I have recently had an article on the early history of classical guitar-making in Britain published in the Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society (JAMIS). The journal is available to purchase in hard copy from the American Musical Instrument Society and a ‘post-print’ version (peer-reviewed but without the journal layout and page numbering) is available to download from the University of Lincoln’s research repository.
I welcome any comments on the article, which has, among other things, occupied me for over two years. It’s the first of several articles related to the knowledge, education and training of classical guitar-makers that I am working towards. The abstract and brief profiles of some of the people I discuss are summarised below.
“This article explores the first decade of classical guitar-making in Britain (1948 – 1957) and discusses the efforts of amateurs and autodidacts in the recovery, codification and instruction of craft knowledge and skills. The research for this article draws on two sources of primary data: guitar magazines and the first three attempts in the English language to codify the practical knowledge of classical guitar-making into instructional texts. I begin by identifying the instrument in its historical context. Next, I present biographical summaries of key advocates and outline the work of the first luthiers. I then discuss the Do-It-Yourself texts and argue that classical guitar-making at that time gradually gained cultural legitimacy through the efforts of autodidacts who established the requisite knowledge and skills that were later adopted and validated by educational institutions.”
Albert Percy Sharpe (1906-1968). Director of Clifford Essex Co., editor of BMG magazine and author of Make Your Own Spanish Guitar (1957), in which he documented the work of his employee, the luthier, Marco Roccia. Wilfrid M. Appleby (1892-1987) was a controversial campaigner for the “real guitar”; founder of the International Classic Guitar Association and editor of its ‘official organ’, Guitar News. He helped stimulate classical guitar-making in Britain through his writing and support of amateur makers of “the legitimate instrument.” This is Kay Appleby, wife of Wilfrid, and Treasurer and Business Editor of the International Classic Guitar Association. The history of classical guitar making in Britain was, and still is, an overwhelmingly male occupation but in the 100th issue of Guitar News (1968) Wilfrid Appleby acknowledged that “in all matters concerning the Association, in fact, they work as a team… It is, of course, a ‘labour of love’, and involves many hours of hard concentrated work, especially for the Business Editor, who deals with the accounts, card index and the very considerable correspondence.” Terry Usher (1909-1969) was one of the most significant contributors to the development of modern classical guitar-making in England. As well as a player, composer and teacher, he was a prolific writer in BMG from the mid-1930s and wrote technical articles about classical guitar construction in the late 1940s. He also wrote the first English-language, scholarly, organological article on the classical guitar for The Galpin Society Journal in 1956. His day job was Public Relations Officer for Manchester City Council. J.K. Sutcliffe was a writer for Guitar News and throughout the 1950s he wrote articles on the construction of the classical guitar. Before there was any set of instructions (in English) on building a guitar, he provided technical information for “the very patient and careful amateur.” Harald Petersen (1910-1969) moved from Denmark to England in 1950, thinking there were more opportunities for a luthier to sell classical guitars. After a slow start, he benefited from the growing success of Len Williams’ Spanish Guitar Centre in London, which he sold his guitars through from about 1955. Peterson was the first successful self-employed maker of handmade classical guitars in Britain. Here is A.P. Sharpe (left) in the workshop with Marco Roccia (1902-1987). Roccia was one of the first luthiers in Britain to experiment with making a ‘concert’ guitar, which he developed between 1948-1951. Terry Usher reviewed Marco Roccia’s concert guitar in 1951 as “the first true concert guitar to be produced in this country.” Hector Quine (1926-2015) is well-known for being the first professor of guitar at the Royal Academy of Music (from 1959). Quine was also one of the first serious amateur classical guitar makers. With the encouragement of Julian Bream, he made his first instrument “mostly by unorthodox methods and devices” in 1952/3. Bream used Quine’s second instrument to perform at the Wigmore Hall in September 1954. His third instrument was used by Bream to record two albums for Westminster in 1955. Quine made 18 instruments in total over a period of about 20 years. The recording of his third instrument is probably the earliest recording of a ‘concert’ guitar made by a British luthier. Theodorus M. Hofmeester (centre) (1897-1955) was an Architect and President of the Classical Guitar Society in Chicago. He made an important contribution to the early history of classical guitar making by creating the first technical drawing of a Torres guitar (FE26) for Guitar Review magazine in 1954. The drawing provided a useful level of detail for subsequent makers to build from. Although published in the USA, Guitar Review had readers and contributors in the U.K. and the Hofmeester drawing laid the groundwork for subsequent DIY texts on classical guitar making in Britain. He may be holding a violin but Clifford A. Hoing (1903-1989) was responsible for the first step-by-step instructions for making a classical guitar. He did so over five issues of Woodworker magazine (1955), alongside articles on making fishing floats and furniture. He became “one of the most respected” British makers of violins and violas but should also be remembered for being the first person to codify the craft of classical guitar making. Eric V. Ridge was a committee member of the ICGA and an amateur violin maker. He used the Hofmeester plan to help him make his first guitar, which he documented in The Birth of a Guitar (1956-7), published as a series of instructions in Guitar News. Alongside Hoing’s and Sharpe’s DIY texts, Ridge contributed a more personal narrative of discovery.