Michael Gurian & Me.

Michael Gurian & Me.

Michael Gurian and I go back a long way, and pretty deeply at that. Here's the story about our relationship and the effects we had on each other's careers and lives.

Firstly, in order for me to feel comfortable asking Michael for a little space in his secondary shop, the one with the woodworking machines in it, in early 1969, we had to have already been pretty close on a personal level. One of the things that tied us together was British motorcycles. We both had BSAs, mine kinda old, from the 1950s, and Michael's nice and shiny and fairly new, from the mid-1960s. For those of you who know the quirkiness of Brit motor vehicles of the day I'm sure you understand that it's a tight, knowing club. Between that and my familiarity with woodworking machinery from an earlier time in my life Michael and I were a coupla motor-heads who had a lot of mutual fun with our toys. We both eventually got away from motorcycles but were constantly talking about and thinking about the ins and outs of guitar design and construction.

Michael had just started making steel-string guitars, going beyond the world he had come up in with classical guitars and lutes and the like. I was already very steeped in the details of steel-string guitar design, tradition and construction, having been seriously involved in repair and restoration and sales of those, all the Martins and Gibsons etc., for many years. And so there was quite a lot of exchanging of ideas and knowledge between us in those early days, me helping Michael to figure out what features, sizes etc. to embrace in order to convince buyers that his instruments were worth serious consideration over what had already been around forever, and my picking up tips for improved production methods over much that had been standard in the industry for decades. Having worked at both the Gretsch and Guild guitar factories, which were local, in prior years, I had a pretty good idea of how they did things but Michael’s keen mind, with both its technical and musical instincts, took all that beyond much of the old ways that had been standard in the industry forever. Years later, after Michael had moved his entire guitar making operation to New Hampshire and had also set up a re-sawing mill (cutting large sections of logs into pieces sized for instrument building), I ran the guitar making part of the factory for a bit while Michael was out West finding enormous spruce trees to harvest for his own guitars and to sell to the rest of the industry.

The rest is guitar history. With Michael’s becoming more interested in the making of, and designing and making the machinery for producing the best-ever decorative wood marquetry for guitars (such as the herringbone we’ve seen on Martins going back to the 1850s), the manufacture of Gurian guitars came to an end in the early 1980s. Gurian guitars are highly prized today for their unique sound, feel, looks, and top structural integrity, and finding a really nice one to own is a beautiful thing.


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