The Del Prato archtop pictured below belongs to our friend Tony Marcus who shares what he has learnt about this little-known luthier:
“Raymond Del Prato was born in France where he learned violin making from his father. He later worked for Wm. Lewis & Sons in Chicago and ended up in California, where he died in the 1950s.”
He continues: “I’m virtually certain that he made this guitar for himself, and it is likely the only one of its kind. Note the violin edges, which are pretty unusual for a guitar.
“My guess is that he was unfamiliar with the stresses placed on a guitar neck by metal guitar strings, and when the original neck folded up on him, he replaced it with a Gibson Super 400 neck – after covering up the ‘Gibson’ inlay in the headstock!
“You can see that the varnish on the neck matches the body finish perfectly, but that there’s a secondary cap around the heel cap (the latter integral with the back) in order to match the contour of the original Gibson heel. John Jorgenson bought the guitar at an estate sale in the San Fernando Valley about 30 years ago. He mistakenly thought that it was made by Wilkanowski.”
He concludes: “A light and mirror revealed the makers name and date (1937) written on the inside of the top. I have put a label on the back so that folks in the future won’t have to guess its origin. It’s quite a loud guitar, perhaps better suited for soloing than for strict rhythm work.”
Images courtesy of Tony Marcus