Since its founding by Tim Miklaucic more than 30 years ago, Santa Monica, California-based Guitar Salon International (GSI) has been a leading proponent of classical and flamenco guitars and music, developing into one of the largest dealers of high-quality instruments in the world—in addition to putting on concerts, starting a guitar-education outreach foundation, and creating a record label.

GSI president David Collett plays a 1929 Domingo Esteso
GSI president David Collett plays a 1929 Domingo Esteso

The number of fantastic guitars that cycle through GSI over the course of a year is always something to behold, but in the fall of 2015, the company outdid itself when GSI purchased for resale 63 guitars from the famous Russell Cleveland collection. Cleveland’s guitars, as many of you know, were immortalized in the seminal late-’90s book, The Classical Guitar: A Complete History, and he acquired a number of other instruments in the years since. The guitars span the years 1830–2011 and include such marquee items as Andrés Segovia’s 1969 AM Ramirez, Julian Bream’s 1957 Hauser II, an 1888 Torres, Robert Bouchet’s first guitar from 1946, as well as many others by past and contemporary luthiers. Looking for a violin-shaped guitar by Thomas Humphrey, complete with f-holes instead of a regular sound hole? He only made one, and it’s in the collection, as well as a couple more Humphreys.

- Segovia’s 1969 AM Ramirez
Segovia’s 1969 AM Ramirez

“We’re very excited about this,” says GSI president David Collett, “but at the same time it’s been a massive logistical challenge, because when we got these 63 guitars, we had to create photo schedules, video shooting schedules, some of the guitars need repairs—I have two different repair guys, one in San Diego and one in LA—and some just need to be cleaned up and maybe some setup work to get them all in sellable condition. We’re going to take our time, rolling out a few at a time as they become ready. We’ve already had a lot of inquiries, since so many of these guitars are already well-known.”

Take the Torres, for example. “There’s famous picture of [Francisco] Tárrega playing a Torres and that guitar was made in 1888,” Collett says. “I think the photo was taken in 1910, and it’s [Torres number] SE 114. A couple of years ago we had 116—a couple of guitars away—and that was a guitar that got a lot of attention because Andrew York came in and recorded five or six videos and they went viral. The guitar we just got [from the Cleveland collection] is 115, so it’s the one in between. It once belonged to Emilio Pujol’s wife, and later it was used by Pujol. Before he died, he gave it to his niece and she ended up selling it, and it sold through her to Russell Cleveland in the late ’90s.”

Then there are the two Hauser II’s, which are “very different from each other,” Collett notes. “The ’57 of Julian Bream is almost identical to the late Hauser I’s from the late ’40s and early ’50s. But then we have another Hauser II from 1971 and it is wildly different, with a smaller body size—a little bit more like a Torres, lighter in weight—and it had all kinds of innovation internally, with the bracing that didn’t exist in the ’50s in Hausers.”

There are stories behind every guitar in the collection. For more, check out guitarsalon.com/store. 

Here’s Marc Teicholz playing Bach’s Partita No. 2 on the 1987 Thomas Humphrey ‘Violin.’

Click here for more videos from GSI’s Russell Cleveland Collection.