I am from a musical family, and have been playing guitar since the sixth grade. I have been playing my own guitars in band formats since the early 80s, allowing me to test my guitars and guitar designs in actual band/gig settings. There is no substitute for this kind of feedback. I am currently playing my guitars in the jazz/blues quartet CrownVic, with various gigs in the southern California area.
I began as Mill City Guitar Works in Minneapolis in 1981, and changed to Mill City West when I moved to Southern California in 1989. From this history, my early guitars are labeled Mill City. I changed to Whittemore Guitars in ~ 2005 as a more traditional guitar-builders name. In all cases, guitars were built by hand entirely by me.
I crafted my first guitar in the 60s when I was 8 years old – using my Dads jigsaw to make a plywood cutout no-strings electric guitar. I started building actual guitars in the late 70s, with the idea that I could make a guitar that was BETTER than the commercial electric guitars available then. With very little woodworking experience, I took an OAK plank from behind the garage and hacked out a solid body electric (a fretless thru-neck solid body). Whittemore #1 was pretty rough, but I was hooked on the process. I learned woodworking skills in college in the late 70s, and completed three guitars before I graduated. My training also included work in a busy commercial guitar repair shop (Chuck Levins in Wheaton, MD – where I replaced departing Paul Reed Smith as repairman) doing guitar repairs, fretwork, even working on violins.
I have been building ever since. In the 80s, my early guitars were solidbodies with thru-body neck designs, and I came up with my early ideas for the BlueJay semi-hollow model. In the mid-80s I also started building T-style solid bodies as a wonderfully versatile design platform. And a bit later I started building archtop guitars – both fully carved models and guitars using laminated tops and backs.
I thank the many inspirational luthiers working today. I am particularly indebted to Bob Benedetto, Roger Sadowsky, and Roger Borys – and I greatly appreciate their guidance, advice, and excellent correspondence. I also thank the historical masters — who motivate me daily — CF Martin, Orville Gibson, Lloyd Loar, James DAngelico, James DAquisto.
I also appreciate the feedback, generosity, and support from the exceptional players in the Southern California area: John Pisano, Bruce Forman, Barry Zweig, Pat Kelley, Frank Potenza, Tim Fischer, Brandon Bernstein. These friendships include the luxury of access to the instruments that these fine professionals use in their art. Seeing how big name professionals set up their instruments is an invaluable resource and is greatly appreciated. The LA jazz guitar scene is a fantastic brewing ground for archtop design.
And I would like to thank all of the Whittemore Guitar Owners for their confidence in my work. I think you have excellent taste!!
And thanks to my many guitar repair clients.
Finally — GET OUT AND SEE SOME LIVE LOCAL MUSIC!!