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In Memoriam: L.M. “Buzz” Vineyard

In Memoriam: L.M. “Buzz” Vineyard

1950 — 2021

by Rick Rubin and Michael Elwell

Originally published in American Lutherie #145, 2022


I met Buzz sometime in the later 1980s, having first met him indirectly through his instruments while doing setups and other repairs for customers in the Spokane area who owned his work. Buzz was a unique character, as many of us in this craft can be, with an ingratiating and expressive way of communicating, usually with a hand-rolled cigarette dangling from his lips, and a very idiosyncratic approach to instrument making. His models varied from parlor to jumbo sized, flat tops, carved tops, carved tops with flat backs, mandolins, and mandolas. Some of them were stunning, all were interesting.

My bandmate Don Thomsen who knew Buzz much better than I has this to say. “I guess my favorite times with Buzz were when he would call me over to check out the latest instrument he’d finished. We would admire it and carefully play the first few tunes. He was a terrible businessman, so I helped him find homes for at least a dozen of them. My sons all own Vineyards.”

He did all of that while living on the edge of squalor. He’d had a nice clean home until a fire damaged it badly. But his workshop was different; his focus and love were inside those shop walls. Many of us would donate materials to him so he could keep building instruments.

All the cigarettes and other environmental exposures caught up with him and he received a diagnosis of COPD. The last few years were hard. Spokane has lost a colorful character and fine craftsman.

— Rick Rubin

Buzz Vineyard at the 1980 GAL Convention in San Francisco. Photo by Dale Korsmo.

I live in Idaho an hour or so from Spokane, Washington, where Buzz Vinyard lived. We spent some fun time together on a trip to a GAL Convention and would cross paths at luthier-group meetings in Spokane. Occasionally we would visit each other at our home/shops.

Buzz was colorful and charismatic and I enjoyed his company. Getting to know him and sharing a love of lutherie, I found him to be intelligent, curious, and creative. His work showed his own artistic flair.

Buzz accumulated a lifetime’s knowledge of, and appreciation for, wood. Once he gave me some western red cedar that he had obtained decades ago in the county where I live. He wanted to share with me the unique and pleasant fragrance of this particular tree.

He is missed. May he rest in peace.

— Michael Elwell