With great sadness we report the sudden passing of the
eminent luthier, John Gilbert, on February 23, 2012 at his home in Woodside,
California. John was recognized by
the Guitar Foundation of America with the Industry Leadership Award at the 2010
GFA Festival in Austin, Texas. He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Alice, daughters,
Jane, Valerie, Linda and a son, William. Another daughter, Eileen, an artist,
passed away in 2003.
As a self-taught luthier who built his first instrument in
1965, John retired as the Chief Tool Engineer for Hewlett-Packard in 1974 to
build guitars full time. Gilbert
Guitars ushered in a new era of instruments with their great tonal clarity,
ability to project in large halls, and distinctive design. Receiving a U.S.
Patent for his tuning machine design, John began production of the Gilbert
Tuners in 1990, which are now made exclusively by his son-in-law, Greg Matonis,
who also trained as a machinist.
In addition, John was a mentor to many of the current generation of
luthiers, notably his son, William, who carries on the legacy of his father’s
approach and design.
A more thorough chronicle of John and his work will appear
in the next issue of Soundboard. A memorial service will be held on March 10, 1:30 PM at St. Denis Church, 2250 Avy Ave, Menlo Park, CA and details on a Celebration of Life event are forthcoming.