Tony Williamson (Mandolin Central)

        This week I want to tell you about the mandolinists who played at Mandomania. Tony Williamson is one of our most versitile mandolinists. He is the host each year at the Merlefest Mandomania extravaganza. The man can play Bill Monroe but is equally at home with jazz or swing numbers as well as classical pieces. Along with Sam Bush, Tony was instrumental in sending “The People’s Mandolin” on its journey. Thanks Tony! I hope the little mandolin travels far and tells many of the fun of the mandolin world.   

        Not long ago I interviewed Tony for a magazine article I hope to get placed soon. Tony is a complex man. He is interested in archeology of Native American artifacts, American Literature, and music of all kinds. He can play straight bluegrass with the best but also has toured with guys like Mike Marshall and David Grisman, and has played jazz gigs with Chicago’s Don Stiernburg. Players who know tell me his knowledge of chord inversion variations is as advanced as any player on the planet. I especially like his passing chord style backup work . It reminds me of Texas style walking guitar chords. One time I tried to get HomeSpun to consider a DVD on the subject.

        Tony lives near Chapel Hill and so far out in the country you almost can’t get there from here. It is close to Siler City, the home of Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith show. He might wear overalls or tweed, and could pass for a mountain bear trapper or a college professor depending on what subject you have interest in. He can live off the land and raises much of his own food, but knows all about fine wine and would be comfortable at any fancy restaurant in Raleigh or beyond.

        Most of all though, he knows mandolins, and is a world-class expert on vintage Gibson Loars. And as I indicated, he is a virtuoso player of any style.

         If you need something in the mandolin line Tony either has it or knows where you can get it. His shop is called Mandolin Central. Here’s his web site:  If you practice hard for a decade you might get a start on Tony’s work. Good luck, his style is very advanced.

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: Journey of The People's Mandolin, Mandolin Players I Know, Writing


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2 Comments on “Tony Williamson (Mandolin Central)”

  1. He sounds like a fascinating guy. That’s the wonderful thing about you bluegrass people, I think – you never try to show yourselves to the world as just one, simple part of your personality. No, you manage to convey to each other that you’re multi-faceted, and that that’s okay. More than okay. So many people hide behind masks of one thing or the other, hiding their hobbies or pretending they don’t mean anything to them. Some people are actually ashamed of having knowledge. I love that your bluegrass culture has none of these preoccupations of image or style or need to fit in a certain way. No, you just act like who you are and are open to each other in a way that just seems so beautiful to me.

    • drtombibey Says:


      You captured it. The bluegrass crowd is a group of very individualistic people. I think we all give each other space to be ourselves more than some of groups around.

      Dr. B

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