Rare guitar makes surprise appearance in Malibu | Malibu life

In a rustic bungalow behind Cosentino’s Nursery on the Pacific Coast Highway, you might find Fred Walecki doing what he loves – fixing guitars and other stringed instruments. The luthier who has been in the music business for more than five decades does not have a sign above his shop.

“Those who know, know,” he said. And those who seek Walecki’s expertise in stringed instruments are very often famous figures in the world of music. The resident of Malibu for over 30 years has been in the music business his entire life.

For years Walecki ran the legendary Westwood Music, originally opened by his father Hermann Walecki in 1947. The store quickly became a haven for famous musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and countless other prominent musical artists. Many have become friends with family. Touches The magazine once called the store a “social club”.

As Fred carried on his father’s legacy, he became close to some of the greatest rock and folk musicians of the 1970s.

Walecki is so loved in the music community that when he was diagnosed with throat cancer 20 years ago his singer-songwriter friends held fundraising concerts in support. It was two epic nights of performances that brought about an impromptu reunion of three original members of The Byrds who had not performed together since their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Jackson Browne, Eagles members Warren Zevon and Spinal Tap are just a few of the rock stars that have performed.

One of Walecki’s friendships is with superstar Linda Ronstadt. The Grammy-winner’s aunt had previously studied opera in Spain and acquired one of the rarest instruments, a 19th-century Antonio de Torres guitar. Torres guitars are known for their construction and, said Walecki, “I believe this is the one he used to try out different dams,” which would make the historic instrument dated 1856 even more valuable. “It’s a spectacular concert guitar. ”

The extremely rare Torres was passed on to Ronstadt’s brother, Michael, who eventually asked his trusted friend Walecki to sell it. The instrument sold at six figures some thirty years ago. This buyer recently returned to the musical instrument expert to resell it. However, Walecki won’t just sell the museum-quality piece, he intends to find it the suitable home it deserves.

Currently, the Torres Guitar is securely secured in a bank vault. But some musical instruments aspire to be played. Walecki therefore decided to surprise his friends from the classical guitar department at Pepperdine University, headed by the famous Christopher Parkening, whom Walecki called “the greatest American guitarist, perhaps the greatest in the world”.

In November, the luthier commissioned a Pepperdine guitar student to take the Torres to a master class taught by Parkening.

“I needed to have fun with it because this guitar is unimaginable for someone like Christopher Parkening,” Walecki explained.

“It was a spectacular treat,” said Kevin Enstrom, Senior Guitar Assistant at Pepperdine. Over the summer, Enstrom taught a guitar history class. “All the guys and girls who took my course learned all about these old instruments and the dam. We thought it would be interesting to see an instrument we talked about in class. Not only did the seven students and their teachers watch this amazing guitar, they all got the opportunity to play it.

“They were blown away,” Enstrom said. “I don’t think they ever had anything so ancient in their hands, let alone so priceless. They were holding a piece of history.

“What makes it so special is that this instrument is supposedly what Torres based his bracing on. Torres guitars are known for the very specific bracing of the soundboard that allows the instrument to resonate. It’s the Stradivarius of guitars, ”explained Enstrom. The guitar also has a cedarwood soundboard, rather than a spruce top, which is a rarity for a Torres. The professor described the sound quality of the instrument as “robust, with a wide range of colors.” Each note can sound like a trumpet or as hot as a violin. It stood out on this legendary instrument.

“Fred has worked on all of our guitars at some point in our lives. The good thing about Malibu and Pepperdine is that you never know what might end up in the program. Professor Parkening having such an amazing career, sometimes we have these opportunities, ”observed Enstrom.

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