Tony Zemaitis began a five-year apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker in 1951. He repaired his first guitar in... View more
Tony Zemaitis began a five-year apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker in 1951. He repaired his first guitar in 1952 and built his first instrument, a classical nylon-string guitar in 1955. Zemaitis started to build guitars for his friends, selling them the instruments at lower prices. After doing the military service, Zemaitis improved his methods to manufacture guitars. His instruments became popular in blues and folk music musicians of London, gaining good reputation among them. During the 1960s, Zemaitis made 12-string guitars for notable musicians including Ralph McTell, Spencer Davis, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
After starting to build acoustic guitars, Zemaitis began to manufacture electric models, with some prototypes used by George Harrison, Mark Bolan, Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane.
Zemaitis’ characteristic metal front guitar was designed to reduce the humming of the electric guitars. His first metal-front was made for Tony McPhee, of The Groundhogs in the late 1960s. Metal front guitars also included an engraved designs made by his friend and customer Danny O’Brien, who had started engraving plates for guitars headstock until Zemaitis himself suggested O’Brian to engrave the fronts, as well. Zemaitis’ guitars became popular among rock artist and in the mid-1970s, Zemaitis made his first “mother of pearl” tops for Ronnie Wood and James Honeyman-Scott.
Tony passed away in 2002 but his “Art with Strings” reputation and legendary guitars live on through Keith Smart’s Zemaitis Club in the UK.
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