In an unassuming house located in the village of Folsom, Louisiana is the workshop of “Manuel & Patterson Guitars.” Run by Joe Manuel and Phil Patterson since the early 1990s, the pair has built hundreds of custom guitars for many kinds of customers including players, from classical to bluegrass genres, as well as collectors and investors.
Joe Manuel is an expert craftsman who possesses a detailed knowledge of and passion for vintage stringed instruments. He understands guitars, specifically their precision details. A master guitarist and mandolin player who is accomplished in several diverse musical genres, Manuel teaches guitar and writes, records and performs original music. On the weekends, Manuel can be found playing in local bars with his blues-rock trio, The Joe Manuel Trio, which features oral surgeon Ben Almerico on drums.
Phil Patterson is a master level luthier (guitar maker). He possesses a unique ability to bring new life into old instruments. As can be seen by those fortunate enough to have access to the Manuel & Patterson Guitars workshop, Patterson’s eye for detail is obvious, particularly in the finish work of his final products. “I have always worked on guitars,” Patterson reflects. “When I was young, I had a guitar, but I couldn’t play it. So, I took it apart and put it back together. I eventually learned to play,” he recalls. A classically trained guitarist, Patterson also teaches and performs. He attended Loyola University on a scholarship to study classical guitar. Before a big recital, Patterson had an accident in which he injured his playing hand, ending his classical guitar career. That misfortune, however, led to a new career when, in the mid-1980s, Patterson began working at a store in downtown Covington called The Music Corner. After a few years of working with guitars in the retail market, Patterson began building and repairing guitars, which ultimately led to his partnership business with Manuel.
Speaking of the guitar-making business, Patterson says, “I most enjoy the guitar [project] I’m working on at the time. I love every aspect of guitar building and repairing.” Patterson feels blessed to be able to make his living doing something he loves so much. He recounts his most interesting project as “a 7-string, flattop, acoustic dreadnought. The lowest string was a low “B” string. The guy who ordered it had a bunch of friends who had 7-string archtops, so he wanted something weird and different.” Manuel & Patterson Guitars was happy to comply.
Local musician Chris Lenox owns two guitars made by Manuel & Patterson Guitars. One is an electric which combines all the features of a Fender Telecaster, Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson SG. “It’s the most versatile guitar I own. It’s made it through every gig, and it’s never let me down.” According to Lenox, he described exactly what he wanted and Manuel & Patterson Guitars delivered. The other guitar Lenox had made by Manuel & Patterson Guitars is a flattop acoustic. “I was in heaven. It blew every other acoustic guitar out the water and put them to shame. It’s always present when I record or play acoustic shows.”
Those interested in having a custom guitar made by Manuel & Patterson can visit their website at http://www.abitaguitar.com or call 985-892-4403.