Ozarks Life: Keeping the Wynn Mandolin legacy alive

Made in Ozark, the Wynn Mandolin was a very sought-after instrument.
Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 6:49 PM CDT
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OZARK, Mo. (KY3) - There’s a home in Ozark with a multitude of mandolins.

If you look closely, some of those 89 mandolins in his home have ‘Wynn’ on them. That’s for Berry Wynn’s father, John Wynn.

“I own 13 of my father’s mandolins,” Berry said. “Now that I am older, I’ve been buying some of them back; the ones I really like.”

John and Betty Wynn moved to Springfield from California in the late 1970s. Along with their five kids, Terry, Vicki, Berry, Mark, and John Jr., the parents brought their love for music.

“(John) started doing repair work,” Berry recalled. “He made a choice to go to all the music stores in Springfield at that particular time and said, ‘Hey, I repair musical instruments.’ Well, most of them didn’t have a repairman on-site.”

The repairs paid bills.

Making his own line of banjos and mandolins became John’s passion.

“Eventually, his name got out,” Berry said. “Jesse McReynolds from Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys, the famous Grand Ole Opry stars, well, Jesse bought one of his very first mandolins in 1977 at Eminence, Missouri, at the old bluegrass festival.”

Larry Sledge played a Wynn at Silver Dollar City. David Wilson of the Undergrass Boys featured one as well. The Undergrass Boys were based out of Springfield and featured bluegrass music in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Soon, fans wanted that crisp sound too - unique to a Wynn Mandolin.

At the age of 13, Berry slowly started learning how to make his dad’s instruments. Berry would graduate from sanding to cutting the backs and tops. He didn’t need the gap tool to know how thick to make the pieces. Berry could tell by the glide of his finger and thumb.

What made the Wynn unique was a third point not usually seen on an F-hole mandolin.

“He told me before he passed away in 2010, ‘Son, this was never a job to me.’ And he said, ‘So don’t make it a job. Make it fun,’” Berry said.

And that’s how Berry’s life is mirroring his dad’s. He is repairing instruments in his spare time and then creates his own generation of Wynn Mandolins. But as Berry moves forward, he’s collecting pieces of the past. He was recently reunited with those three, original Wynn’s that put his dad on the mandolin map.

“I own Larry Sledge’s Wynn Mandolin, I own Jesse McReynolds’ Wynn Mandolin, and I own Dave Wilson’s Wynn Mandolin,” Berry said. “It meant everything; because I knew those mandolins.”

And while the sound and outside of the Jesse McReynolds’ mandolin is beautiful, it’s what John put on the inside that’s priceless for Berry. You see, his dad named every mandolin after a family member.

“Well, he put the ‘Betty Model’ which is my mother, in the one that Jesse happened to pick,” Berry said. “So getting that one back really meant a lot to me too.”

Berry believes his dad made 250 Wynn Mandolins.

Berry plays mandolin in two bands, including one with his mother and family. He’s also the entertainment director at the Baker Seed Company in Mansfield.

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