ABOUT RATLIFF MANDOLINS
Started in 1982, in response to the lack of left-handed F-style mandolins on the market, Ratliff Mandolins has grown to be one of the most well respected luthier shops in the world. We currently make several different models of the mandolin family as “stock” mandolins and, also custom ordered mandolins featuring a wide array of custom options.
Ratliff Mandolins is located in Church Hill, Tennessee. Church Hill is in beautiful north east Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. We’re about 90 miles north of Knoxville close to the Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina borders.
At Ratliff Mandolins, we hand-craft instruments of beauty in the time-honored tradition of the South, choosing only the finest materials and building each instrument to the highest standards.
We’re a small shop, building only a limited number of instruments each year. Our instruments are available directly from Ratliff Mandolins or any of our dealers (see list of dealers on the ‘dealers’ link above).
Each instrument is built entirely by master luthier Audey Ratliff.
Audey Ratliff’s first musical memory is of being carried backstage on his father’s shoulders to meet Uncle Josh Graves at a Flatt & Scruggs concert in the early 1960’s. Born in Portsmouth, Virginia and raised as a government brat, Ratliff spent his youth living in many varied locales from Alaska to the Panama Canal Zone. His father Tom Ratliff, a talented dobro player, worked for the Federal Aviation Administration. The family moved around quite a bit during Audey’s formative years before finally settling down for good in the musically rich region of East Tennessee in 1970.
Ratliff first played guitar in local bands, then picked up acoustic bass before finally settling on the mandolin as his instrument of choice. In the 1970’s he was a founding member of the Kingsport, Tennessee based bluegrass group The Boys In The Band, which at various times also included such reknowned musicians as Tim Stafford, Barry Bales and Adam Steffey. Ratliff holds the distinction of being the first person to give mandolin lessons to Adam Steffey, who has been named IBMA Mandolin Player Of The Year five times. For a year in the late 1970’s Ratliff was the bass player for Whetstone Run, a well known band from Pennsylvania. During this time he recorded an album with that group titled Time Sure Flies. Ratliff also spent almost a year with Dr. Ralph Stanley as a bass player, touring not only the U.S.A., but England as well. Other session work includes recordings by The Larkins, The Ball Sisters, Tennessee Skyline and guitarist James Alan Shelton’s 2002 Song For Greta album on Rebel Records. Ratliff’s latest recording is his first ever solo release “Piece Of Cake” on Dream Walk Records. The project was produced by James Alan Shelton.
Being left handed, Ratliff always had to have a custom instrument built and that experience led to his interest in lutherie. From his first homebuilt instruments in 1982, he has built Ratliff Mandolins into a world reknowned mandolin business with sales not only in the United States but in Europe, Africa and South America as well.
His one man shop is located in Church Hill, Tennessee. Some of his clients include Jimmy Gaudreau, Norman Wright, Adam Steffey, Shawn Lane, Tammy Rogers of the Steeldrivers, Billy Panda, Stephen Cagle, Emory Lester, Jennifer McClain, Dino DiGiacomo and Buddy Woodward of the Dixie Bee-liners.
For close to forty-five years, Audey Ratliff has been professionally involved in music industry not only as a luthier but also as a performer, teacher, studio musician.
His 1000th Ratliff Mandolin was completed in 2008 and his current production total is more than 1240.
Feel free to contact Audey to discuss building a custom mandolin for you.