Mario Maccaferri


> Concert performer and luthier

Mario Maccaferri was born in 1900 in a village called Cento near Bologna. After he left school at the age of nine he had several jobs. After a while he heard of a vacancy in the workshop of the famous Italian luthier Luigi Mozzani. It was during this apprenticeship there that he took an interest in the playing of the classical guitar and by the age of sixteen he had gained a high reputation as a concert guitarist. He undertook a serious study of music at the Academy in Siena from 1916 and during the period 1920-1923 he gave many recitals. Throughout this period he maintained his interest in the technical side of guitar making and engineering as a whole, as a technical advisor in the Mozzani workshops. In 1926 he was to receive the highest possible diploma for music and guitar playing from the Academy in Siena.

In 1923 Maccaferri left Mozzani and embarked on an European concert tour. In the eyes of some press reviewers he was an artist of the highest calibre, equal both in artistry and interpretation to the then young Andres Segovia. In 1926 he visited London appearing in a concert at the Wigmore hall. Being tired of touring he decided to stay there for a while and try to earn a living as a guitar teacher. He lived in a small flat in Doughty St. Bloomsbury and it was there that he developed the first prototypes of the distinctive and famous Maccaferri guitars. The design of the guitar proved to be most original and beautiful since Torres. He took his first prototypes to Ben and Lew Davis who operated for Henri Selmer, London. They were most impressed and gave Maccaferri a letter of introduction to Henri Selmer Paris, who in due course was also impressed and gave Maccaferri a contract to design the factory and the necessary machinery in Mate la Ville near Paris to build what were to be known as the ‘Maccaferri guitars’ by Selmer Paris.

> First guitars

Mario Maccaferri worked in the Selmer factory from 1930-1933. Maccaferri experimented with many ideas for the interior construction of his guitars. The only one to come onto the market was the well known resonator sound box model. This model was called the concert and was made by the construction principles of Spanish classical guitars. Beside that he developed many other guitar like seven, nine and ten string models.

In 1933 Maccaferri continued his concert tour playing in Europe but this suddenly came to halt when he broke his hand in a swimming pool accident. Due to the on coming German invasion he imigrated to the USA. There he developed two reed cutting machines in a small workshop in New York. Within a short time Maccaferri’s company, French/American Reed Mfg Company became the leading supplier in the USA of top quality clarinet and saxophone reeds. Amongst the many artist endorsing his fine products were Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman.

After the end of the war Maccaferri had problems containing the supplies that came from France, which were necessary for the manufacture of top quality reeds and he realized that his trade could suffer. He experimented with plastic reeds and during this development he became fascinated by other possibilities with plastic and decide to use his engineering ability to promote a newly formed plastic company. Using his earlier knowledge of guitar making he developed a range of small plastic guitars and ukeleles, which turbulently took over a large part of the whole toy trade. The artistry of this great luthier/engineer offered millions of children the opportunity to play guitar on one of these low priced and playable instruments. Over 9 million pieces were sold. Maccaferri invested a lot in his factory to produce full size acoustic and electric guitars, totally made of plastic, but this product never got started. In the sixties the influence of cheap wooden fretted instruments from the far east suddenly cut the demand and Maccaferri once more looked around for products to keep his factory going. Again using his engineering capabilities he developed machines to produce a very succesful range of plastic wall and floor tiles and various other domestic products. Mario Maccaferri passed away in 17 april 1993.