Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Luthier Howard Klepper : Howard Klepper Guitars

About Howard Klepper and Howard Klepper Guitars from www.klepperguitars.com

Howard began working on guitars in 1968, by buying old guitars in pawn-shops and fixing them up. He moved to Berkeley in 1997, and worked with Larry Jameson and Mike Stevens at the original Guitar Resurrection shop. A few years later, Larry moved the shop to Austin, Texas, and Mike went to Texas too (who later became the first head of the Fender Custom Shop), so, Howard began his own repair shop.

Howard's first workshop was in the back of a music store. After about a year, he started his own store, buying and selling used instruments and doing repair work. A few years later, howard diverted his focus on repair work and guitar making, and subsequently reduced the retail business.

Howard made his first acoustic guitar (a Martin OOO style) in 1977. He says, "The 70's were a great time to be working on guitars in Berkeley. Among the many guitar people I met in those days were Jon Lundberg, Mario Martello, Richard Johnston, Steve Klein, Stewart Port, Ralph Novak, and Ervin Somogyi. Jon Lundberg ran one of the first and best shops specializing in vintage fretted instruments. He had a vast knowledge of old American instruments, and an unerring sense of how best to restore them, along with a certain debonaire pre-war style of his own. Mario Martello did most of the major repairs and restorations for Lundberg. He is the dean of guitar repairmen, now well into his 70's and still working, doing one perfect job after another. I met Richard Johnston when he, Mike Stevens and I went to buy some fixtures at a department store in San Francisco that had gone out of business. I got a couple of cast iron stands there that I still use to hold buffing machines. Richard moved around that time from Berkeley to Palo Alto, where he and Frank Ford had their store, Gryphon Guitars."

Apart from aforementioned guitar makers, Howard acknowledges Marc Silber and George Katechis Montalvo as prominent influences on his Lutheiry, whom he met in 1970 and 1973 respectively. Marc and howerd were roommates for a year or so, and shared a workshop space. They spent many hours discussing guitar design and repair back then, and still do. Upon accomplishing new model/design, Marc is the one Howard looks for, for review/critique/evaluation. Howard considers George to be an expert in all phases of tone production. George and Marc started the K&S Guitar Company and were among the first to bring high quality, affordable handmade guitars from Paracho, Mexico into the United States. K&S is gone now, but George continues to produce classical and flamenco guitars in Paracho under the Casa Montalvo label, and Hawaiian steel guitars under the Superior label.

Berkeley was teeming with guitar people in the 70's. By 1978, economic reality set in and Howard closed his shop and went back to teaching career for next 19 years, although, he put all his tools and materials in storage, as if he was going to need them in academia pondering upon law and philosophy. Well, he was right though. In 1997, Howard was teaching at Stanford, (on leave from his permanent faculty position in Chicago), happily renewing old friendships with his Berkeley buddies, which rejuvenated, shall we say, his will for fine woodworking. It seemed just the right time to howard to get back to doing fine craft, subsequently, he resigned from his academic job, returned to Berkeley, and rented a warehouse - which became his woodworking shop. For a few years, his focus was woodturning (and he did very well at this), but he had a hunch that he would come back to guitar making - sooner then later, and so he did around 2001. Since then, He has been a guitarmaker.

Howard says, "I found that there is enormous satisfaction in returning to an old passion, bringing to it greater experience and ability than one had originally. Thanks to the internet, I have many new guitar friends around the world. I meet with them daily to learn, and to share my knowledge. I have built classical, carved archtop, and electric solid body guitars, but most of my guitars are steel-string flattops. My designs are all original. I use contemporary materials and methods, while usually keeping a traditional overall look. I like to take risks and try new ideas. I am fortunate to be doing what I love."

Like top end guitar makers of now, instead of offering particular models, Howard offers to make guitars entirely as per the specification/style of the player/client.

Additional Links from Howard Klepper Guitars

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