& Phil Patterson
see page 92
March-April 2010 issue
(Click on photo)
Click this photo to see the video on Fox News
Fox 8 News
"Heart of Louisiana"
"It's like a haircut. You take a little off but you
go to much it's hard to put back on"
In a backyard shop in the
woods of St. Tammany Parish, an old-fashioned musical sound is brought
Joe Manuel got his first guitar at the age of ten, although his first
lessons didn't work out.
"My teacher wanted me to play Mary had a Little Lamb and somebody
showed me the opening chords to Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
, a friend down the street, and the teacher said don't bring him back"
Phil Patterson was introduced to guitar
at the same age.
"There was no one to give lessons, I didn't know how to play it
so I just took it apart and put it back together over and over again.
So I guess that started it."That childhood curiosity and a broad
interest in music has turned into a labor of love for Joe and Phil.
Back in the 80's, they began selling and repairing guitars and teaching
lessons at a Covington music store."And we over the years have
seen a lot of really nice instruments that we've gotten a chance to
repair, look inside, stick the mirror and the light in there and see
what they're made of," says Patterson
"I was always into the vintage instruments and the specifications
and the studying of them and Phil was into the nuts and bolts of putting
them together," Manuel said.
Joe and Phil own and operate the Abita Springs Guitar Company. They
consider themselves luthiers, skilled craftsmen who turn pieces of fine
wood, into beautiful sounding stringed instruments.
Dave McNamara, Fox News TV 2009
Patterson & Joe Manuel are passionate about fine and vintage instruments.
Collectively, the pair have been repairing, restoring, collecting and
playing vintage string instruments for nearly half a century and designing
and building guitars since 1990.
(aka The Guitar Doctor ) is a master level luthier. He possesses
a gift of bringing new life into old instruments and as it were, bringing
the old into the new. As you see from the photos his eye for detail
is especially evident in the extraordinary finish work. A gifted classically
trained guitarist, Phil also teaches and performs.
is an expert craftsman and possesses and intricate knowledge and zeal
for vintage string instruments, their specifications and sensibilities.
He is also a master guitarist and mandolin player,
who is accomplished in several diverse musical forms. In addition
he also teaches, composes, records and performs music.
talents, passion and experience of Joe Manuel and Phil Patterson
are built into each Manuel & Patterson Guitar.
Joe voicing braces
Joe with Norman Blake & Nancy Blake
Norman is holding his 1933 Martin 12 fret D-18, Nancy had just put down
her 1929 Martin
12 fret 00-45. " Norman & Nancy Blake really sparked our interest
in 12 fret guitars "
2008 Flatpicking Guitar Magazine
Phil Patterson and Joe Manuel, of the Abita Springs Guitar Company,
bring diverse musical backgrounds and a variety of skills to each and
every custom guitar they build. They understand musicians because they
are both highly talented musicians themselves. They understand guitar
design because they have both spent years repairing and restoring vintage
instruments. They understand music sales and the needs of their customers
because they both worked for many years in the retail music business.
And they both understand the needs of guitar students and professionals
as they both have spent a long time teaching guitar lessons to students
and performing professionally. When you sit down to discuss your custom
dream guitar with these two builders, you can rest assured that they
understand your wants, needs, and desires.
Phil Patterson grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and studied classical
guitar at Loyola. After having spent time as an apprentice guitar repairman,
he was hired to repair guitars and teach lessons at a store in Covington,
Louisiana, in 1983. About three years later Joe Manuel was hired to
sell guitars at the same shop. The two musicians worked well together.
Joe ran the sales department and Phil ran the repair shop. Joe said,
We worked on a lot of vintage guitars and we sold acoustic guitars built
by Martin, Taylor, Gibson, Santa Cruz, and others. We built the store
up to a pro guitar shop with a good reputation. Joe also started collecting
vinta ge instruments. By 1990 they decided that they would try working
together to build instruments.
The first guitars the two built were custom electrics. Later, in 1993,
they built their first D-28 style acoustic guitar. Joe said, When we
built the first few acoustic guitars we did everything together. We
worked on them in the store after hours as a side project, so they took
a long time to build. Jimmy Foster, best known for his archtops, sprayed
the finish on the first guitar for us and has been a lot of help over
the years. By the time they had built six or seven acoustic guitars
people who came by the shop and played them expressed interest in having
a custom guitar built. A new business was born.
In 2004, the owner of the store where Phil and Joe worked was ready
to get out of the retail music business. He offered to sell the store
to Phil and Joe, but Joe said that by that time they were not interested
in owning a guitar store. They wanted to focus on repairing and building
instruments. So they started the Albita Springs Guitar Company and began
full time work selling their guitars under the Manuel & Patterson
All of the guitars that Manuel & Patterson build are custom instruments.
They have set models as far as the body styles are concerned, but after
that, everything can be customized. Joe said, We offer custom 12-fret
and 14-fret single 0, 00, 000, D, and Jumbo body styles and we also
have built combinations with different scale lengths, body depths, bracing
patterns, fretboard widths, neck shapes, and about anything else that
the customer might desire. We spend a lot of time with each individual
customer to help them get exactly what they are looking for in a custom
Joe said, Years ago Leo Fender said that building an acoustic guitar
was more an art than a science, and that is the way we approach building
each guitar every step of the way. We are very selective in picking
out the right woods, and our braces come from the same piece of wood
that we use for the top. We pay very close attention to wood thickness
and I am emphatic about keeping the thickness of the finish thin. After
a while you develop an instinct for all of the fine details that come
together to make a top quality acoustic guitar.
