4 Great American Luthiers

Fat bottomed girls might make the rockin' world go 'round (thanks, Queen), but America's fabulous electric guitar luthiers make rockin' American music go 'round. Here's a look at some of the finest, past and present.

Rick Kelly, Carmine Street Guitars, New York

Kelly counts among his clients G.E. Smith (Hall & Oates, Saturday Night Live), Allen Woody (Allman Brothers, Government Mule) and Lou Reed (The Velvet Underground) and the reasons are too http://www.kellyguitars.com/many to list. His latest claims to fame are guitars made from reclaimed New York City lumber, or "The Bones of Old New York City." Add one to your wish list here or let him build you a custom!

Cool shot of the Gretsch Round Up-inspired #Kellecaster from a few years ago. @cindyguitars did the #pyrography #western #custompickguard #customguitar #electricguitar #guitarsofinstagram #guitarspotter #instaguitar #dailyguitar #rickkellyguitars #handmade #whatsonyourbench #luthiery #bowerypine #reclaimedlumber #guitarmaker

153 Likes, 8 Comments - Rick Kelly (@carminestreetguitars) on Instagram: "Cool shot of the Gretsch Round Up-inspired #Kellecaster from a few years ago. @cindyguitars did the..."


Don Grosh, Grosh Guitars, Broomfield, CO

Grosh got his start working for famed Los Angeles guitar shop Valley Arts when it was still a small operation. Dropping by in search of an edge back then were guitarists like Larry Carlton (Steely Dan), Steve Lukather (Toto) and Vince Gill. Today Grosh counts Steve Miller and Mark Knopfler among his long list of clients. Check 'em out here.

Mary Kay sea foam green Retro Classic VT shipping to Japan. #groshguitars #rcvt #seafoamgreen #marykay #bestguitars

133 Likes, 17 Comments - Grosh Guitars (@groshguitars) on Instagram: "Mary Kay sea foam green Retro Classic VT shipping to Japan. #groshguitars #rcvt #seafoamgreen..."


James Tyler, James Tyler Guitars, San Fernando, CA

It was 1964 and the Beatles were taking America by storm. Tyler, just past the seventh grade, heard "Can't Buy Me Love" and fell in love. His parents soon bought him a Fender Duo-Sonic guitar as his first; the rest is history. Elvis Costello, John Fogerty, Kenny Loggins, Prince – they've all owned guitars made by this famous stringsmith. But there are so many more.  See for yourself here.

My James Tyler #guitar #jamestylerguitars #woodguitars

37 Likes, 4 Comments - Veki Fischer (@veki_fischer4861) on Instagram: "My James Tyler #guitar #jamestylerguitars #woodguitars"

Orville Gibson, Leo Fender and Les Paul, Rock'n' Roll Heaven

No great American luthier list is complete without these guys. Collectively, let's just call 'em the baddest of the world's most badass guitar makers. Gibson came first – like 1800's first – with the creation of a totally new mandolin and guitar, despite having no formal training. Lester William Polsfuss, a.k.a Les Paul, was next to revolutionize the guitar world, which he did with "The Log" in 1940. Litterally a 4x4 piece of wood with strings and a pickup, the contraption is considered to be one of the first solid-body electric guitars. The now-famous Gibson Les Paul debuted in 1952. Finally, and since full names are fun, Clarence Leonidas Fender, or "Leo," founded Fender in 1965. Arguably more inventor/manufacturer than luthier, his company's guitars are more than enough to bestow honorary luthier status. The Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster might be the most well-known and widely used guitars on the planet. Watch Eric Clapton's Guitar Center tribute to "Brownie," his very first Strat below.

The Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster : Presented By Guitar Center

Eric Clapton shares his story about "Brownie" or best known as the "Layla Stratocaster"- the first Stratocaster ever owned by Clapton. In collaboration with Eric Clapton, Guitar Center and EMP, the Fender Custom Shop has mastered a replica of Brownie, using references from the original guitar.


Russ Penuell lives in Nashville with his girlfriend, three dogs and a lot of music.