By Jacques-Andre’ Dupont
In this world of musicians jumping from a brand to another for a yes or a no, there are not many longer lasting «guitar couples» than the Manzer/Metheny one. For over 27 years, Manzer has been Pat Metheny’s guitar creator. He has challenged her to create guitars that would enable him to create music that was not possible otherwise. For sure not many guitar builders would have been able to answer Metheny’s need by creating the now world renowned Pikasso guitar bearing 42 strings! Metheny owns many of Linda guitars. But now they are taking it up a notch! They have joined their creativity to present us a limited edition Metheny-Manzer Signature 6, based on the first «Linda 6» guitar commissioned by Pat to Linda in 1982.
Linda Manzer, affectionately called by many of her friends: “The Queen”, has been making some of the most inspiring guitars for over 30 years. She is a master at crafting amazing arch top guitars as well as flat top acoustic guitars. A Jean Larrivée pupil in the 70’s, she also worked with the late Jimmy D’Aquisto. She has made guitars for Carlos Santana, Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot, Liona Boyd Milton Nascimento, and many other well known musicians. Her footprint in the guitar making world is deep enough that the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau Quebec) has one of her guitars in its permanent collection. The instrument is a custom version of the Manzer Au Naturel Archtop called the “Endangered Species Model” (http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/arts/opus/opus250e.shtml#Opus19). Her guitars were also displayed at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC), and the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston Mass) http://www.themomi.org/museum/mfa/electric_guitars/1993_Manzer_Pikasso.html.
CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON TO SEE IMAGES OF LINDA MAKING A GUITAR
I had the great pleasure of meeting Linda on several occasions through my involvement with the Montreal Guitar Show, and she is one of the nicest people I have met. She is funny, warm and breathes intelligence. When I heard that she was releasing her new Manzer-Metheny special edition model, I had to learn more about it. The following is the results of an interview we conducted over several weeks through the magic of the internet.
J-A: Linda, you have been Pat Metheny’s luthier for a very long time. Can you remind us how and when you got to work with him in the first place?
Linda: I had been a huge fan of Pat’s since I heard him playing live with Joni Mitchell. He played a solo on the song Hejera and it felt like my life shifted. I remember the exact moment clearly. Little did I know what was in my future! I followed his music with dedication after that – played his records (yes records) while I worked building guitars for the next few years. I took off to travel around the world in 1981 and saw him play in Japan for the first time with his own band (That is a whole long funny story). I didn’t meet him at that time.
He played in Toronto in July, 1982 and I was determined to at least tell him how much I loved his music. After that concert I managed to arrange a brief meeting afterwards – I went back stage, we met and I eventually showed him 2 guitars and he asked me to make him one. I was ecstatic, needless to say. I made him the first guitar within a few months and delivered it in Syracuse, NY. Shortly after, he offered to endorse my guitars and that was the beginning of a long and incredible journey for us.
J-A: You speak about your journey with Pat. It is very rare that we see such a long partnership between a luthier and a guitar player. We often see players going from a brand to another… Why do you think this marriage is still alive after 26 years?
Linda: I think the reason Pat and I have had such a great partnership is because we are both deeply passionate about what we do and appreciate that we can make our way through life doing what we totally love. How cool is that? So, there is a real connection and affection. Pat has this wonderful way of bringing out the best in people creatively. Anything is possible with him. He has this great “Why not” attitude. And I LOVE his music. I listen to it all the time when I work. So, for me working with him, for him, is total joy.
I also love trying to keep up with what he wants me to try acoustically. Sometimes it’s an acoustic problem we are trying to solve or a new sound he is looking for. He gives me suggestions, ideas about what he wants. Sometimes it’s very minimal, sometimes more detailed. I vanish for a while and then show up a few months later at a show with a guitar I have created for him. I figure my job is to make something that excites him and moves him. I try my best and he appreciates that. He always reacts positively with that wonderful smile of his. That’s the first reward. The second one is watching and listening to what he does with it. I am always blown away.
J-A: Can you tell us the story about the original Manzer 6 on which you based this new model?
Linda: I make a model of 6 strings which I call the Manzer Model. It was in fact the only model I made at the time! It has a gorgeous European Spruce top (I had then – and still have – an amazing supplier of top woods) and lovely Indian Rosewood back and sides and, of course, ebony appointments – fingerboard and bridge. I designed this guitar to be a musical tool. A workhorse meant to be played hard and survive the rigors of being on the road but also to be as sensitive as possible a tough balancing act. You want them strong and stable but incredibly sensitive to all playing styles.
In 1981 I made one of these for Pat Metheny. It was pretty much my basic model but included an inlay with a reference to his first album, Bright Size Life. Light gauge strings, low action. I was incredibly nervous when he first picked it up and played it. I think possibly the most nervous I have ever been. Two weeks later I saw him again on tour and he offered to endorse my guitars. That was the beginning of our musical journey.