Guitarra flamenca -historic Makers of the Granada School

Alfonso Checa (Baza, active 1935-1978)

Alfonso-Checa-guitar-004.jpgBorn in 1914, Alfonso Checa Plaza was a guitar maker from Baza, a town in the province of Granada, who opened his workshop in 1935.  During his life he was a renowned maker, and had won a first prize medal for his guitars at the International Exposition in Madrid in 1953 as well as first prize later in an exposition in Ronda. He trained his sons Jose and Vicente Checa, Vicente Perez Checa, Antonio Ruiz, and Pedro Martínez Peñalver. Pedro Martinez Peñalver started with him as an apprentice in 1962, and took over his workshop after his death in 1977. As Baza is a small provincial town, Checa made guitars for other makers, notably for Gerundino Fernandez, Jose Ramirez, Luis Aróstegui, and Benito Ferrer.

Augustine Caro Riaño (Granada, active c. 1800s-1820s)

AgustinCaro1803-Ft.jpgAugustine Caro Riaño was active in Granada in the first quarter of the 19th century. He was a watchmaker by profession, but built guitars in his spare time.

Photo courtesy of Spanish Guitar Shop

Manuel de la Chica (Granada, b. 1911- 1998)

dlchica.jpgManuel de la Chica was a Granada maker who was born in 1911. Like many guitar makers, Manuel de la Chica began as a cabinet maker. He did this work until the late 1930s, when he decided to build guitars. Already familiar with tools, woods, and having studied a little about acoustics, without any apprenticeship, he began to copy the guitars of Santos Hernandez.  In time, however, he began to evolve his own designs. He felt that if you understand how sound travels, then you can improve a guitar’s volume and tone. His technique was  to study how sound waves travel through the guitar. He claimed that the secret to making a great guitar was to take maximum of the vibrations that begin at the bridge and stop at the height of the sound hole. Although he achieved fame as a guitar maker, as a luthier Manuel built not only classical and flamenco guitars, but  bandurrias, laúdes, bandurrins, laudins, laudons and guitar basses. Among his disciples are Antonio Lopez of Paris,  Francisco Manuel Diaz of Granada, and Pedro Maldonado of Malaga. Manuel de la Chica retired in 1973 due to poor health. He died in 1998. His instruments were played by Andrés Segovia, Celedonio Romero, Luis Sanchez, Manuel Cano and Sebastian Maroto.

José Contreras  (Granada active. c. 1730-1779)

José Contreras, nicknamed “El Granadino,” was born in Granada near the beginning of the eighteenth century. He appears to have done his apprenticeship in Italy building violins in the style of Guarneri. He also made guitars. Sometime around 1740 he moved to Madrid where he continued to work until his death in 1779.

Antonio Duran (Granada b. 1940 –  d. 2007).

duran_small.jpgAntonio Duran was born in Granada in 1940. He began working when he was ten, first in an insurance office, then in a pasta factory,  later as a wood worker. So it was that he started working in the Casa of Eduardo Ferrer, first as a maker of castanets, then as an apprentice learning the art of  guitar making. He eventually married one’s of Eduardo Ferrer’s daughters. In 1957, he suffered an unfortunate accident while working which cost him his right arm. In 1958, he opened his own workshop. For his classical guitars, he uses Ferrer’s system. His flamenco guitars, however, are built with a very different system. He builds more classical than flamenco guitars, primarily because there is greater demand for the former. A number of guitar makers have worked under him, including Juan Lopez Aguilarte, Antonio Velazques Reinosa, and Rafael Moreno Aguilar. The latter two continued their apprenticeships under Eduardo Ferrer. Agustin Carmona and his son also work in Antonio Duran’s shop. His son, Eduardo Duran Ferrer, has followed in his footsteps as a builder.

Benito Ferrer  (Granada, b. 1845-d. 1925)

ferrer96_small.jpgBenito Ferrer was born in 1845 in Orihuela, Alicante. Benito’s father was from Granada, and was an road engineer who had spent some time in that province.  Benito’s father died when he was very young, and the family returned to Granada. He was in the third year of medical school, and engaged to be married, when the family fell on hard times. His mother died in a cholera epidemic that swept through Granada, and he was left not only as the sole provider for his younger siblings, but without any visible means of support, and without a profession. Things looked very bleak. He was forced to quit school, break off his engagement, and find work.  He found work with a notary–but his wages were hardly sufficient to support himself, let alone his eight siblings. To earn extra cash, he played bandurria– which was his great love; and,  from time to time, he helped D. José Ortega build instruments. Without money to spend on a better bandurria, he decided to build a one for himself to play.  It turned out so well  that  he was soon flooded with orders, and so began his profession. Benito opened his workshop in 1875.  In  his workshop a host of luthiers learned their art as his apprentices– Nicolas Ortega, José Castaño, as well as his nephew Eduardo Ferrer. Although Benito Ferrer is perhaps best remember for giving Andrés Segovia a classical guitar at the difficult beginning of his career, seeing that the poor young lad hadn’t the money to buy it, and was spending his days practicing on instruments lent to him by friends; however, he is remembered by the family as a man of good humor, a prankster at times, but a saint who never married, and sacrificed his own happiness to raise his siblings. And, even after they married, he continued to help them, buying clothes, shoes, etc. for his nephews. He died in 1925. Photograph courtesy of Felix Manzanero

Eduardo Ferrer Castillo (Granada, b. 1905- d. 198?)

