El Choclo
Angel Villoldo, published 1903

2004 Gibson F5 Fern (“Spirit of Christmas”)

Charlie Derrington was a great friend as we played together in the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and later with Trayler Parker and the Propane Tanks. Charlie and I were always trading and selling mandolins back and forth. In December of 2004 he called me from Gibson Showcase and said "Hey Bub, I got this Fern that you need to buy. It's a great price." So I went down there (I thought it was odd that was selling this mandolin right there in the back of the Gibson factory) and we started haggling over the price. I think he started at $4200 and I started at $3000. The fussing back and forth over the price was comical. He finally said "Come on, I have 34 employees, give me $3400." I said OK and wrote him a check.

Then I said "Did you sign the label?" He said "No, I only sign the Master Models, but take it out there to Billy and have him swap the label." So this Fern has a Charlie signed label.

I found out later that Charlie and Big Joe drove to my bank, cashed the check, and went back to Gibson handing out one hundred dollar bills as Christmas bonuses. It turned out the CEO wasn't going for Christmas bonuses so Charlie took the mandolin out of inventory, sold it to me, and took care of his employees. That's the kind of guy Charlie was. Everyone loved working for him.

I usually don't name my musical instruments, but this unique mandolin is now "The Spirit of Christmas."

Later we were talking about Gibson's distressing process and he said "Give that Fern to Casey and he will distress it for you at a good price. I could not believe how awesome in tone and loud the mandolin was after that. A lot of people think that the distressing process is only cosmetic. But Charlie's method included put the mandolin in a UV booth. This would dry the wood and thin the finish.

I bought this mandolin to sell and make a few dollars but now I would not give it up for anything. I truly believe the Charlie era mandolins are the finest instruments to come from Gibson since the 1920s.

1924 Gibson K-2 Mando Cello

1980s Classical M. Horabe Model 35 Guitar

Unknown Maker American 1940s Upright Bass


"El Choclo" (Spanish: meaning "The Ear of Corn" more accurately "The Corn Cob") is a popular song written by Ángel Villoldo, an Argentine musician. Allegedly written in honour of and taking its title from the nickname of the proprietor of a nightclub, who was known as El Choclo.

It is probably one of the most popular tangos in Argentina.

The piece was premiered in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1903 – the date appears on a program of the venue – at the elegant restaurant "El Americano" on 966 Cangallo Street (today Teniente General Perón) by the orchestra led by Jose Luis Roncallo.

El Choclo has been recorded (without vocals) by many dance orchestras, especially in Argentina.

A number of vocal versions were recorded in 1952, but the most popular was the one by Georgia Gibbs, which reached #2 on the Billboard chart. Tony Martin's version reached #6, Toni Arden's #14, Billy Eckstine's #16, Louis Armstrong's #20, and Guy Lombardo's version reached #30. There are Spanish versions of "Kiss of Fire" by Connie Francis and Nat King Cole. In 1953 Olavi Virta and Metro-Tytöt released a Finnish version, titled "Tulisuudelma", which means "Kiss of Fire". The Finnish words, by "Kullervo" (Tapio Kullervo Lahtinen), closely follow the English. In 2001 the hip-hop group Delinquent Habits made the song known to a new generation when they released "Return of the tres", which relies heavily on samplings from a Mariachi version of the classical tango.