That Old Guitar: A far cry from his days as a 1960s Los Angeles rock band, luthier Hector Trevino brings seasoned skills to the art of musical instrument repair.
When Hector Trevino turned 50, he reflected on his life and his accomplishments, and he decided he wanted to build a guitar. It was a dream he had always had, dating back to his days on the music scene in 1960s Los Angeles.
“I kind of gave up the dream of rock ‘n’ roll in my late twenties and moved from Southern California to Illinois,” he says. “I’ve always had mechanical abilities and I’ve done several things – I was a motorcycle mechanic, I did carpentry, I worked as a machinist.
“When I first considered building a guitar, I read books and played with the guitars I had. I had a son who had friends with guitars, and I I started working on their instruments. That’s when my work started and it never stopped.
In his twenties, Trevino played guitar in a band that opened shows for Frank Zappa, and he played in a backing band for guitar legend Bo Diddley. He is a lover of blues and 1960s music, fond of poetic lyrics and the unique fusion of jazz, country and rock. And, while Trevino, now 70, says his band days are well behind him, he still enjoys playing — and fixing — guitars.
He is the sole owner and operator of GuitarNutz, a fretted instrument repair shop located inside Midlothian Music in The Shops at Railey Hill.
Trevino’s luthier work is limited to existing instruments, rather than custom-built guitars. He first opened a boutique in 2008 while still in Illinois before moving to Chesterfield in 2019 to be closer to his family.
“When I came to this area, I was looking for a space that wasn’t too big or too expensive,” he says. “I got a call from Jack Ryan, who had a music studio in Midlothian with a suite of rooms. I rented a room from him and opened a shop. We had a synergy, because he had students who came, and when they needed repair work, he sent them to me.
Earlier this month, Jack Ryan Music was purchased by Rob Plier, a music teacher who was based at the store. Plier has renamed the business Midlothian Music, but he says the staff – including other music teachers and Trevino – will remain unchanged. Ryan, the former owner, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career writing music for television, providing Plier with an opportunity.
“Since I was a teenager, I dreamed of running my own music store,” he says. “The store is under new ownership, but it will be run the same way. It’s a family business, and it’s a place to bring students of all ages and skill levels for lessons.
Although the business model does not change, Plier has his own plans – in the future he wants to hold concerts and recitals there. He will remain in his role as a music teacher – for 14 years he taught banjo, ukulele, piano, bass guitar and violin.
In three years alongside Trevino, Plier has developed his own synergistic relationship. “I always bring my guitars to him for a setup because he does the best job of anyone I know,” he says. “It’s convenient to have the best luthier in the region working in my workshop. Almost all of my students who need repairs go to his house.
Trevino says the shop is too small to add an apprentice, but he’s happy to share information with anyone interested in learning the trade. He sees a variety of problems every day; he adjusts the neck and bridge to improve intonation, fixes loose frets, and replaces parts. Sometimes he does electrical repairs, including van replacements. “Guitars go haywire when they’ve been sitting for a long time,” he says. “And sometimes store-bought guitars don’t fit properly.”
“I have regulars, once they know they can trust me,” says Trevino. “It’s a bit like a doctor-patient relationship. People come up to me and say, ‘Why don’t you work on this part today?’ Then they’ll like what I did and say, ‘Okay, now I’m bringing you my good guitar.’