ve done to maintain it through the years is clean the pots.
Esteemed repair and wiring guru Ed Reynolds once looked at it and said "Ah, the class of that man-you can tell his work, and his are the only instruments I would cross the street to see".
Here in Chicago the weather is volatile so we’re constantly adjusting truss rods, finding weather checking, etc… — not on Stevens Electrical Instruments! They are incredibly stable. Intonation is a challenge on the five string mandolin (as it is a hybrid of two scale lengths – mandolin and mandola). Mike has thought this through as the instrument is in tune.
In addition to my mandolin habit I am a working guitar player. I was so pleased with the tone and stability of the mandolin that I ordered an LJ.
I’ve used it to play numerous gigs and sessions. Fellow musicians tend to remark about the instrument’s versatility, particularly on those "all kinds of music" gigs, where we’ll go from jazz to Santana to Pink and Jennifer Lopez – the LJ makes it for the whole gig. Sometimes jazz guys look at me funny when they see the guitar, then say they were surprised by the authenticity of its jazz tone. Recently on a jingle I was asked to play like B.B. King. Again someone may have thought I brought the wrong guitar, but not when they heard the playback!
I keep a 10-46 set on there for everything. Country gigs work well too, the neck pickup for swinging old stuff and the other pickup for more bite or twang. You can tap the coils on either the mandolin or the guitar, but I almost never do. And just like the mandolin, it seems I could plug the LJ into a transistor radio and get my sound…you get the idea.
I almost forgot to mention how quiet the instruments are – the excellent shielding renders them dead quiet. This has spoiled me, and I sometimes get annoyed by other instruments in my collection that hum or buzz.
I’d like to thank Mike again for making instruments that work. What a pleasure to work with someone who cares as much about the construction of the instrument as we do about the music we play on it!