Jim Harvey—Luthier Spotlight
Photo: Harvey with Dick of the San Diego band The Mavericks who had Harvey build him this small birdseye maple, electric mandolin to attach to his Fender Stratocaster.

Jim Harvey—Luthier Spotlight

By the end of World War II, the demand for guitars was fueling an increase in production across the country. Many of these guitars were being manufactured in the East and Midwest.

But there were a few “luthiers” (that’s a maker of stringed instruments) working independently in Southern California as well, making custom, hand-built guitars of exceptional quality. Walter James “Jim” Harvey was one of them. A chief metalsmith in the United States Navy and the son of a carpenter and cabinetmaker, Harvey used simple tools to build about a dozen customized, professional-grade stringed instruments and cases in his San Diego garage. 

Harvey ultimately decided against making guitars full-time so his work is not widely known, but with help from Harvey historian Deke Dickerson, the Museum has developed a display of Harvey’s life and work, including details of his meeting with Paul Bigsby (considered by some to be the father of the solid body electric guitar) and images of some of Harvey’s guitars and cases. You can see this unique display—think of it as a bit of Southern California’s guitar archeology—in the Museum’s lobby, throught the end of September.