Lover of acoustic music and instruments
Dexter Johnson, has been building and restoring guitars and mandolins since 1969. His interest in guitar began seriously back in 1963 when he began two years of guitar lessons with Jerry Garcia in the pre-Dead days in Palo Alto, California. A great love for acoustic music, whether blues, bluegrass or folk, was nurtured during this time and after some thought for a career as a performer, Dexter opted for the quieter life as a guitar maker in rural Oregon. During the 1970's he built about 100 flat top guitars and carved style mandolins selling most of them through Sherman Clay in Portland, Oregon, Marina Music in San Francisco, CA., and Jon Lundberg's in Berkeley, CA.
During the 1980's he continued building guitars and mandolins in the Carmel area, but also expanded into repairs and restorations which piqued his interest in vintage instruments and their history. Teaching guitar and mandolin lessons as well as playing mandolin in a variety of styles (bluegrass, western swing, jazz, Klezmer, Choro from Brazil, and more) with the local band String Fever also took a good part of his time.
His interest in fine quality woods for instruments has led to 30 years of travels to such places as Brazil, Spain, and Germany seeking out rosewood, spruce, maple and other exotic species which are used in the finest guitars. As a result he has acquired a fine selection of various woods and in particular Jacaranda or Brazilian Rosewood. These woods not only go into the making of Dexter Johnson Guitars but also into the work of many fine luthiers who custom build instruments for Carmel Music Co.
In 1987 he and his family returned from ten months in Brazil, he purchased Bartlett Music in Carmel from his old friend Bud Bartlett and turned the store into a specialty shop for acoustic guitars and mandolins and thus Carmel Music Co. was born.
The decade of the '90's was to include many collaborations with his friend David Grisman and the Acoustic Disc record label - notably the CD's of Brazilian chorinho mandolinist Jacob do Bandolim, Tone Poems 1 and 2, "Swing Guitar Legend" Oscar Aleman, and "Latin Touch" by DGQ guitarist Enrique Coria.
Today Dexter divides his time between the web site, the phone, and his workshop where he is building several custom guitars as well as working on a number of old Gibson mandolins. Here are some thumbnails of his custom work. Click on them for larger images.