In 1992 Earl Klugh asked me to build a Del Vecchio style resonator guitar.
The Del Vecchio guitars are a Brazilian innovation in resonator guitar design. The family was based in Sao Paulo. Starting in the 1930s these instruments won the hearts of many great players.
Carmen Miranda came to the U.S. in the 1940s and in her band was a legendary Brazilian guitarist named Garoto.
In 1958 Nato and Antenor Lima, known as Los Indios Tabajaras, came to New York, piling into a cab. They only knew how to say two things, Empire State Building and King Kong. The brothers became renowned as one of the greatest guitar acts on the planet. In 1959 they recorded "Sweet and Savage", an RCA release that included "Maria Elena". It became a huge hit in 1962, in fact the biggest instrumental hit up to that time, and it spread all over the world. The two instrumental hits that have eclipsed Maria Elena are Classical Gas and Tubular Bells.
Maria Elena was recorded on a Del Vecchio guitar but it was not a resonator Del Vecchio. Nato Lima had DV make him a classical guitar with a Brazilian rosewood top, a guitar he used for many years. There was another DV classical guitar which he used on Maria Elena with a spruce top.
RCA released many Los Indios Tabajaras records into the 1960s, and Del Vecchio resonator guitars where used on many of these recordings, most notably "Dreams of Love".
Nato had Del Vecchio make him smaller sized guitars. His arrangements used two guitars, one tuned higher and the other, lower. This was his reason for a small guitar, to voice his parts higher and more separate from his brother Antenor's lower tuned guitar.
Because I knew both Nato and Chet Atkins I can speak with certainty about the influence of Nato's use of the resonator guitar on Chet. I've heard both Chet and Nato tell me how the Del Vecchio guitar Nato provided came to Chet.
Chet did not know Nato when he heard the DV sound on his recordings. Nato was signed by RCA New York and Chet was President of
Artist Relations for RCA Nashville. Chet's comment to me about the experience was, "What is that?" Chet was so fascinated he put feelers out in New York to reach Nato. Nato was contacted by his RCA manager Edgar Diaz. He was told that Chet Atkins wanted to know about the sound and Diaz arranged for the sale of one of Nato's Del Vecchios to Chet. Nato's big concern was how much to charge. Diaz told him he thought $300 was a good price.
Chet was surprised by the $300 they asked for, not a small sum at that time but went on to say he would have paid $3000.
The guitar Chet got was a small model Nato had them make for him to use in his tuning style for Los Indios. Nato tuned up to F# from E. It has a smaller cone and the scale length is 57 centimeters.
You can hear that guitar on many of Chet's recordings including "Standard Brands" with Lenny Breau.
I developed my resonator guitars as a request from Earl Klugh who was equally as fascinated by the sound and wanted to record with it.
On the cover of the Collaboration Album, which Earl did with George Benson, is the Del Vecchio that Chet gave Earl.
I made the first of my resonator guitars in August of 1992. Earl asked me to build four more. In 1993 I finished the second resonator which I let Chet use. He invited me over one day and asked me to make him one. Earl found the shape of the neck to be too round on the second resonator and asked me to make another resonator to replace it. The #2 resonator was bought by a client who loaned it to Nato. Nato recorded his last Los Indios/ Warner Bros. /Japan CD on that guitar later in '93 or early '94. Earl gave one of the four resonator guitars I made him to Chet.
It is amazing to be associated with the history of this sound and with the players who go all the way back to Garoto who was one of Nato's heroes.