Felix Manzanero Obituary which I wrote and appeared in American Lutherie: Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers, Number 139, Spring 2020:
Felix Manzanero, Ole! (b.1937, d. August, 2019) By Ronald Fernandez
By 1966 my father, John Fernandez, was importing guitars from Felix Manzanero Cabrera. He sold most of them through Seiko Sesoko in Anaheim. Some of these were bought by Laurindo Almeida and Manitas de Plata.
I got to know Felix in 1967 when I attended summer school at the Universidad de Madrid. His shop was the first working shop I had seen. I was amazed. We became friends and occasionally stayed out late visiting strange eateries or playing tangos on his laud and my guitar in local mesons (traditional taverns). Among my memories in his shop was meeting Sabicas when he returned to Spain after a 30 year absence and playing farrucas with his brother, Diego.
Felix was born in 1937 in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. His father was a musician. At age 14 he apprenticed at the shop of Jose Ramirez II where he spent 12 years. He made 1000+ guitars there. Those guitars are identified by his initials stamped inside. I once repaired a “Ramirez” flamenco owned by Neil Diamond identified by that stamp. Of significance is the fact that Felix was making guitars under Jose Ramirez III while the modern 1-A classical, which Andres Segovia eventually embraced, was evolving.
In 1964 Felix opened a store at 12 Calle Santa Ana in the La Latina section of Madrid. There he built Madrid School guitars from old wood and taught his two sons to do the same. He also built experimental instruments such as an elliptical guitars, one without braces, several with soundboards of both cedar and spruce, and a laud with 12 sympathetic strings. He developed a method for testing soundboards before permanently affixing them to the body.
Over decades he acquired over 100 old instruments dating back to the 18th century. This collection is presently viewable on the web at: www.guitarrasmanzanero.com
In 1985 he was invited by the Mexican Government to present a Course on Spanish Guitar Construction in Paracho, Michoacan. This was an important opportunity for Mexican makers. German Vazquez Rubio in Los Angeles, California told me he attended that course.
My friend Felix was fun to be with, warm, friendly and open. He loved his wife and family. He liked to travel. He drove all over Spain. He came to to visit California a few times and hand carried an unvarnished Flamenco to me. He went to Cuba and Egypt with his wife. I would refer people to see him in Madrid and he would take them to his local bar-restaurant across the street and treat them royally.
He had a thick Madrid accent. His family had been in Madrid for many generations. Felix had a brother Pedro who had worked at the Ramirez shop and apparently did repairs (I never met him).
He is survived by his charming wife Soledad, and his sons, Felix Jr. and Ivan. Ivan makes guitars, preserves the collection, and runs the business in the original shop.
Oh, yes, before I forget. Comedies and ham. Felix loved Spanish dried ham, in his Madrid flat he had a full leg of Patas Negras (the best Spanish ham) on a special holding device for easy access. In his living room he had small statues of the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy.
Old News from the early 2000's:
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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