Podcast 151: Luthier Mark Whitebook

These week, we talk to acclaimed guitarmaker Mark Whitebook. In the 1970s, Whitebook had a cult following for his handmade guitars and a client list that included James Taylor, Carly Simon, Phil Keaggy and Clarence White. But in 1980, having built around 70 instruments total, Whitebook left the world of lutherie altogether and pursued a career outside of the music industry.

Thirty five years later, Whitebook returned to building instruments (he kept all of his original tools and equipment all of these years). During this two-hour long talk, we chat about his background, how he taught himself to build his first guitar (with help from Irving Sloane’s now legendary book on guitar construction), the Southern California guitar scene of the 1970s (including his time spent with David Russell Young and Chuck “The Duke of Pearl” Erikson) and how his dreadnought instruments stray from traditional Martin construction. We also learn just how hard it is to make a living building guitars. Whitebook is a near-mythical figure in the world of guitars; we hope you enjoy this exclusive chat. Look for some of this interview to appear in a forthcoming Fretboard Journal print feature, too.

This week’s sponsors are Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Dying Breed Music. Check them out and tell them the Fretboard Journal sent you.

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  • Chuck Erikson

    Fun interview with a great guy who deserves to be better known! Ben Shearer’s Casa Andaluz, the flamenco store Mark refers to, was on Van Nuys Blvd. in downtown Van Nuys (not in Reseda). Another major builder (banjo and arch top guitars) during those years, in El Monte out near Bob Givens, was R.C. (Dick) Allen.

  • George Welch

    Great interview, Jason. We don’t always consider the dangers inherent in the craft of guitar building. Nice of Mark to be able to come back to it, albeit briefly by the sounds of it.