DeTemple Guitars


Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Michael grew up not only playing, but maintaining and repairing a large assortment of stringed instruments. His earliest influences came from hanging out at the Ash Grove; among the people he spent time with included: Taj Mahal, Doc. Watson, Lightin’ Hopkins, The Kentucky Colonels with Clarence White, and good friend Jesse Ed Davis.

At age 14 Michael won his first Topanga Canyon Banjo & Fiddle Contest. After his fourth win, at age 18, Earl Robinson (Academy Award winning composer) became aware of his playing and invited him to perform his “Winterfest Concerto for Five String Banjo and Orchestra” (said to be the most difficult piece ever written for a soloist of any concerto). Michael performed this 45 minute solo with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster, and later with another Academy Award winning conductor, Elmer Bernstein.

As a result of this experience Mr. Bernstein and other composers began calling upon Michael to play on their film scores. It was during this time that Michael contributed to the Academy Award winning film score of Warren Beatty’s “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Michael was professionally involved in the heart of the musical vortex of the 1960s. From the Canyons to the Sunset Strip, he continued to dedicate
himself to the mastery of guitar, banjo and mandolin. One of his more notable
performances of this period was on Dave Mason’s best-selling album, “Alone Together.”

The 1970s were on the road and as a session musician working and playing with various artists and bands, including: Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Pete Townsend, Ron Wood, Randy California, Kinky Friedman, Booker T, Albert Hammond, Paul Butterfield, Earl Slick and others — many of which were the result of his close association with Rick Danko and The Band.

In the 1980s Michael began a family and eventually rededicated his professional life to instrument building, restoration and repair. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Joe Walsh, John Fogerty, Grant Geisman, Michael Landau, Mike Miller, Lee Ritenour, Dean Parks, Carl Verheyen and Michael Thompson have sought out and trusted his sense of craftsmanship. Over the years, literally thousands of guitars and other stringed instruments have passed through his capable hands. Many consider Michael one of the world’s best kept secrets for his almost fathomless knowledge and abilities to return, restore or setup guitars to their peak performance.

Michael is also an instrument collector, but around 1995 his favorite vintage electric guitars were rapidly increasing in value and becoming all the more impractical for gigging. So, after years of restoring and repairing some of the great old Fender® instruments, he decided to build his own using the cream (or as he puts it, “The ones that really had the ‘magic’!”) of the 1950s Stratocasters®, Esquires® and Telecasters® as templates for new recreations.

He studied every conceivable nuance of what set these particular instruments apart from the others and incorporated his discoveries into his own guitars. Friends, such as Red Rhodes, of Velvet Hammer pickups fame, helped uncover the enigma of the electronics. And, Michael’s uncanny sense of “touch memory” established the ideal neck shaping (as well as an accumulated long list of “secret recipes” for fingerboard and tone treatments).

The product is what he calls vintage-design solid body electrics — of which master luthier, Rick Turner, refers to as “…the one out of 5,000 — the top half of one percent of all these types of guitars… the dream Strat®-style guitars that everybody’s chasing after.”

Although still limited in number, Michael’s guitars are increasingly in demand and those lucky enough to own one (or more) are not letting them go. He insists on doing the work with his hands and ears. And, to his amazement, with every guitar he hand crafts, each seems to get just a little better.