I started my career in the 1980's, when I moved to Los Angeles and began working at a vintage guitar facility. I worked on guitars used by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Peter Frampton to name a few. Keeping guitars in great running condition and continuing my journeyman experience, I realized a very important thing - it’s not just the guitar. It’s the person playing the guitar that makes the instrument sound great; the instrument does not play itself. Craftsmen must cater to the needs of the person steering the ship. I have always felt that a good luthier would make great shrink.
I continued to listen and work with some of the most inspirational people in the world. I feel that sometimes I learned more about my craft by just being thoughtful towards what someone expected out of their guitar, than by how many thousands of an inch the low E string was from the fingerboard. I believe the guitar is a living and breathing entity, much like ourselves, and they all have their own limitations.
I continued my tenure in California until I found what I had waited a long time for, the opportunity to work with a master. I moved to the great Pacific Northwest to study under John Stephan. John has been the most inspirational part of my journey, a master craftsman from Palmer, Alaska with Houdini like skills. Together we forged a guitar bond that will last forever. John was an amazing teacher. His entire focus was on “what not to do” rather than “what to do". He felt I had my own facility and I should capitalize on it; the rest was up to me. I am indebted to him forever. Many of you may never see his work, but if you look close you can see it in mine. He is my "Guitar Father.” But, as the saying goes, I guess all good things must come to an end and John had to eventually set me free to do my own thing.
I took a position at Dusty Strings in Seattle where Ouds, violins, harps and guitars live together happily ever after. Here I spent most of my time restoring instruments young and old. I encountered some of the best ears on folks with a deep devotion for fine instruments. It was a very enriching experience that helped me continue to be considerate to what needs to be done and remember it’s “what not to do!”
While working at Dusty Strings I received a call from Luthier Bill Asher of Guitar Traditions in Santa Monica, California. It was an opportunity to help Bill get through at least 200 guitars in need of restoration, and I was up to the task.
Having the chance to work alongside Bill on some of the finest guitars ever made and further my journey was another enriching experience. Bill hails from Rick Turner’s world and has a keen eye for detail. It helped keep me on my toes to the point where our work was one and the same. I spent 3 years working at Bill’s shop until I had the burning desire for my own.
I went a unique route and moved to San Juan Island on the Pacific and built my humble little shop in the trees. Going where it is quiet I felt I could hone my skills. Some of which was a passion for guitars built by the infamous Larson Brothers.
While at Guitar Traditions I met a client who had a 30's Larson made Stahl that he had purchased from George Gruhn’s Guitar Shop. Purchased “as is” and in “need of fixing.” Not being familiar with them at the time I began my research and the more I looked, the more excited I got. That takes me to where I have been for the last 8 years, in the land of the Larson Brothers. I truly feel that Larsons are some of the finest made flattop steel string instruments to date. The progressive nature of their work is so captivating to me that it has inspired me to think about and understand so many new things about guitars. The Larson’s figured out a new interesting swing on that wheel idea that worked and still does. There is nothing out there that sounds like a Larson; that is subjective of course, but few would disagree. In the past 8 years I’ve become somewhat of a specialist in the Larson realm of refurbishing, working on well over 300 of their creations. Every instrument I received basically needed to be rebuilt, and each project has had great results.
I’ll also continue to build to order and welcome whatever you might dream up. To insure consistency in the product, I work alone, building only 10 to 12 guitars per year. My principles for acoustics are inspired by what I have learned over the years through restoration work and in my opinion a new guitar can be made in a fraction of the time it can take to do most detailed restoration work.
I will continue to be available to do fine restoration work, keeping our old friends healthy and performing at their best, with much respect for where they have been and the great music they have made. I really appreciate you taking the time to look over my bio, to see where I am coming from and where it is I plan to go.
Guitar Maker Frankie Montuoro