Sounds, smells and tastes have distinct powers over us—enhancing our present experiences and, at times, transporting us back to times, places and people that we knew previously. And then there’s sound on emotional steroids, otherwise known as music. While many of us listen only, some others also perform, and still others perform and create instruments.
Manuel Delgado is one of the latter. This 2019 East Nashvillian of the Year is a third-generation luthier, musician, and owner and operator of family brand Delgado Guitars. This company is the focus of our fourth feature in Brands & Bloodlines, part of our ongoing Brands We Love series.
Manuel grew up with guitars, becoming comfortable with the tools and craft very early on. By age five, he was playing the guitar. At seven, he was repairing instruments at Candelas Guitars in Los Angeles, the first instance of the family tradition in the United States, after it began in North Central Mexico. And during the summer that he was 12, he made his first guitar, a requinto romantico. After his grandfather and father passed away, he continued working at Candelas Guitars with his brother for many years.
Fifteen years ago, when Manuel and his wife, Julie, relocated to Nashville so she could pursue songwriting, he wasn’t sure if he should make guitars anymore. With encouragement from his mother, sister and wife, he began again under the name Delgado Guitars. Starting over meant working multiple jobs, then building instruments late into the night and on the weekends. Nevertheless, he persisted, and this family brand’s reputation grew.
In his Music City shop, Manuel has made guitars for Los Lobos, Old Crow Medicine Show, Arlo Guthrie, and many more well-known musicians. He wants each of his custom-made instruments to reflect the musician who plays them. This level of investment and craft means he completes just 20-25 custom instruments in a year, investing approximately 200 hours in each. And he is a central figure in the community, consistently volunteering his time and talents to help others.
The most significant of these efforts is now a business, too. La Tradición makes instruments for people who are learning to play music, helping to make music education more accessible and sustainable for young people without sacrificing sound quality, fit and durability.
A third, related venture is the Music Makers Stage, a space adjacent to Delgado Guitars that Manuel and Julie opened in 2019 for lessons, intimate album-release parties, writers’ rounds and larger events. It is now the venue for weekly, intimate, livestream performances by Nashville’s many musicians of all genres.
We are sure that Manuel will continue to pivot, doing his part to support and sustain the creation and sharing of music, and it all starts with his family. Manuel helped his oldest daughter make her first instrument at age 10, beating the family record that he had previously set.
Family brand Delgado Guitars is a bold, artistic business that’s simultaneously rooted in tradition and constantly looking forward to champion the next generation of musicians and music makers. We believe in what Delgado Guitars, La Tradición and Music Makers Stage are doing in the world, and we’ll be watching to see what the family does next.
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