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Ren Ferguson – The Lost Story of Leaving Gibson

Before moving to California to work at Guild, Ren Ferguson was a long time Bozeman, Montana resident and worked as the Master Luthier at Gibson Acoustic which is also based in Bozeman, MT.

What can I say, this conversation is nothing short of riveting. Ren goes deep in Gibson history and how he first got involved with Gibson, tells some amazing stories, and then gives us the scoop behind why he ultimately escaped Gibson. I have to tell you that when we first released the second part of this interview on YouTube, Gibson made it known that they were unhappy and since the music store’s vendor account was at stake, we immediately took it down.

I’m so happy to be able to give you access to this rare account. I wish it could be re-made into a History channel special. It’s that good.

Ren is now the VP of Manufacturing and R&D at Guild, who no doubt appreciate what he brings to the table. He now has the freedom to lead the team and design some amazing guitars.

What are your favorite takeaways from Ren? Leave a comment below!

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  1. I have a D1000 Ferguson guitar built by Ren in 1973. It had fallen into disrepair. Ren took it to Bozeman around 2002 and completely restored it. It is awesome. Might be one of a kind now as not many D 1000s existed.

    1. Hi Jim, l have a 1973 Ferguson D450 Brazilian Rosewood dread. It’s a great guitar, and the only one I have ever seen. I would certainly be interested in purchasing your D1000 if you ever decide to sell.

      Thank!
      Andrew

  2. Is design of the Gibson Star. I have a 92 and it’s an amazing guitar Thanks Ren.

  3. There is a koa Gibson Hummingbird for sale on Orlando fl craigslist. It has a tree of life and it states it was built by Ren Ferguson. I tried to get a photo on here with no luck. Any chance this is not a fake??? the listings phone is 314-329-8629

    1. The same one is posted on Craigslist for Upstate NY (Catskills). I responded to the ad with no response from the seller.

    2. Listings for this guitar for $ 1000.00 have been all over Craigslist this week. The picture used in the ad was swiped from the internet and altered. I emailed Craigslist yesterday and asked that all of these listings be taken down before some unfortunate soul gets stuck with a what is likely a chinese fake.
      No luck so far.

  4. I’ve got a custom shop Ron wood J200 andcten did the flame engravings in the double pick guard and every time I pick it up I think of him with this in his hands! He’s a god!

  5. Hey Ren, We net at Gibson 9 years ago. I don’t expect you to remember me but I was, and am, a Long and McQuade guy, who spent a few days among you good people, Robbi, Don and yourself and many others.
    If you are willing, I would be very very interested in corresponding with you. I have some thoughts I’d like to share.
    Thank you.

  6. I was fortunate enough to be the Guitar Buyer for both MARS Music (99-01) and Guitar Center (01- through the end of 04). Both jobs brought me into close contact with Ren (as well as most of the other big luthiers) and I can honestly say not only is Ren the finest luthier I’ve ever known in 35 years of the music industry, he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met anywhere.

    I’ve got a few guitars he built for me over the years; to call them special is an understatement. If you see a Doves in Flight made between ‘96-‘02, Ren hand engraved those tuners (usually at home in front of the TV) and pickguards. The guitars coming out of the Custom Shop up until about ‘03 were magical; they made a change at the factory that changed the Custom Shop production from Ren, Val and a couple of others to running all guitars through the main shop floor with just a few stops handled by the Custom Luthiers. It doesn’t make the later guitars bad, just different.

    Ren has wonderful relationships with most of the big wood suppliers up and down the West Coast which helped Gibson get some spectacular wood in the late 90s and early 00s; I remember a run of 35 Quilted J-200s they did for MARS that truly looked 3D.

    He has his work cut out for him at Guild, Fender didn’t do the brand any favors with their purchase back in ‘96. I’m glad you got this clip, it gives everyone a glimpse into one of the most interesting men in the world.

  7. Too Bad Henry, you can’t seem to nurture the fine fruit that grew from Gibson’s Vineyards. Bravo Ren, I will never forget my experience with you Bill Gonder, Robbie Johns and Don Raffato and the gang in Bozeman. I’m going to check out Guild Guitars and see what great surprises lie ahead for me and my customers!

    1. Robert, I have a 1969 Gibson J-200N Custom. It has a Tunamatic gold bridge. I have never seen another like it. I was hoping someone could shed some light on my guitar. Thanks

  8. I bought a CL-30 and CL-40 in about 1997 they were my first Gibsons….and met Ren Ferguson
    at American Music in Seattle WA. back then. I still have those guitars, and they
    have a great sound. What a wonderful interview you all did.

  9. Wow. That changed my impression of Gibson. I was thinking that my second guitar would be a Gibson.
    Since my name is Gibson, I thought be cool to have one as most people would assume I would have a Gibson guitar.

  10. Wow. A true Sage of music. As a budding Luthier I can’t fathom what you have to know to build a $25,000 guitar. The subtleties and nuances of the best tones? Just mind blowing. His career history is one of perseverance. He made decisions along the way that helped him stay true to himself. He thinks like an entrepreneur, yet has the skills to build a guitar factory from the ground up. Definitely need a follow up on that man for sure. Great interview Tony, thanks.

  11. As an aspiring Luthier myself I found his passion and the way he kept his love for the instrument very inspiring. Even through the rough patches he knew he was a Luthier and he upheld the quality of the instrument above all else. I see it a lot, and have even talked to my teacher, businessman are businessman, Luthiers are artists. Its not about the money, its about the quality of our craft, continuing to hone our skills, and its about people, the people that play are instruments, or are happy and have a big smile on their face when we are able to fix something that was devastating to their favorite guitar or mandolin, ukulele whatever the case may be. Very Inspiring.

  12. Very cool to listen to someone who is not only talented as a craftsman but intimately know the ins and outs of the guitar business.

  13. Fascinating and important history that should not be suppressed. Reminds me of “Kalamazoo Gals.” It’s a must-read.

    1. I second that book recommendation, it is a fascinating book and offers some really wonderful insight into war-time and what was happening on the home front. Great call on that book 🙂

      Cheers,
      Tony

  14. Very interesting look at the business end of making instruments. Ren offers much knowledge in a soft spoken way that seems to show his passion for the craft. Love my guitar, however, what he said about mandolins makes one think, perhaps I should think about adding that skill too. The sounds produced are wonderful. Maybe in time but, now this beginner will stick with good old “Rita”, my Alvarez acoustic. Great interview.

  15. Tremendous amount of wisdom and talent in this individual. I can see a lot of parallels in businesses that I have worked in that have played out in Ren’s career. I’m very skeptical of his decision to bring his new business to California though, and he alludes to this difficulty. California is a state that is very hostile to business and entrepreneurs. This is particularly true in regard to manufacturing functions. I live in this state and really struggle with trying to remain here myself. Would be interesting to see a postscript on how the current business is developing. Thanks for the interview very interesting.

  16. Interesting when Ren mentioned that Gibson was/is a “chain-of-command” business. They seem to squelch creativity, yet want their products to sell. Wouldn’t the creative process of building an instrument go hand-in-hand with sales? Not what I imagined form a guitar company. He is a wealth of information and an extreme talent! Maybe even an American icon!

  17. So Henry is so thin skinned that this has bothered him? He won’t admit that not everything Gibson does is the best way? He is going to keep losing good people and eventually it’s back to bad old Norlin days.

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