Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Guitar Factory

Chapter 12

street pueblo
Mr. G.’s guitar factory at that time was located on the edge of Palma in The Pueblo Español, or Spanish Village, an enclosed area built in 1965 consisting of nearly one hundred replicas of famous Spanish buildings and monuments. It was quite a pleasant place, with its winding streets, main plaza and fountains where one could see, for example, smaller versions of the Alhambra of Granada, the house of Greco and the large and beautiful Palacio de Congresos, the Congress Palace where international events are still held today.

pueblo espanol
When I arrived in Mallorca it was all fairly new and the little guitar factory, called Los Guitarreros de Mallorca, was installed in one of the buildings seen on the left in the street of the top photo. The guitar builder from mainland Spain, José Orti, also know as el maestro, had left and been replaced by José Ferrer who was aided by two young ladies, Pepa from Andalucia and Maria, who was Mallorquin. They helped with the work as well as the polishing and finishing of the guitars.

El maestro had also been responsible for teaching the Japanese constructors at Yamaha how to make a Spanish classical guitar. A wall of the Palma workshop, el taller displayed framed photos of this elderly gentleman in his black beret surrounded by a group of white lab-coated Japanese in the Yamaha factory as he showed them the intricacies of contructing a classical guitar.

Here below is the first guitar label placed inside the guitars made at Los Guitarreros de Mallorca.

first label
There is no scent to me more captivating than that found inside a guitar workshop. The woods have such a wonderful perfume! The rosewood for the back and sides, the cedar and spruce for the tops and the beautiful ebony for the fingerboards give off their peculiar aromas as they are shaven and moulded into shape. Just being in a workshop where the goal is to build an exquisite instrument for the purpose of creating beautiful music is exciting, and it is even more so as the instrument begins to take form, and is then polished, and then strung and then with great anticipation …..tested for the first time. What satisfaction it is when the creation turns out well!

My present guitar made in June 1968 by José Ferrer, son.

my guitar
At this point I feel it is time to reveal the identity of Mr.G., my mentor and good friend, whom I had met in the early 1960s in Vancouver in his guitar outlet called The Mediterranean Shop, on tenth avenue near the university gates, where I learned to play and later to teach classical guitar. Since this dear, quiet man, who dedicated himself to studying and improving the construction of guitars is no longer living and has since become a legend not only in the Balearic Isles, but also in the whole of Spain as one of the great contemporary luthiers of the past generation, I should not keep his identity hidden any longer.

with G.Bowden
His name was George Moore Bowden. There has been much written about him and his parents who came to settle in Mallorca in 1932 and I will elaborate more on my relationship with this unique family in a coming entry.

Here is a photo of George Bowden with his successor, Antonio Morales:

Morales & Bowden
I was just a bystander but I had been drawn deeply into being a part of all this. It began in Vancouver, B.C. around 1964.

Continue on to Chapter 13...... Vancouver Flashback - Mediterranean Shop

Go back to Chapter 11......The Guitar Center

5 comments:

Anton Kirsch said...

Quite a wonderful description you've provided! I recently have picked up a George Bowden guitar made by the Los Guitarreros in Palma back in the 60's. I got it as a steal of $10 from a neighbor, and i'm just beginning to learn. Enchanting indeed!

Canarybird said...

Oh my goodness Anton! What a surprise that is. Your guitar would be about the vintage of my first Bowden guitar then, also made in the early 60s. I'm sure that if you ever get to Palma de Mallorca, George's successor, Antonio Morales would be interested to see your guitar. Good luck with your lessons. regards, Sharon.

gb said...

Hi Sharon
I might still have a photo of you with the guitars down on that cold Mallorcan beach, as I recall. I'm back on Vancouver Island, easy to find. George Bowden Junior

Canarybird said...

Oh my goodness....is it really you George Jr.? Welcome to my blog and the story of my fleeting connection with your family! I don't remember ever seeing a cold Mallorcan beach though. Seems they were always hot and sunny and I also don't remember ever taking guitars to the beach. I'd love to see what photos you might have. Regards to you and the folks in PA and The Island. Sharon.

Craig said...

I'm looking at my old 1965 #401 signed by Jose Ferrer, which is in need of a few repairs. If I wanted to bring it by, what is the current address of the shop? I really wanted the more expensive lemon wood one with wood tuners, but got the mahogany geared tuners. Still want it, as a matter of fact!--Craig

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