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Arts & Culture

Guitar Lovers Gather For La Villita Swap Meet

Several hundred people gathered at the round theater at La Villita this weekend to see guitars of all shapes and sizes. But many attendees were doing more than just looking. 

Cut-throat business transactions were being made — that’s according to the man who organized the event. 

"My name is Joe Cutthroat with Robot Monster Guitars and the Alamo City Guitar Bazaar," he said.

Credit Jack Morgan
Guitars for sale

As to what exactly it was, think of a massive swap meet for guitar players, with prices ranging from 100 bucks to tens of thousands of dollars.   

"Today is the second annual Guitar Bazaar,” Cutthroat said. “Sold out the first year, sold out the second year, and in a bigger location."

He guestimates there were about 3,000 guitars for sale — acoustic, electric, reasonators, banjos, mandolins and other instruments. The one thing Matthew Rose came here to find though...

"I'm actually here to find a vintage synthesizers, keyboards," he said.

...was something that they didn't have.

"No! Zero," he said. 

I asked the obvious question: “So are you going to walk out with a guitar instead?"

"No, there's absolutely no chance of that I'm afraid,” Rose said. I've already got 20 guitars so I can't really justify adding any more to the collection… but it's really fun here. Nice people; some really beautiful instruments."

Bandera cabinet maker Neil Peterson read a book on guitar making in the late 1990s, and soon began building several guitars a year. He had brought four to the show. 

"The latest one is the mesquite guitar here on the end, and it's number 95. And I've got 96 and 97 underway in my shop," he said. 

Those last two have wood of an interesting source, materials provided by a friend.

"He had an old piano that had fallen into disrepair and he started taking it apart and he got to the soundboard and he realized it was spruce," he said. 

Spruce is what the soundboard — the large part you see from the front — on most guitars is made from.

"He brought me the soundboard and said 'You think you can do anything with this?' And that's where it all began," Peterson explained.

He likes to choose interesting woods — mesquite, antique yellow pine, and weirdly, Chinaberry. Chinaberry grows quickly and opportunistically in Texas, and many regard it as a trash tree. Peterson has a different take 

Credit Jack Morgan
Neil Peterson with some of his guitars

"I found that Chinaberry is actually in the Mahogany family. I'm expecting it's going to be a nice guitar," he said. 

As to guitar No. 100, he's looking to build a quintessentially Texas guitar.

"I think I pretty well decided that's going to be an all-mesquite guitar," he said.

And maybe at the next Alamo City Guitar Bazaar it will be for sale.  


Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.