It’s near to another anniversary for this website and I’m again reviewing my most popular posts. One of the all time favorites has been American Guitar Companies. It was an attempt to keep track of “where are they now?” for all the Great Guitar Companies from the past. Many of those companies either are out of business or the names are owned by importers and the guitars made overseas. This year I thought I’d try to put together a list of American Guitar Companies who still make guitars in the USA. Note that many of these companies also import guitars. There are many independent luthiers and smaller companies I may have missed as well as luthiers who specialize in instruments other than guitar (mandolins, ukuleles, etc.). But as in my previous post, I think I captured most of the better known guitar makers currently active in the USA.
I’ve tried to map the location of these companies. You can follow this link to a map of where these companies are located or see the embedded map at the end of the article. But the full size map from the link might be easier to read and manipulate.
Bedell Bend, OR. These are made in the same city as Breedlove guitars. Tom Bedell retired and then returned to designing and making guitars. They joined forces with Breedlove guitars in 2010 (thus the same address). They make nice acoustic steel string guitars.
Blackbird Guitars San Francisco CA, CA. Blackbird guitars are described as travel guitars. They are light weight carbon fiber guitars with innovative designes to keep the size small and the volume loud. One of the more impressive products to me is the Blackbird Tenor Ukulele. The company was founded by Joe Luttwak and Kyle Wolfe in 2005 with goal of making a better travel guitar.
Bourgeois Lewiston, ME. Bourgeois merged with a collective named Pantheon Guitars. These are high end acoustic steel string guitars. Dana Bourgeois had been making guitars for 25 years when he formed Bourgeois-Pantheon Guitars in 2000.
Breedlove Bend, OR. Some Breedlove acoustic steel string guitars have been distributed by online merchants such as Musicians Friend. They have a distinctive cutaway design as well as a headstock shape. They also make mandolins and ukuleles. The company was founded by former Taylor Guitar employees Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson in .
CA Guitars were purchased by Peavey. Originally located in Meridian, MS before Peavey purchased them in 2010. I assume production is still in Meridian, but there is little information about who or where they are since the Peavey purchase. CA Guitars makes nicely designed carbon fiber, steel string acoustic guitars.
Carvin San Diego, CA. Carvin guitars are only available from Carvin direct online or from Carvin stores (California). In spite of this limitations they have an excellent reputation of quality. You can essentially customize your guitar regarding most aspects such as color, frets and materials. They also are reported to have excellent amplifiers. They make mostly solid and semi solid electric guitars and basses but also have acoustic guitars. Carvin was founded in 1946 by Lowell Kiesel. The company was originally in Los Angeles and known as the L. C. Kiesel Company. The name was changed to Carvin in 1949.
Collings Austin, TX. Collings makes a variety of guitar styles as well as mandolins and ukuleles. You can find Collings solid body, semi-hollow and archtop jazz guitars in addition to Collings acoustic guitars. Everything I’ve seen from them look gorgeous. Excellent instruments. Bill Collings has been building guitars since the mid 1970s. The exact date of when “Collings Guitars” started is not given in the history provided on the website. He had his own shop by the mid 1980s and that’s is close as we can come to when the company was founded.
Dean Tampa, FL. Dean Guitars was founded in Chicago, 1976 by Dean Zelinsky. Today they are headquartered in Tampa. Many of their affordable models are imported but they have a custom shop and USA designs that are made here. They are known for solid body electrics and basses with designs similars to Gibson Flying V’s and Explorers (forgive me if you are a Dean fan).
Fender Corona, CA. Leo Fender’s original company, founded in 1946. They make everything and seem to buy up companies that can no longer make it on their own. The umbrella parent company that owns all these other entities is officially known as the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation or FMIC. They make all types and shapes of acoustic and electric instruments but the Strat and Tele are clearly the most famous followed by the J and P basses.
