Best Of Dallas

The Nine Best Guitar Repairmen in Dallas

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The trust you place in a guitar master's steady hand, keen mind and eye for detail when you hand him your baby is almost too much to bear. It's more hope than faith. For you need someone who's knowledgeable, but not just book smart. A guitar master needs to know more than just how to solder the yellow and green wires together, glue a new bridge and replace a few strings. He must know its rhythm, that steady beat pulsing through the wood.

But who are we to judge a guitar master? We're just writers just trying to make a living. What we needed was to consult working musicians, the guys touring the country like pariahs of the Muse, the guys of metal from Drowning Pool to Warbeast, the guys of blues from Hash Brown to Smokin' Joe Kubrick. I needed to ask the guitarslingers who make their guitars bleed on stage night after night.

After an overwhelming response from a great group of musicians, we've finally complied a list of local guitar masters who deserve our respect, our gratitude and our love for making our guitar heroes sound so damn good.

Kenny King

Working with Dimebag Darrell Abbot, Rex Brown, Mike Scaccia, Scott Shelby and others, this guitar master has had to work overtime to keep up with these guitarslingers' abuse. These guys make their guitars scream on stage, and it's King's job to make them sing again. "Everbody knows -- other than Scott -- that they're at my mercy when it comes to working on their guitar," he says. "That's why I'm not out on the circuit. I'm pretty picky about which guitar players I work with." (Although Darrel and Mike are no longer with us - may they ignite heaven with their notes - Scott is still tearing it up with Warbeast.) Rabid Flesh Eater, Warbeast, Rigor Mortis, Pantera, this guy has worked on some brutal guitars. "If you're going to buy a Cadillac, put the right parts on it" is one of his mottoes.

Dimebag Darrell first discovered this guitar master while he was working in a club in Colleen, Texas. King was 17 and Darrell was 15. "They played and blew me away," King says. So he asked if the aspiring guitar legend needed help breaking down his guitar. It was the beginning of a working friendship that lasted until Dime's untimely death in 2004. Learning from another guitar master, Walt Treichler of Rotting Corpse, is what put this guy at the top of the extended family's list for repair answers. He also studied with Floyd Rose at a guitar show, learning everything there is to know about the Floyd Rose tremolo. "There's nothing better than the original thing Floyd came up with," he says. King is the kind of guitar doctor who makes house calls; but he's not accepting any new clients unless you're part of his extended family of musicians. "If I know 'em, and they need work on their guitar, I'll help 'em out."

Bryant Russell

Russell is not only one of the hardest working technicians in Dallas but also a classically trained guitarist with a degree in classical guitar performance from SMU. To supplement his income playing classical guitar, he joined the Brook Mays team before finding a home at Charley's Guitar Shop. "Having a background as a player helps with cutting through the issue," he says. "I think the real part of guitar repair is being able to observe what's going on with the guitar but also understanding what the player is going through."

Since joining Charley's team, Russell has worked on hundreds of guitars. Music shops across Dallas and Fort Worth call him with questions. He's even corrected other guitar masters' mistakes, and he's also repaired some of the music industry's finest guitarslingers, including the guitarist from Cold Play and countless prominent local musicians. "It's part of the joy is knowing that I'm helping put players in a position where they can get on stage and feel confident knowing their guitar is working at its peak." He's also probably the only guitar master on this list asked to restore a broken guitar back to its original broken state. But it wasn't just any broken guitar. It was Elvis Presley's Martin D-28. "Elvis had broken it." This guy is truly more than a guitar master; he's a magician performing musical magic at Charley's five days a week.

Roger Crisler

One master's name that kept being repeated by the guitar experts was Roger Crisler of Crisler Guitar Repair in Carrollton. He's been in the business of repairing guitars for almost 40 years. Some of the best guitarists in the DFW area turn to him when their guitar is sick: Chris Watson, Bnois King, Zach Weeks, Drew Adkins, Smokin' Joe Kubek, the list just continues to grow. He's trusted, and his work is respected. "When you love what you do, it doesn't feel like a job," he says.

In high school wood shop class, while other kids were building bookshelves that tilted, coffee tables that bowed, and paddles to smack each other with, Crisler was building a guitar. He later attended the Roberto-Venn school of Luthiery in Arizona and became a guitar researcher at Schecter Guitar Research and continued to enhance his knowledge of the guitar. Later, working for places like Guitar Center and Mars Music, which has since closed its doors, Crisler learned the ins and outs of the guitar, how to quick fix problems, and create solutions for unfixable problems. In the '80s, when Van Halen was touring in support of their album 1984, he had the opportunity to go back stage and repair Eddie Van Halen's guitar. "I thought I was so cool," he says. But he'd finally obtain the right to call himself a "guitar master."

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.