Posted on

In Memoriam: Ted Beringer

In Memoriam: Ted Beringer

August 31, 1921–September 2, 2006

by GAL Staff, and Bruce Harvie

Originally published in American Lutherie #88, 2006

All of us at the Guild office were saddened to hear of the passing of Ted Beringer. Ted was a loyal Guild member for the past twenty-eight years and attended and exhibited at many conventions with his dear wife Pete. His obituary in the Billings Gazette states, “His passion was instrument building. He started with various designs for guitars in the early 1950s and continued exploring until his final days. All of his instruments were innovative, beautiful, and one of a kind. His favorite answer when asked if he would build a guitar for someone was that he built every one of them to suit himself. If he didn’t want you to have one, there wasn’t enough money in the world to buy one; if he thought you were suited to a particular instrument, he would make it easy for you to obtain it. In spite of that philosophy, or perhaps because of it, examples of his art can be found in deserving hands worldwide.”

Ted Kellison of Billings wrote in Ted’s obituary guest book, “I always thought that Ted was cut from the same cloth as Leo Fender and Les Paul. The most endearing thing about Ted, though, was that he was driven in his art strictly by the love and the amazing passion that sustained him through it all. He didn’t build guitars because he wanted to be famous nor to get rich. He’d have built with the same zeal if he’d never sold a single guitar! He fearlessly defied tradition and was the first to laugh at his failures (though they were few), but he lit up like a kid on Christmas morning when he listened to someone play one of his successes!”

— GAL Staff

Photo courtesy of Bruce Harvie.

It is with great sadness that I pass on the news of the death of my old friend Ted Beringer of Billings, Montana.

Ted built his first guitar in 1951 (!) after seeing a few Fenders roll through Billings, which was a hot-spot for bands touring across the country back in the day.

He was a very prolific builder, although when I asked him how many instruments he figured he had made, he didn’t have a clue. It was certainly well into the hundreds. He built solidbody electrics, archtops, archtop basses, flattops, classicals, archtop classicals (!), as well as 4-, 5-, and 8-string mandolins. He also built some instruments that might be unique, namely a nylon-string mandola with a trapezoid body shape and an octave 12-string the size of a mandolin. Both very useful tools indeed.

His stories were classics. He liked to tell the story about when Waylon Jennings stopped by the house to look at a guitar, and sang “Good Hearted Woman” saying “this one’s a hit....”

Ted’s true love (besides his wonderful wife Pete) was building guitars, but he earned his living as an electrician. He designed and wound his own pickups back in the day when you couldn’t buy a pickup. He also built and repaired amplifiers, and told me a great story of the day that Homer and Jethro stopped by with a broken amp that needed fixing. Ted’s shop looks the same today as it probably did in the ’50s, so it wasn’t hard to imagine Homer and Jethro hanging out with Ted. Now there would be a funny trio.

Rest in peace, Ted. Yours was a life well lived.

— Bruce Harvie