Zemaitis History

Zemaitis History

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Elaborate engraving, breathtaking pearl or exquisite inlays, the creations of Tony Zemaitis attracted more famous players than any other UK maker. You could say that Zemaitis Guitars are England’s Glory.

Tony Zemaitis – Master Craftsman & PioneerMuch of the UK guitar industry has been established in a tradition of 'small makers', rarely having an impact internationally.

And Tony Zemaitis achieved all of this working as a sole craftsman making only a few guitars each year and without advertising or promotion! How did he do it?Tony Zemaitis was the one to buck the trend!

Antanus Casimere Zemaitis, or Tony Zemaitis as he was known, was born in London, England in 1935. As a child he was constantly designing, making and building - everything from model flying airplanes to handmade bicycles.

Tony Zemaitis’ creative talents led him to take up an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker; there he learnt invaluable skills in working with wood, design and decoration which helped shape his future.

In the 1950s he became a keen guitar player but unable to find a suitable guitar, he studied a friend's classical guitar and then set off to build his own design - the very first Zemaitis guitar!

Tony Zemaitis’ desire to constantly hone his craft and improve on each guitar led to him make more guitars which he sold on to friends to fund his next project (sold at a low cost just to cover materials). Indeed, throughout his career, Tony Zemaitis continued to experiment - often making what he called 'Prototypes' to help him continually improve his craft and his designs.

Following national service Tony Zemaitis devoted more time to his passion of guitar making. He experimented with various shaped sound-holes, string lengths and string configurations to get the best sound.

Tony Zemaitis was an enthusiastic performer on the London blues and folk scene and so Tony Zemaitis' guitars found many fans amongst fellow guitarists. This is where his reputation started to became established as 'name' guitarists like Davey Graham, Long John Baldry and Spencer Davis, who loved the great sound and playability of his guitars, became customers.

Tony Zemaitis’ success continued and by 1965 he decided to become a full-time self-employed luthier.

His early work was Zemaitis acoustic guitars and especially Zemaitis 12-strings, the most famous being Eric Clapton's "Ivan the Terrible" (sold recently by Eric at Christies for $253,000!). However, working in the 'swinging sixties' with the British music boom going on, it wasn't long before Tony Zemaitis produced his first full Zemaitis electric guitar - built as a prototype and ending up in the collection of George Harrison. It was for Zemaitis electric guitars that Tony became best known.

Tony Zemaitis was always seeking to improve and a major innovation was the now famous Zemaitis Metal Front ™. His original idea was to shield the guitar and reduce the hum found in many mainstream guitars. Tony's first Zemaitis Metal Front ™ guitar was made for Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs and the idea was successful in more ways than one. Not only did it reduce noise but also the Zemaitis Metal Front ™ became one of Tony's signature models - the highly decorative, individually hand engraved works of art so much favored by rock's elite.

Tony was delighted with the popularity of his eye-catching Zemaitis Metal Front ™ electrics and so to complement these, he introduced the beautiful Zemaitis Pearl Front ™ electric guitar. This was an exquisitely inlayed front with a mosaic of abalone which twinkled and changed color in the light. These top of the range guitar became another signature model for Tony.

By the 1980s the reputation for workmanship, styling, playability and tonal quality of Zemaitis guitar had made Tony Zemaitis a living legend. Collectors began trading second-hand Zemaitis guitars for high prices but Tony remained true to his ideals - still working by himself, only producing a handful of guitars each year. But he didn't restrict his customers just to the rich and famous; Tony Zemaitis was just as happy dealing with enthusiastic amateur guitarists and even sold 'Student' grade models to help players with low budgets.

No matter what grade of guitar Tony Zemaitis made though, he always produced great playing and sounding guitars. Tony Zemaitis always used quality materials and traditional luthier techniques such as 3-piece necks and 3-piece bodies for strength and stability and only ever made glued-neck construction to ensure the best possible sound.

It was the combination of quality, craftsmanship, innovation and determination that won this British guitar maker fans from all over the world.

Tony Zemaitis passed away on August 17, 2002