Our Luthiers

Alister Atkin
After leaving the London School of Furniture in 1995 Alister Atkin headed back to Canterbury to start building acoustic guitars full time. With an invitation from Andy Crockett, Alister moved into his workshop. During the following years Alister worked hard on producing a range of acoustic guitars and searched for players to indorse the Atkin brand. In 1998 whilst visiting Shamus Brady at the Acoustic Centre in Wapping, Alister came across his first Collings Guitar. ” At that point I saw a build quality I thought wasn’t possible. I had to go home and rethink the direction I was heading in.” After a period of re-design, research and development, Alister launched a range of six acoustic guitars, influenced by classic vintage styles and incorporating contemporary construction techniques. In 1999 singer songwriter Boo Hewerdine placed an order for a standard OM model while writing with Chrysalis stable mate Andy Mitchell, already an Atkin player. From then on the list of high profile players began to take shape. Throughout this time Atkin Guitars continued to receive top reviews in the music press, including a 5 star buyers Choice award from Guitarist Magazine and a Guitar Magazine award in 2003. In 2005 the ‘Lakesview’ workshop was purchased, and by late 2006 Atkin Guitars had moved into the new 2000 square foot facility. Now for the first time ever Atkin Guitars are available in the shops. The Range of eight guitars are available in Standard and Deluxe models, offering players a good opportunity to find an instrument that suits them.

Alister’s guitar for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation is going to: Sharleen Spiteri (“Maybe Baby”)

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Mick Johnson

Mick grew up obsessed with The Shadows, The Beatles and particularly Fiesta Red Stratocasters.

That inspirational 1959 Fender Stratocaster now belongs to Bruce Welch, and Mick looks after it – nursing it through its old age. In 2009 Mick was commissioned by Fender USA to design and profile the neck for their Bruce Welch CRS 50th Anniversary Custom Shop guitar, a copy of said ’59 Strat which was originally bought by Cliff Richard for Hank Marvin (The Shadows).

Mick has been involved with the Buddy Holly Foundation in the recreation of Buddy’s famous ‘leather-clad’ 1942 Gibson J-45. The first of this series, named ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ was presented by Graham Nash to former Hollies vocalist Allan Clarke at The Royal Albert Hall on 8th October 2011. The guitars are made of spruce and mahogany construction.

Mick’s guitars for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation are going to: Allan Clarke (“Peggy Sue Got Married”), Mike Berry (“Tell Me How”) and Marty Wilde (“It Doesn’t Matter Any More”)

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Tony Klassen

I had this dream for many years, building guitars in the Larson tradition, but where would I start? My background in woodworking and Graphic Design might certainly give me the edge needed, but what an undertaking. My passion for guitars would soon unlock this door.”

For many years, since the acquisition of my first Euphonon, I’ve questioned why there were not more instruments being built using such innovative construction techniques as the Larson Brothers. Possibly the Larson creations were just a little ahead of their time. With small production totals compared to the big makers, just not enough instrument to fall readily into hands of players, and collectors. I had this dream for many years, building guitars in the Larson tradition, but where would I start? One of my first customers was Dave Portman. Dave owns a few of the first handmade guitars I produced. Dave has become a friend over the years, and has helped very much in the early part on my business. Dave not only has allowed me access to his collection for drawings and measurements, but also created the name of my business. New Era Guitars. Dave’s knowledge and collection have been great inspiration.

I am now fulfilling that 20+ year dream. I have had a great response form my customers, and my build list is continually growing. It’s a tough market to crack, and a long slow journey ahead, but the craft, and rewards are endless.

Tony’s guitar for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation is going to: Peter Townshed (“It’s So Easy”)

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Daniel Roberts

Here is a luthier with a pedigree! Dan was always interested in Music and Art from an early age and worked with his grandfather in his wood shop from an early age. After studying Fine Arts at Montana State University, Dan accepted a position with Flatiron Banjo and Mandolin Company building banjos. By then Gibson had purchased Flatiron and soon they decided to build a new acoustic guitar factory right there in Bozeman Montana and begin building acoustic guitars again. It didn’t take long for Dan to be offered positions running the shaper room, then the neck line and finally to be Rear Plant manager responsible for everything from resaw to delivering completed white wood guitars to the finish department.

After some time at Gibson, Dan realized that his real interest was building custom guitars and so sometime around 1990 he accepted a position as production manager with the Santa Cruz Guitar Company. SCGC was small enough that Dan would be able to work building guitars, build the few SCGC archtops being built, do some of the repair, and do design and tooling as well as his management duties so it was a perfect fit. Dan worked with owner Richard Hoover and SCGC for almost 18 years, working with the likes of Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, David Crosby, Janis Ian, Tony Rice, Norman Blake and many more before leaving in 2008, after 25 years in the industry, to start his own Company, Daniel Roberts Stringworks.

Dan custom designs and builds a diverse range of instruments from specialty instruments like the 16 and 17 string Contraguitars he has built for modern composer and artist Kevin Kastning, to traditional vintage inspired Martin and Gibson style instruments and designs of his own including the flattop guitar style octave mandolins which are becoming very popular!

Daniel’s guitars for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation are going to: Dave Stewart (“It’s Raining In My Heart”), Brian May (“Moondreams”), John Jorgenson (“Well Alright”), Brent Mason (“Midnight Shift”), Waddy Wachtel (“Words of Love”), Dan’s sixth guitar commission will be for James Burton.

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Howard Klepper

Howard Klepper began repairing and customizing guitars as an aspiring young musician 45 years ago. In the 1970’s he had a guitar shop in Berkeley, California. Among those for whom he did repairs and custom work were Elvin Bishop, Nick Gravenites, and Jonathan Richman. He built his first acoustic guitar in 1977.

Howard then took a 20-year break from guitars to pursue careers in law and philosophy. He decided to return to working with his hands in 1997, after holding academic positions at institutions that included Harvard and Stanford Universities. He opened a woodworking shop in Berkeley, where he both built guitars and turned wooden vessels. His woodturnings have been in several galleries and national juried shows. His guitars have been displayed in curated museum shows around the United States.

In 2007, Howard moved to the wine country of Sonoma, California where he built his dream shop for lutherie. He works there as a solo builder, making one guitar at a time. He mainly builds steel-string flattop guitars, but also makes archtops, classicals, and solid-body electrics. Most of his guitars have been original designs, but Howard is also known for restorations and reproductions of vintage Martin and Gibson guitars.

When TBHEF contacted him in 2011 about building replicas of Buddy Holly’s 1943 Gibson J-45, Howard felt honored to have the opportunity to further the dreams of one of his earliest musical heroes. He built the matching pair of “Not Fade Away” guitars that went to TBHEF Ambassadors Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.

For More Information: http://www.klepperguitars.com

Dale Johnson