There is mention above about my father (John Fernandez) supplying western Red Cedar to Jose Ramirez in the 1960's. I wish to explain the situation. My father was not a guitar player or a luthier, he was a merchant. He was born in Spain 1927 and emigrated to the US in 1935. In about 1963 or 1964 he and his brother started to import popular plywood from Italy. On one those trips he returned to Spain where he had not been since childhood. In 1965 he sent my kid brother (Arthur) my grandmother and I to his village Santa Cruz near La Coruna in Galicia (northwestern Spain. At that time I had been playing classical guitar since 1963 and had a mediocre Mexican guitar. My guitar teacher, Seiko Sesoko, in Anaheim, had asked my father to get some cejillas when he was in Spain and had tried to sell my father a Jose Ramirez flamenco guitar for $2000.
One day that summer (1985) my father and I were in Madrid seeing his business associate and I pushed my father to go to the Jose Ramirez shop (we had never been there before). We entered, met Jose Ramirez III and my father spoke with him for a few hours while I tried out some flamenco guitars. There were only 2 flamenco guitars both with wooden pegs in stock so Jose had a worker cut the head to install Fustero tuners. While waiting for more than an hour, I sat there trying out some guitars with a friendly man with a big diamond ring. He was a very good player. When he left Jose told he that it was Mario Escudero (one of the great flamenco players). My father purchased a guitar for me and one for my teacher in Anaheim. After this visit my father would be in Madrid for business several times a years and he would search out guitar makers. He located Arcangel Fernandez, Marcelino Barbero, Felix Manzanero, Juan Alvarez, Aguado y Hernandez. In summer of 1966 my father, older brother and I traveled through southern Spain and met Miguel Rodriguez (Cordoba), Manuel de la Chica (Granada) and Ferrer in Valencia.
For my father the guitar world was an interesting diversion from his plywood business and general international trade activities. But also it was a way to get money out of Spain. In the 1960's Francisco Franco restricted the exchange of pesetas for dollars. So my father found he could buy guitars with pesetas, take 6 to 10 guitars with him to California and convert them to dollars by selling them to "George" (AKA Seiko) Sesoko of the All Guitar Center. I went away to university in 1966, by about 1968 my father stopped bringing guitars from Spain. In 1978 I returned from graduate school in Montreal (McGill University) and teaching Anthropology for 2 years at the University of British Columbia to work with my father and brother at their business, International Plywood Corporation in Orange, California.
About 1981 my father visited Jose Ramirez in Madrid and started buying some guitars which he shipped to California. We formed a company which we called Hermanos Fernandez with the intention that my brothers and I would sell these guitars. I wound up selling most of the guitars and a few years later my brother Arthur finished university and also sold some guitars. During these years Jose Ramirez asked us to get a Justina Quartz Guitar Tuner (these were rare at the time in Spain) which Arthur and I got from European Crafts in Los Angeles. On one of his trips through Spain, Jose Ramirez asked my father to get him some western red cedar. My father came back to California and told the 2 sales people, my elder brother (John) and me about this inquiry. No one was in the least interest because International Plywood Corporation only sold hardwood plywood. In contrast to the others, I thought this was a great opportunity.
I took the sourcing of this wood on as my own special project. Since I had lived in Vancouver, British Columbia for 2 years (1976-1978) while teaching I though this "deal" would give me and my wife a chance to visit Canada again. I contacted 150 cedar mills in British Columbia and found 5 mills who though they could supply us. I took a trip to Vancouver and eventually settled on dealing with H. Wilson Gray who lived in Richmond, BC. Wilson Gray was experienced in specialty woods. He got a lot of his wood from Vancouver Island. At the time the "Indians", now called First Nation Peoples, had the legal right to use and collect stumpage after the large corporation (like McMillan Bloedel) had cut the great timbers. From this source Wilson Gray would collect a pick-up truckload of split blocks (most were 4" thick, by 10" or more wide by random length), package them on a pallet and cover them with burlap. Such pallets would be sent by ship from Lynn Terminal in North Vancouver to Spain on the d'Amico line. These were small shipments of about 500 bd. feet, I think I sold Jose Ramirez 3 shipments over a couple of years. Jose wrote back after the first shipment had dried for a while and he told us that about 30% of the wood was usable for first quality guitars. Since we were shipping rough blocks of wood this was acceptable to Jose and the price reflected what level the wood was. Soon this business because more complicated because the Canadians wanted to ship finished soundboards. In the a few years we discontinued sending wood because Jose Ramirez gave the US exclusive distribution for his guitars to Gibson (this exclusive only lasted a few years). Despite the Gibson exclusive, my family could still buy Ramirez guitars wholesale at discounted price in Spain but Jose Ramirez would not export them to us. Eventually, my father stopped doing anything with guitars or guitar woods. In contrast, I established my own contacts and proceeded to build my own import business. At first in the mid 1980's I imported some guitars from Felix Manzanero, then in the 1990's from Guitarras Esteve, Mervi and Vicente Sanchis. One of the special outcomes of getting western red cedar was that I had samples in my apartment and I proceeded in the early 1980's to teach myself to make a mandolin and French Polish it.
I wish to mention that since December 2015 I now live in Anacortes, Washington (www.fernandezmusic.com