Eduardo Ferrer was born in 1905. When he was about ten or twelve years old he entered his uncle Benito Ferrer’s shop as an apprentice, he also attended seminar school for a time, thinking he might like to become a priest, but changed his mind. When his uncle died in 1925, Eduardo took over his shop. His life was one long adventure: from the time as an apprentice when he earned nothing, to the during the war when he sold a guitar for twenty pesetas– which seemed to be a fortune. As a luthier, his work followed closely that of his uncle. Although he tried various experiments, he kept returning to the tried and true traditional methods of Benito Ferrer and Antonio de Torres. It was his opinion that they had explored all there was to explore, and there was nothing new to invent. His importance as a luthier, however, also was as a teacher. Almost all of the guitar makers currently working in Granada either apprenticed with him or learned their art from those who did. His apprentices include José Castaño and Milan continue their studies with him after his uncle’s death; Juan López who died during the war, Miguel Robles, Manuel Fernández, Francisco Manuel Díaz, Manuel López, Antonio Marín, his own son José Ferrer, and many more. He also helped train classical guitar makers in Japan, he spent 3 months each year between 1966-1968 in Japan showing Yamaha workers how to build guitars.

José  Ferrer (Granada, b. 1926-d. 1976)

José Ferrer, the son of Eduardo Ferrer, was born in Granada in 1926. From the time he was a child, he was surrounded by guitar making– and cut his teeth in his father’s workshop. During the war and post war, he was forced to work at other things– business was bad. Few Spaniards had money, and a guitar was the last thing that would have occurred to them to spend what little they had. This being the case, José decided to move to Barcelona and make professional castanets. He stayed in Barcelona for seven years. And, while there he became acquainted with Enrique Sanfeliu, a disciple of the great luthier, Enrique Garcia who convinced José that he should return to guitar making. After leaving Barcelona, José moved to Palma de Mallorca, staying there ten years. In 1974, he returned to Granada, and set up shop. Unfortunately, only two years later, he died, July 1, 1976.

Antonio Llorente (Granada, active c. 1830s)

Antonio Llorente was a luthier in Granada in the early 19th century. He had his shop on calle de Solarillo de Santo Domingo, 7. He trained his son, Enrique Llorente, who took over his shop after his death.

Enrique Llorente (Granada, active 1860s-1900s).

Enrique Llorente, the son of Antonio Llorente, was a Granada maker, active during the latter have of the nineteenth century. His workshop was located on the calle de Solarillo de Santo Domingo, 7.

S. Malgareyo (Granada, active c. 1915).

S. Malgareyo was a guitar maker active in Granada circa 1915.

Bernandino Milan Suárez (Granada active c. 1890s-1940s)

1899BernandinoMilan.PNGBernandino Milan Suárez was a guitar maker who worked for the Casa Ferrer in Granada. He also built some guitars under his own name between 1899-1909 when he had a shop on calle Elvira. He seems then to have gone to work for Don Benito Ferrer,  as a master craftsman in his shop, and when Don Benito died in 1925, he continued working in the Casa Ferrer under Eduardo for many years. Late in life in he again established his own workshop, but died only two or three years afterwards without family.

Photo courtesy of Spanish Guitar Shop

Manuel Martinez de Milan (b. Canales, 1923-d. Granada 1957)

Manuel Martinez de Milan was born in 1923 in Canales. As a child in Canales, he worked as a shepherd. When he came to Granada, he apprenticed in the Casa Ramos as a cabinet maker. He then went to work in Tijola– and it was there he began to build musical instruments. From Tijola he went to Madrid, and there worked in a furniture factory until, with his compadre Miguel Robles, they established a workshop in El Rastro.  Around 1957, he suddenly abandoned his family, and went to France, and there in his forty’s he died.  After his death, Francisco Fernández who appears to have studied with him took over his shop.

José Ortega (Granada, active 1860s-1900s)

ortega90.jpgJosé Ortega was a Granada guitar maker active during the latter half of the 19th century. His workshop was located on Mesones, 4. He seems to have been Benito Ferrer’s teacher. 

Photograph courtesy of Felix Manzanero.

Nicolas Ortega Ruiz (Granada, b. 1861 d. ??)

Nicolas Ortega Ruiz, the son of José Ortega, was born in Granada in 1861. He worked with his father and brother, and later with Benito Ferrer.

José Pernas (Granada, active c. 1830s-1870s)

José Pernas was a Granada maker, and reputedly trained Antonio de Torres. Some doubt, however, exist as no documentation exists showing Torres was in Granada during the time he was supposedly studying with José Pernas.

Miguel Robles (Granada, b. 1902- d. 1970).

Miguel Robles was born in Granada in 1902.  When he was 14 or 15, he began wood work in the shop of Abelardo Linares. Already familiar with wood, when he was about 18 or 20 years old, he apprenticed with Benito Ferrer. In 1932, he went to Madrid and found work in the shop of José Ramirez II, and for 6 or 7 years worked there until they had a falling out. He worked for Santos Hernandez for a time as well. He then returned to Granada and established his own shop on calle de la Colcha. After the war, José Ramirez, realizing that Miguel Robles departure had been costly, went to Granada to beg him to return. A few years later, Miguel again returned to Granada, only to return to Madrid in mid-1950s to establish a shop with his compadre, Manuel Martinez de Milan, in the Rastro. After several years, Miguel again returned to Granada to establish a shop on the calle Elvira where he died in 1970. He built more flamenco than classical guitars. His instruments were played by Manuel Cano, Manuel Martin Liñan, and the Mexican trio Los Panchos. During his life he trained Manuel Martinez de Milan, Francisco Guardia, and Pedro Maldonado.

Nicolás and Antonio del Valle (Granada, active 1840-1860s)

Nicolás and Antonio del Valle, brothers, were guitar makers in Granada during  the middle of the nineteenth century, with a workshop on the calle Elvira, 54.

Rafael Vallejo  (Baza, active c. 1790)

Rafael Vallejo, a guitar maker from Baza, in the province of Granada. In 1792 he received a royal commission to build a guitar for King Carlos IV of Spain. This guitar is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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