There are many luthiers around the world, but Arturo Valdez is known around the world as the “guitar repairman to the stars.” With his shop located on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, California, Arturo has worked on thousands of guitars, many legendary in the history of rock and roll. He opened his shop in the early 1960s and soon had customers such as John Lennon, Eric Clapton and John Denver.
Over the years Arturo also created his own brand of guitars and became a sought-after luthier as well. Beginning in the 1980s he designed his one line of classical and Flamenco guitars, which have been sold around the world. He is also known for his D'Angelico Replicas.
An 2012 article written by Avishay Artsy traces back the story of how Arturo became the Luthier to the stars. It begins in 1965 when Arturo was working for the city as a bus driver. While driving he would think about opening his own guitar shop. Arturo figured he could give lessons during the day and keep his job to make ends meet. He also wanted to learn how to build guitars. So to teach himself he decided to buy a Ramirez from Spain, the best flamenco guitar maker in the world. His plan was to take the guitar apart and study it piece by piece to learn how it was made. So he went to the bank and withdrew every penny he had and told the teller he wanted to send the money to Spain.
“The guy at the bank said to me, ‘it’s like you are getting a pig in the poke,’ that crazy guy, and he says, ‘okay, when the guitar comes back I want to see it,’” Arturo recalled. Dutifully, Arturo brought the guitar in to show the teller. Then he told the teller he was going to disassemble the instrument. The teller thought he was crazy. Arturo smiled and walked out of the bank with his Ramirez.
Arturo wasn’t making enough money giving lessons to quit the bus route but everything started to change one day when a guy wandered into his shop with a broken guitar. “When this person brought me a guitar for me to fix I didn’t know how to repair. I didn’t know anything,” Arturo said. So he told a bit of a lie. He said, “sure, I can fix that,” and he took the guitar.
“At that time, I said, I have to learn how to work on guitars,” Arturo said. And he did. Within a few weeks Arturo figured it out and he successfully landed his very first customer. Who happened to be Robbie Krieger from the Doors.
“He’s a really great craftsman,” Krieger said. “Maybe he wasn’t yet at the time, but I’ve seen a lot of stuff he’s done and he’s as good as any guitar maker. I’ve been back there a hundred times and it’s always looked the same. The place hasn’t changed.”
Once word got around about Arturo’s talent he had a steady stream of work from musicians all over the world and he’s still at it.
Sadly Arturo passed away, but his work is still remembered and our collections hosts some of his electrical guitars built in the 1970’s.
This Les Paul inspired guitar is simply awesome and each detail of the guitar is a feast for the eyes, bridge incorporated into the wood top, tuners inlaid in the head, scroll, plexiglass cover to reveal the electronics, … All those details make this guitar exceptional and show the craftsmanship of Arturo. Not bad for a bus driver!