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In Memoriam: Felix Manzanero

In Memoriam: Felix Manzanero

July 27, 1937 – August 18, 2019

by Ronald Luis Fernández

Originally published in American Lutherie #139, 2020


By 1966, my father, John Fernández, was importing guitars from Félix Manzanero Cabrera. He sold most of them through Seiko Sesoko in Anaheim. Some of these were bought by Laurindo Almeida and Manitas de Plata.

I got to know Félix in 1967 when I attended summer school at the Universidad de Madrid. His shop was the first working shop I had seen, and I was amazed. We became friends and occasionally stayed out late, visiting strange eateries or playing tangos on his laud and my guitar in local mesons (traditional taverns). Among my memories in his shop was meeting Sabicas when he returned to Spain after a thirty-year absence, and playing farrucas with his brother, Diego.

Photo courtesy of Iván Manzanero

Félix was born in 1937 in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. His father was a musician. At age fourteen he apprenticed at the shop of José Ramírez II, where he spent twelve years. He made over a thousand guitars there, and those guitars are identified by his initials stamped inside. I once repaired a “Ramírez” flamenco owned by Neil Diamond identified by that stamp. Of significance is the fact that Félix was making guitars under José Ramírez III, during the time that the modern 1a classical, which Andrés Segovia eventually embraced, was evolving.

In 1964, Félix opened a store at 12 Calle Santa Ana in the La Latina section of Madrid. There he built Madrid-school guitars from old wood and taught his two sons to do the same. He also built experimental instruments such as an elliptical guitar, one without braces, several with soundboards of both cedar and spruce, and a laud with twelve sympathetic strings. He developed a method for testing soundboards before permanently affixing them to the body.

Over the decades of his career he acquired over a hundred old instruments dating back to the 18th century. This collection is presently available for viewing on the web at:

In 1985 he was invited by the Mexican Government to present a course on Spanish guitar construction in Paracho, Michoacán. This was an important opportunity for Mexican makers. German Vazquez Rubio in Los Angeles, California, told me he attended that course.

My friend Félix was fun to be with; warm, friendly, and open. He loved his wife and family. He liked to travel. He drove all over Spain. He came to visit California a few times and hand-carried an unvarnished flamenco to me. He went to Cuba and Egypt with his wife. I would refer people to see him in Madrid, and he would take them to his local bar-restaurant across the street and treat them royally.

Félix had a thick Madrid accent. His family had been in Madrid for many generations. Félix had a brother Pedro who had worked at the Ramírez shop and apparently did repairs, but I never met him.

He is survived by his charming wife Soledad and his sons, Félix Jr. and Iván. Iván makes guitars, preserves the collection, and runs the business in the original shop.

Oh, yes, before I forget: comedies and ham. Félix loved Spanish dried ham. In his Madrid flat he had a full leg of Patas Negras (the best Spanish ham) on a special holding device for easy access. And in his living room he had small statues of the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy.

Adios, Félix.