Frank Gay

Frank (François) Gay. String instrument builder, guitarist, lutenist, composer, b Marcelin, north of Saskatoon, of French parents, 23 Apr 1920.

Gay, Frank

Frank (François) Gay. String instrument builder, guitarist, lutenist, composer, b Marcelin, north of Saskatoon, of French parents, 23 Apr 1920. His background as a guitarist - he studied in the late 1930s at the New York School of Music - and his qualifications as a watch maker preceded his interest in guitar building. In Toronto he continued to study guitar with Norman Chapman and was his partner in a duo. He also apprenticed in guitar building for two years at R.S. Williams &Co. In 1953 he established a studio in Edmonton. His first guitars, steel-string acoustics, were popular with country musicians. The US stars Johnny Cash, Don Gibson, Hank Snow, and others have owned Gay guitars. Three - those owned by Johnny Horton, Webb Pierce, and Faron Young - have been placed in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tenn. Gay began building classical guitars in the 1960s, using as models a Ramirez flamenco guitar (a gift from Carlos Montoya) and an Esteco classical guitar. He has made guitars for Montoya and Alirio Diaz. He has built folk guitars, the smaller 10-string renaissance guitar, lutes, mandolins, and banjos. An innovative craftsman, he has experimented with construction materials and design and is noted for the fine quality of his inlay work.

Himself a versatile performer, fluent in classical, flamenco, jazz, country, and folk styles, Gay appeared 1958-63 on his own CKUA radio show, was heard often as accompanist and soloist on the CBC, participated in pop music recordings, and performed in concert and in coffee houses. He was the founder in 1959 of a classical guitar society, possibly the first in western Canada, which presented in recital Diaz and Montoya, among others.


Further Reading

  • Davies, Mansel. "Alberta luthier: Frank Gay," Canada Folk Bulletin, vol 1, Mar-Apr (1978).

    Harrison, Trevor W. Prairie Bohemian: Frank Gay’s Life in Music. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2015.