The history of Rodríguez guitars is as rich as the wood from which they are crafted. Manuel Rodríguez — grandson of flamenco guitarist Manuel Rodriguez Perez Marequi and son of classical luthier Manuel Rodríguez Perez — learned the art of constructing a guitar firsthand. His apprenticeship began at the age of 13 in Madrid, where he also began exporting his finely crafted instruments to France, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Fast forward to 1959, Manuel Sr. opened a shop Los Angeles, making classical guitars for a myriad of professional players, teachers, students, and even the Hollywood elite. He and his son moved back to Madrid in 1973 where Rodríguez guitars have been designed and built ever since. His son, Manuel Jr, continues on with the family tradition of crafting exquisite instruments with the fire and passion he learned from his heritage. Using only the finest tonewoods and expert craftsmanship, Manuel Rodríguez develops distinctive guitars fit for the world’s preeminent artists. Each instrument is as unique and individual as the musicians who play them. Embodying the skills he learned as an apprentice to the master luthiers of Spain, Manuel Jr. ensures each guitar is a work of art to be treasured for generations. “If that which cannot be repeated is art, then our guitars are also an artistic instrument. It is even more so when each artist constructs his guitar by creating exclusive ornamentation, using precious and unique woods, creating a mosaic, which distinguishes this soundhole from all the other soundholes. It is like a feather; a purfling that will never be repeated as far as color, thickness and taste are concern. We are therefore talking about an art piece that has a life of its own, produces elegant sound, and provides the guitarist with their own one-of-a-kind instrument to express their musical skill and harmonic knowledge. It is held in the hands and close to the body; it is an art piece of precious natural materials built to the luthier’s taste and woodworking skills; it is your trade, personality, and dignity in doing a good job.” — Manuel Rodríguez Jr.
The Rodríguez Family
The career of Manuel Rodríguez Pérez as a professional guitar-maker started back in 1905 when he was just 18 years old. He was an apprentice in Agustín de Andrés’ workshop. At that time, Julián Gómez Ramírez (who would later become the first skilled worker of José Ramírez guitars) worked there as well. Manuel Rodríguez Pérez then worked at Julián Gómez’s workshop and remained there until 1914 when World War I broke out. After Manuel’s return to Spain in 1914, he joined the workshop of José Ramírez I. After leaving the shop in 1930, Manuel went on to work with other famed luthiers (Santos Borreguero, Saturnino Rojas) and also handcrafted his own instruments on a special order basis.
Move to Madrid & Manuel Rodríguez II
In 1939, the Rodríguez family returned to Madrid. Soon after, Ramírez II called Marcelo and Manuel Rodríguez I to resume the activities in the Ramírez workshop. The workshop included a young Manuel Rodríguez II — who was just 13 years old at the time — as an apprentice. Manuel Rodríguez II undertook the task of handcrafting the inner parts of bandurrias, lutes and guitars, manufacturing sticks and bracings and also carrying out bel labrado (carving). On March 4th, 1954, shortly after joining the Ramirez workshop, Manuel Rodríguez II installed a workbench in his own house. He used it to fix instruments belonging to some of his amateur musician friends. This enabled him to manufacture his first guitars, bandurrias and lutes. He also produced a great amount of capos for the then popular flamenco musicians. The first guitar signed and labeled by Manuel Rodríguez II was a flamenco guitar. This was an evolution that made Manuel Rodríguez II’s name more widely known than his father’s – who only manufactured instruments for workshops and never signed any of them. In 1955, Manuel Rodríguez II set up his own workshop. During the following few years he exported guitars to France, United Kingdom and the USA. In June 1959, thanks to the support of a few UCLA professors, Manuel moved to Los Angeles. Manuel Rodríguez I passed away in 1958, having had the satisfaction of seeing his son firmly established in the trade. Many professional players, teachers and students visited his Hollywood shop from the summer of 1959 through the early ‘70s, when Manuel returned to Madrid.
1973 was the beginning of a new phase for Rodríguez guitars. Manuel Rodríguez Jr. decided to go beyond displaying and selling their guitars in their own workshop. He travelled and worked in London, visiting nearly every guitar expert, shop and school. Shortly thereafter, articles extolling the virtues of Rodriguez’ finely crafted instruments started appearing in international magazines, such as “Classic Guitar” and “Magazine Guitar International”. In 1994, Rodríguez founded their own guitar factory on the outskirts of Esquivias, in the province of Toledo, Spain, not far from Madrid. This is still a family-run company in which each member of the family plays an important role. In the late early 2000s, Manuel Jr noticed the trend in the market of moving production to make guitars more affordable: in an effort to keep his products competitive while maintaining the long-standing quality tradition of the Rodriguez name, he began a multi-year process of identifying a potential partner factory in Asia. Under the expert tutelage of Manuel Jr, this new factory partner has learned the exacting techniques pioneered and carried down by the Rodriguez family, and combined them with larger-scale production, allowing for lower-priced options while maintaining the expert build quality and superior sound that has become synonymous with the Rodriguez name. Of course, the facility in Spain still produces a largest portion of Rodriguez’ production, and continues the Rodriguez legacy. Over 100 years of knowledge, history, and passion find its way into each and every Rodriguez guitar.