When asked how the Manuel & Patterson standard Dreadnoughts might
differ from the old Martin designs, Joe said, Generally our Dreadnoughts
have a slightly larger soundhole. Our braces are also a little taller
than the standard Martin. The brace height and taper is more like the
Gibson J-30. So our braces and bracing pattern are combinations of the
Gibson and Martin designs. We scallop both sides of the transverse brace,
but we don't feather it on the treble side. We leave a little more meat
there. Our tops are also a little thinner on the bass side. We try to
build our guitars so that they have a good clear sound all the way up
the neck. Other standard features include hand voiced (scalloped) braces;
ebony fingerboard and bridge; ebony or Madagascar rosewood headstock
overlay, heel cap, and end piece; polished high-gloss lacquer finish;
bone nut and bridge saddle; two-way action truss rod; and Gotoh or Waverly
Beyond just a few of the general building details, it is difficult to
talk specifically about the Manuel & Patterson guitar designs and
appointments since almost all of their work is custom. The type of woods,
the neck shape, the neck width, and virtually all other aspects of the
guitar's design are selected by the customer, with Phil and Joe providing
expert guidance along the way. Browsing their website one will see a
00-12 sunburst slot-head with an Engleman spruce top; a 000-14 with
a bearclaw Sitka spruce top and figured mahogany back and sides and
Nick Lucas style inlays; a 00-12 with an Adirondack top and Brazilian
rosewood back and sides, and abalone vine inlay; a Indian Trail Adirondack/Brazilian
Dreanought; and many more. Every guitar is built to the customer's sonic
and cosmetic specifications. Most models sell in the $2,500 to $4,000
As far as dividing up the work effort, Joe takes care of building the
guitar's body and shaping the neck, Phil does the final sanding, fretting,
and the finish work. Both work on the inlay. All of the Manuel &
Patterson owners who I've met and talked to are extremely enthusiastic
about their guitars. John Greene, of Bush, Louisiana, raved about his
Manuel & Patterson guitars when he came by the Flatpicking Guitar
Magazine booth at Merlefest. He said, Every time I get an opportunity
to pick with a new group of folks, people will comment on the guitar's
looks. Then, when they hear how it sounds they'll usually ask if they
can play it. I've had a chance to play it in different settings with
various vintage and new instruments and it never takes a back seat in
either tone or volume.
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine
Joe pickin' his "circa" 1933 Gibson L-00 & The Abita Beer
20th Anniversary Guitar at The Abita Springs Opry
Tony Green and his Italian friend , Alessandro, jamming with Joe
at the En Plein Art Exhibit in the old Abita Springs Pavilion
Tony is playing one of our Fleur d Lis 640mm Gypsy Jazz Guitars
Manuel & Tony Green
Gypsy Jazz at The Farmer's Market
Joe Playing at The Stage Door Canteen in the
World War II Museum
with Don Vappie and his Swing Jazz Combo
Manuel & Patterson Guitar Makers
by Sam Alfano
When sitting in the audience at the
Abita Springs Opry
or other musical venue where Joe Manuel is playing, one cannot help
but be dazzled by the sounds flowing from his acoustic guitar. While
Joe is a guitar wizard with abilities far beyond us lesser mortals,
he is armed with a not-so-secret weapon that captivates audiences.
Joe plays a Manuel & Patterson guitar.
In a small workshop just outside
Joe and his partner Phil Patterson are quietly building guitar history…one
instrument at a time. While production guitar companies like Martin,
Taylor, and Gibson can produce excellent instruments, Manuel & Patterson
offer something the big boys can't, which is a carefully hand crafted
guitar that rivals the tone and playability of the legendary prewar
sought by players and collectors around the world.
Using materials such as rich Brazilian
and East Indian rosewoods
, ebony, Adirondack and Sitka spruce, western red cedar, Hawaiian koa,
and Honduran mahogany, Joe and Phil work closely with each of their
clients, carefully crafting instruments to satisfy their playing needs.
The customer can choose from a variety of body styles, order custom
mother-of-pearl or abalone neck and headstock inlays, select a neck
width that's ideally suited for their hand size, and complete the order
with a striking sunburst or natural lacquer finish.
A guitar's top and bracing system
is its voice.
Prewar guitars often had perfectly placed bracing, with certain areas
of the braces being scalloped. Scalloping, or the shaving of braces,
allows the top to vibrate freely, resulting in a substantial increase
of volume and purity of tone. Bracing in Manuel & Patterson guitars
is carefully scalloped and shaped, which is part of the secret to their
sweet and powerful tone.
While it takes untold hours to build
a guitar by hand,
it takes as long or longer to apply the nitrocellulose lacquer finish.
There is far more to this painstaking last step than many are aware
of, and the finish not only protects and enhances the wood, but can
have a dampening affect on tone if applied incorrectly. It's been said
that a guitar maker's finish separates the men from the boys, and Joe's
and Phil's guitars are finished to glossy perfection, showcasing their
deep and beautiful grains and allowing them to resonate with equally
As Joe puts it,
"Once a player steps up to a professional quality instrument, he
can never go back, and it's the same with custom guitars. Once you step
up to a high quality custom guitar, you'll never go
The First Manuel & Patterson Guitar
large soundhole 14 Fret D
Way Down Yonder
in New Orleans!
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