Felix Manzanero, the famous Madrid guitar maker and his wife Soledad recently vacationed in California and Mexico. While in California, Felix and Soledad spent a few days at our home while they played tourist visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios.
Felix, who I first met in the mid-1960's, brought an exquisite Spanish cypress and German spruce flamenco guitar (number 1012) for my personal use. He greatly honored me by bringing this masterpiece to me unfinished so that I could apply my own french polish finish.
Felix's current output of guitars is about 10 per year. I am authorized to import and take orders for a limited number of these guitars. Prices are comparable to those of the best Madrid luthiers.
Felix was born in 1937 in Madrid. He started his apprenticeship in the workshop of Jose Ramirez at the age of 14. There he learned the art of guitarmaking. After 12 years with Ramirez he started his own business and workshop on Santa Ana Street in Old Madrid.
In the mid-1960's, my father, John Fernandez, met Felix and started to import his guitars which were sold through my guitar teacher, Seiko "George" Sesoko, to players such as Laurindo Almeida and Manitas de Plata. In 1967, I spent a summer at the University of Madrid during which time I would frequently visit Felix's shop and sometimes pick up guitars we would export to the United States. Of that summer I have many memories: of encountering Sabicas in Felix's shop after his 30 year absence from Spain; of playing guitar in Felix's shop the next morning with Sabicas' brother Diego; of Felix taking his bandurria and I my guitar down to a "meson" (I think it was called the Segoviana) to drink and play tangos.
Felix has made over 1000 guitars under his own "Felix Manzanero" label. You can identify the guitars he made while working for Ramirez by his initials "F.M." which are stamped inside of the guitars (usually on the "foot" of the neck). His present guitars are distinctive in appearance and sound. He typically uses face wood which he has possessed for over 30 years.
While Felix's guitars are deeply rooted in the Madrid school of guitarmaking, his designs have been influenced by his study of guitar acoustics and his experiments in guitar design.. One outcome of his theoretical work resulted in his building an Eliptical guitar which produces a very large sound. Also, with the help of a group of engineers he develped a system for testing each soundboard before permanently affixing it to the guitar.
Felix has also long been a collector of antique guitars and related fretted instruments. His unique collection includes over 100 unique instruments. Parts of this important collection have been exhibited internationally including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1991-92) for the 500th anniversary of America's Discovery. I have written an article about this collection entitled "Félix Manzanero and his Collection of Antique Guitars," which appeared in the Spring 1995 issue (number 41) of American Lutherie: the Quarterly Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers.
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