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In Memoriam: Chris Herbert

Chris Herbert

Nov. 22, 1955 - May 30, 2022

by The Herbert Family

Published online by Guild of American Luthiers, July, 2023


Chris Herbert was probably Denver’s premier guitar repairman. He moved to Denver in 1980 from Columbus, Ohio, with excellent woodworking skills and a love of music. He was mentored at the now defunct Feretta’s Guitar Store where he learned his craft and began his career. He took to it very quickly and became the go-to luthier for almost every guitarist who played vintage instruments in Colorado. He worked on guitars for countless Colorado musicians, including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Hot Rize, The Nacho Men, The Mother Folkers and many, many others. When touring musicians came to town, he was always the one they called — Jewel, Mason Williams, Andy Gibb, Duke Robillard, the Subdudes. When Mason Williams asked how much he owed, Chris said, “Just play me Classical Gas!” That was Chris.

All photos courtesy of the Herbert Family except as noted.

He worked mainly on S. Broadway, but in his later years, preferred to work out of his home. He built a few custom instruments in the early days, and his second custom guitar is now owned by Nick Beier of San Diego. He also collected Golden Era Martin and Gibson guitars which are now worth a fortune; many of these went into his friends’ collections. His favorite guitar was the Blackguard Telecaster.

Everyone who knew Chris commented on his love of old instruments and the care that went into fixing their myriad problems that developed over the years. He was a perfectionist and it showed. For years, he was a certified Martin repair person and had an excellent relationship with Martin and their longtime employee and historian David Musselwhite.

Chris called himself a humanist and felt a strong sense of compassion for displaced and oppressed people. He cherished his abundant friendships with local and nationally recognized musicians, good buddies, and neighbors, and his close ties to his siblings.

Chris was a fan of other builders, including Denny Stevens. Denny also lived in Colorado, but tragically developed ALS and passed away in 2009. Chris owned a 1973 Denny Stevens guitar, which was the last guitar in Chris’ estate. The Herbert Family kindly donated it to the Guild of American Luthiers, in memory of master luthier Chris Herbert. It was sold in the Guild’s Benefit Auction in July 2023, the proceeds of which go to further the Guild’s mission of information sharing among luthiers like Chris. —

At the 2023 GAL Convention Benefit Auction. Photo by Steve McElrath.