This dissertation aims to introduce to the world a previously unknown luthier and student of Segovia’s, Manos de Jamón.
Señor de Jamón developed the technique of banging the soundboard while strumming with his knuckles, which produced a sound which could be described as similar to a multi-tonal kettledrum.
As a luthier, however, he was just beside himself because no one had constructed guitars with stretched cowhide soundboards, so he commenced to design his own; very few survive. In fact, the early ones didn’t survive their first performances, because knuckle-strumming tended to push the cowhide down inside the guitar.
But de Jamón persevered, eventually using an ingenious array of little pillars between the soundboard and belly, to hold the cowhide up-tight.
There was a never-quite-solved problem with the bridges, though: Tuning stressed them sideways and they tended to tear off the cowhide.
From what little can be found in contemporary newspaper reports, guitarists discounted the instruments because they “sounded like kettledrums” and kettle drum players said they sounded like guitars.
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is an octogenarian in West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family