Chris Jenkins was a practicing veterinarian until he retired a few years ago. What you may not know is his skill in treating his patients was made better by his passion for making some of the finest guitars in the US. “I was a guitar player when I was young and a bad one at that,” Jenkins said smiling. “I got worse in the late 70’s when I put my left hand down on a table saw while in operation.” Fortunately, a great surgeon saved his hand with no sign of visible disability at all.

“But it was enough that if you’re already a poor guitar player and handicap yourself, you become a really bad guitar player,” he added. Jenkins eventually gave up playing guitar which he said was probably a good thing. “I’m a better builder than I was ever a player,” he said. His love for building guitars first began when his son Jeremy was part of a garage band and the guitar his son was playing gave out on the neck area. “He wanted something new, and I thought ‘let’s see if we can build one,” he said. “So we built a solid-body electric bass guitar. It came out pretty good – he still plays it sometimes.”

Afterwards Chris went on to build a couple more solid-bodied guitars, but his love for acoustic models remained strong in his soul. He even went to California for a time to further learn the craft of guitar-building. “In 1995, I built my first acoustic guitar,” he said. “We try to make people’s dreams come true.” Shortly after his first creation, he and Jeremy formed Lame Horse Instruments, a family operation that’s been in business for over 20 years!

Chris said their average customer, most over 40 years of age, have gotten to the point where they’ve saved a little retirement money and are ready to make the hefty investment. He says that many of these customers have played their entire lives and know exactly what they want. “It’s special for them to buy a custom guitar, so we design them something unique, “he says. “No two instruments are alike. We make three different models. Each model retains the same size, overall shape, internal bracing structure, and quality of sound, but the appointments are all personal.” Not long ago Chris received a special request for a guitar from a gentleman named Elmo Shropshire. “Most people don’t recognize his name but have listened to his work,” Jenkins said. “For 35 years Shropshire has had one of the #1 songs on the radio every Christmas season worldwide, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Because of that song’s success, Dr. Elmo, who was also once a veterinarian, wanted a guitar with a subtle reindeer design theme. We came up with something and everyone was happy.”

People usually have a specific theme in mind when they contact Chris. “We recently received a commission from a man living in Georgia who wants cotton as the them of his guitar. Generations of his family have grown cotton; he was even nicknamed Cotton.” Chris’ most famous customer to date has been John Sebastian from a group formerly known as the Lovin’ Spoonful and who played at Woodstock. “We made him a six-string banjo,” Chris said. “I met him in New York – what a nice man.”

When asked about how his skills as a veterinarian translate into guitar building – Chris says it’s all in the details. “Being a guitar builder made me a better veterinarian, and a better surgeon,” he said. “The tolerances on these guitars are thousandths of an inch. You don’t just get close and trust that it’s going to heal; it’s not growing tissue.” All that attention to detail culminates in well-crafted guitars that usually command somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000 on average with some commanding higher fees depending on custom requested materials, measurements, etc. Another unique characteristic of his guitars is that all of them are given a woman’s name. “I always thought the guitar was shaped like a woman,” he said. “In Spanish, most words are gender specific. The word guitar is female; it’s sweet, gentle and beautiful…it’s all those things.”

Currently, Lame Horse Instruments has about an 8-12 month wait time. Jenkins currently has several significant orders from individuals, some from a dealer in London, as well as instruments to build for the National Association of Music Merchandising show in Los Angeles in January. “We were one of 50 people from around the world invited to bring guitars and display them in a Boutique Guitar showcase at NAMM,” Jenkins said. “It’s a huge honor, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity.”


Original Article by Lance Winter of Mansfield News (