Richard Hoover , the president and owner of Santa Cruz guitars, started working on guitars in 1966. His first job was taking apart his own Harmony guitar and then successfully putting it back together, improving on the original construction. His father, a skilled cabinetmaker, taught him basic woodworking methods, but as was with many others, and me, information was hard to find, and kept secret by the old established guys. Ironically all of us who lived through the 60s and 70's are now the current "old guys", but now it is the norm to be open and helpful and encourage the new luthiers. In the 70s he had a fine Martin D-28 which was stolen by a thief that actually did him a favor! He decided to build himself an even better guitar, and he has never stopped improving. He met Bruce McGuire, an amateur luthier who had studied under Art Overholtzer, the famous guitar-making instructor at California State University, and later Jim Patterson who both helped him learn the trade of lutherie. Some of his early guitars were labeled as "Otis B. Rodeo" and used a bucking bronco as a logo. At the last NAMM show a "cowboy guitar" was featured, reflecting back to these early guitars.
Santa Cruz, California turned out to be the perfect location for a guitar company. Clarence White, Tony Rice, (with Kentucky connections), Dan Crary, David Grisman, Leo Kottke, Don Fahey, James Taylor, Steven Stills, Joni Mitchell, and others were in and around Richard's shop. They were creating new types of acoustic music and need something more balanced and easier to play than the Dreadnoughts then available. A different radius curve on the fingerboard and a wider more intonatable saddle along with a new bracing pattern fit right in to the needs of the day The model D was born. By then it was the mid 70s and Brazilian Rosewood was getting more rare, and mahogany was considered a cheap alternative, so Richard chose Koa with it's tone half way between the two, as his wood of choice.
Their second model, my favorite, was called the H 13. Paul Hostetter,(hence the name H), a musician and luthier from Chicago, moved to Santa Cruz in the 60s and brought the idea of Nick Lucas type body with it's small slope-shouldered OO shape and 13 fret neck. When this was introduced, it was so different that it did not sell well. Since then it has been accepted and is now an important part of the Santa Cruz line.
Around 1978, Tony Rice, who played in Lexington with J.D. Crowe, came to Santa Cruz Guitars with the idea of them building a more balanced version of his 1936 D-28 that he got from Clarence White. The soundhole of the Martin had been enlarged from repeated pick wear, and the fingerboard was bound with out any dots. I had installed this fingerboard when Tony lived here, in Lexington, sometime between 1970-74. Because of the narrow size and extra fret and that the origin of the fingerboard was forgotten, it was erroneously thought to have been from a Gretsch electric installed in the 50s! I clearly remember that the fingerboard was originally made for a Martin D-35. In order for the binding to fit on it, the old binding was removed and a slot was cut for an extra fret, the 21st. The sides of the fingerboard were shaved, and then refitted to the original neck without hurting the original neck wood or finish. A custom spaced ivory nut was then made and installed and the frets were leveled and crowned to perfection. Tony, unlike many bluegrass guitarists of the day, wanted his action as low as an electric guitar, so the tolerances had to be perfect. He was able to get the volume he needed from picking exactly parallel to the fingerboard, not at an angle the way most people do. These two famous attributes from his 1936, the fingerboard and enlarged soundhole, were kept on the new model, but Tony determined the final voicing. It was not meant to be a Martin copy, but rather a custom vintage inspired instrument. Two versions are available, the Standard, with a slightly smaller sound hole than Tony’s and Indian rosewood back and sides, and the Pro, featuring old growth Brazilian rosewood, the original size sound hole, and a slightly shorter 24.25" scale length. These models have sold quite well over the years and many other models have been introduced since.
Richard Hoover with his dozen or so dedicated luthiers, continues to bring quality guitars to the world that will “last more than a lifetime!” “By adhering to the principles of physics and the tried and true practices of lutherie, SCGC guarantees the most sophisticated instrument of it’s kind.”
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