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Boutique Guitars Made In Nashville For International Guitar Month
by TJ Anderson
Photo: Delgado Guitars on Facebook
Nashville gets called "Guitar Town" from time to time, and it's certainly a fair nickname — there are probably more six-stringed (and four, and five, and 12-stringed) instruments here per capita than just about anywhere else. Unless there's some island somewhere inhabited only by luthiers.
With so many folks who play guitar here in Nashville, naturally, we also have an impressive collection of homegrown guitar makers, both large and boutique. Everyone knows Gibson Guitars are made here, but that famous brand is just one of many Nashville guitar makers. You might not see ads for some of the Nashville-bred boutique guitar makers on billboards, but ask a few players, and you'll almost certainly hear the praises sung of our smaller (but still mighty) luthiers, some making guitars that nod to the classics, others that are pushing guitar design forward.
Since April is International Guitar Month, it felt like a good time to forward some of those praises. I'm not among the legions of world-class Nashville guitar players, myself, but I know a few. (Hard to live in Nashville without knowing a few.) And these are some of the Nashville-bred guitar brands the guitarists I've met stand behind.
Nashville-based guitar makers
For Delgado Guitars leader Manuel A. Delgado, guitar building is a family tradition — his dad, Candelario “Candelas” Delgado, was also a luthier, as was his grandfather and great-uncle. Young Manuel was a clear heir: Dad set an impressive record of building a first guitar by age 14; Manuel beat it by two years. Today, with East Nashville-based Delgado Guitars, he handcrafts only a few dozen instruments a year at most, to high praise from musicians and industry folks alike. (The Alliance for American Manufacturing said Delgado "Might Be the Greatest Guitar Company You've Never Heard Of," for one.)
And the legacy continues: In 2018, Manuel's daughter Ava beat her Dad's instrument-making record, building her first mandolin at the ripe age of 10. More about Delgado Guitars at delgadoguitars.com.
If you need a guitar repaired in Nashville, Dave Johnson of Scale Model Guitars is a popular guy to turn to. If you're looking to get a custom guitar built, Johnson might be your guy, too — he builds solid-body guitars using processes similar to what we wouldn't see in the 1950s, hand-sawing and fret-slotting fretboards, shaping with simple woodworking tools and picking only fine tone woods for each wooden component. Also among the popular Scale Model specialties: clear acrylic guitars that have all the modern weirdness of '80s pop but with classic guitar lines and aesthetics. More about Scale Model Guitars at scalemodelguitars.com.
Nashville guitar builder Jeff Senn has a particular strength with the classics — although he delivers new, unique guitar designs too, he has a highly praised hand when it comes to recreations of classic, electric instruments, like twists on the Strat or Telecaster. That knack caught the attention of Eastwood Guitars, who tapped Senn to design a line of "budget-conscious versions" of his classically inspired designs. That company distributes Senn by Eastwood Guitars, which run from $699 to $1,149. More on Jeff Senn Guitars at jeffsennguitars.com.
Eastwood Guitars (pictured below) started small two decades ago, creating new guitars inspired by some of founder Michael Robinson's favorite classic instruments in his own collection. Today, they have showrooms in Nashville, Chicago and Liverpool, and they're selling guitars from eight different series, "reviving amazing guitars from the edges of rock history" like the modern, angular Airline, which even young players will likely recognize from the 2P often slung over Nashville-based rock icon Jack White's shoulder. While these guitars aren't technically "made in Nashville," the company's set roots here, so they're fair game for local love. For more on Eastwood Guitars, visit eastwoodguitars.com.
Any Nashville guitar-making favorites you can add? I'm sure anyone skimming this list would love some more names to explore.
TJ Anderson is a Nashville Realtor with Benchmark Realty who's helped countless clients both buy a home and sell a home in Nashville, Tennessee. He blogs about Nashville regularly, from Nashville-area....
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