Biographies of Historic Spanish Guitar Makers
These biographies of Spanish guitar makers of the past are works in progress. If you have additional materials, information, sources, photographs classical or flamenco guitars that you would like to contribute, or corrections you wish to share, please contact me.
Santos Hernandez, Segovia, and La Inédita
Certain classical guitars are legendary. While visiting Marcelino Lopez Nieto in March of 1999, one such guitar, La Inédita, built by Santos Hernandez came up. I found this story so delightful--partly because I already knew pieces of it--that I would like to share it. The pieces that I knew begin with the equally famous guitar given to Andrés Segovia in 1912 by Manuel Ramirez. As Segovia relates this story, he was just barely 18 when he went into the Ramirez shop and introduced himself.
I'm Andrés Segovia, I'm a guitarist, and mutual friends in Cordoba recommended you to me. I've come to Madrid a few days ago to give a concert, but the guitar I have, Sr. Ramirez, doesn't respond to what I demand of it, I would like you to provide me with the best instrument you currently have. I can't afford to buy such an instrument but I would be willing to rent it just as music stores rent concert pianos, and can make a good deposit. Moreover, if the guitar serves me well, and I like it, I will propose that you sell it to me.
Somewhat taken back by the proposition, Sr. Ramirez responded:
Gee! Your proposal isn't a bad one, but until today no one has ever made quite such a proposal to me. Nevertheless, it's logical. If they rent pianos Eral, Pleyel, etc. to play concerts, why shouldn't one be able to rent a Ramirez guitar?
Turning to Santos Hernandez, who at the time worked for Manuel,
Do me the favor of getting the guitar we made for Manjón.
As Santos carried out the order, Sr. Ramirez explained, a blind musician had asked him to build this guitar, but when he came to pick it up, and after playing arpeggios and more arpeggios, he began to criticize the guitar that it lacked volume and sustain; that some notes were duller than others; that the frets were uneven-- trying with such criticism to beat down its price. As he continued, I became more and more incensed, and yelled at him--
You think that by running down the merits of my work-- of our work, because my officials collaborated in its construction-- that I will feel ashamed and sell it to you for a pittance. I have my pride, and would prefer to lock it in its case forever than to sell it to you!
Segovia began to play the guitar, and to make a long story short, Ramirez upon hearing him, gave it to him as a gift. The 1912 Ramirez, which Segovia used for the next 25 years of his career, although it carries the Manuel Ramirez label, is generally acknowledged to have been primarily the work of Santos Hernandez.
Manuel Ramirez died in 1916, nevertheless Santos Hernandez continued to work for his widow until 1921. So, in 1922 when Segovia brought this guitar to Sr. Hernandez for repair, Santos suggested that as he had made the guitar, he should be allowed to replace the Ramirez label with his own. Segovia refused, but did suggest that he could place his label inside the guitar, with the inscription repaired by Santos Hernandez, which is what Santos latter did. In the mid-1930s, Santos offered to build a guitar for Segovia. In 1935, during a visit to Madrid, Segovia invited Santos to come and see a new instrument, that a copyist in Switzerland had just made for him. Not only was it an exact copy of the 1912 Hernandez/Ramirez but, as Segovia waxed lyrical over its virtues, Santos grew increasingly insulted at Segovia's lack of interest in the classical guitar he was building for him, and decided not to show him the instrument. He kept the guitar, and referred to it thereafter as La Inédita, the unpublished guitar.
At this point, Marcelino's story picks up. Santos was very secretive about this guitar, and refused to show it to anyone. La Inédita remained in Santos possession until his death in 1943. In the 1940s, Marcelino began studying classical guitar with Daniel Fortea. As he could not afford a fine instrument, he decided he would build his own, and began to frequent the Hernandez shop, then being run by his widow and his nephew, Feliciano Bayon. As his friendship with them flowered, he was given the great privilege of being allowed to play La Inédita, with the understanding that he would stop and put it away when anyone came into the shop. Following the death of Hernandez's widow, the guitar was inherited by Feliciano Bayon. One day, however, in 1973 or 1974, Carman Amaya's husband brought a Mexican man came into the shop. He had heard of La Inédita and wanted to buy it. Feliciano told him it was not for sale. The man insisted that they should talk about it over dinner. At a posh restaurant, after dinner and drinks, the Mexican turned to Feliciano, and said here's a blank check, fill in a number. Not wanting to sell it, Feliciano thought to ask for an what to him seemed an astronomical sum, a million pesetas. The Mexican nodded and said, fine, and signed the check.
Thus it was, Marcelino concluded his story, that La Inédita was sold to a collector from Mexico.