G&L Guitars Fullerton, CA. Another Leo Fender company. Some of their designs can be thought of as what would Fender and associates do to tweak the Tele and Strat designs. The ASAT and Comanche are the results. Mostly solid body electrics. The company was founded in 1979 by George Fullerton and Leo Fender (that’s where the G&L come from) and Dale Hyatt.
Gibson Nashville, TN. This is where Gibson moved after closing down the original Kalamazoo Michigan factory. Electrics and acoustics are made here. Gibson was founded in 1902 in Kalamazoo but not by Orville Gibson who gave the company its name. Investors bought the rights to Orville’s patent on a new mandolin design and named the company for him.
Gibson Acoustic Bozeman, MT. Another manufacturing site for Gibson, this one making acoustic guitars.
Gretsch see Fender. Gretsch guitars are now manufactured by Fender. Some are now imported but it appears the higher end Gretch guitars are made in the USA. The company founded in 1883 by Friedrich Gretsch.
Guild see Fender. Guild Guitars is now a FMIC company (Fender). At first Fender retired the classic electric models from Guild and only built acoustic guitars with that name. They have recently re-released some semi-hollow and hollow body electrics which if not completely authentic, are at least similar to classic Guild electrics. The company was originally founded in 1952 by Alfred Dronge and George Mann.
Heritage Guitars Kalamazoo, MI. Former Gibson employees in Kalamazoo continued to make variations on classic Gibson designs after Gibson moved to Nashville. The company began as Heritage in 1985. I’m not sure they are still in business. Their website has not been updated in years. They used to make acoustic and electric instruments. Anyone know if they’re still making guitars?
Huss and Dalton Staunton, VA. Founded by Jeff Huss and Mark Dalton in 1995. They build modified designs of classic acoustic guitars that include a slight arch to the soundboard giving better midrange (so they say for their Standard series).
Martin Nazareth, PA. Acoustic Guitars and Ukuleles. One of the Great American Guitar Companies. Founded 1833 by Christian Frederick Martin.
Music Man Website not updated since 2011. Now part of Ernie Ball. The company was founded in 1971 by Forrest White and Tom Walker (as Tri Sonix). Leo Fender designed guitars for Music Man and became president in 1975 but left due to disputes with the other owners. He formed G&L after this. I can’t confirm that Music Man is still making guitars in the USA.
see Fender. FMIC (Fender) bought Kaman. Ovation was a part of Kaman. Ovation are known for their bowl backs made from fiberglass and Adamas guitars with carbon fiber tops. It seems some models are still made in the USA. He was an engineer whose company had made improvements to helicopters. He was also an amateur guitarist who applied his engineering skills to guitar design and construction.
PRS Stevensville, MD. Paul Reed Smith founded his company in 1985. He had begun making guitars in college – his first guitar made as a challenge to a music professor. He then tested them by gigging with them. He attempted to combine what he loved best from Fender and Gibson guitars into a single model. You can see LP and Strat influences. Beyond that his guitars are beautiful electrics. Santana is one of the famous players who uses and endorses PRS guitars.
Rickenbacker Santa Ana, CA. The Electro String Instrument Company was founded in 1931 by Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp. This became the Rickenbacker company you now know. Adolph Rickenbacker had supplied metal bodies for National guitars when George Beauchamp was there. Rickenbacker claims the invention of the electric guitar. They are known for their electric guitars and basses.
Sadowsky Long Island City, NY. Roger Sadowsky started his company in 1979. They make solid body electric guitars and basses as well as some very nice archtop, hollow body jazz guitars including a Jim Hall model and a Jimmy Bruno model.
Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA. Richard Hoover founded the Santa Cruz guitar company in 1976. The company makes excellent acoustic guitars. Their current line includes a mandocello.
Taylor El Cajon, CA. Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug started Taylor Guitars in 1974. They initially just made acoustic guitars. Although externally they just appeared to be beautiful steel string guitars, they applied many innovative engineering ideas not often used previously by luthiers in the construction of their guitars. Taylor now makes electric guitars, solid and semi hollow models as well as ukuleles.