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Instruments currently produced in Japan by Kanda since 2004. Previously hand-built in England between 1957 and 2001.
Tony Zemaitis was born Antanus (Anthony) Casimere (Charles) Zemaitis in 1935. While his grandparents were Lithuanian, both Tony and his parents were born in the UK. At age sixteen he left college to be an apprentice at cabinet making. As part of a hobby, he refashioned an old damaged guitar found in the family attic. In 1955, the first turning point to luthiery: Zemaitis built his first half decent guitar, a classical, nylon string with peghead. In the mid to late 1950s, Zemaitis served for two years in Britian's National Service.
Upon his return to civilian life, Zemaitis continued his guitar building hobby, only now a number of the guitars began turning up onto the folk scene. By 1960, he was selling guitars for the price of the materials, and a number of the originals that Zemaitis calls Oldies still exist. Early users include Spencer Davis, Long John Baldry, and Jimi Hendrix.
In 1965, Zemaitis' hobby had acquired enough interest that he was able to become self employed. By the late 1960s, the orders were coming in from a number of top players such as Ron Wood, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison. The house and shop all moved lock, stock, and barrel to Kent in 1972. A Student model was introduced in 1980, but proved to be too popular and time consuming to produce the number of orders, so it was discontinued.
In 1995, Zemaitis celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the first classical guitar he built in 1955. Guitar production was limited to 10 guitars a year. In 2001, Tony Zemaitis finally decided to retire and enjoy himself.
Sadly, in 2002, Tony passed away. His family and friends commented that despite his retirement, he couldn't stay out of the workshop! Before Tony died, he was in touch with Kanda (Japan) regarding the sale of this name. He felt that if one company owned the Zemaitis name, it would eliminate unathorized copies. His family completed the sale after he died and spent the next two years researching and making prototype Zemaitis instruments. Tony's family had some input in making the guitar and advice on the finishes. In 2004, Kanda started producing Zemaitis guitars again. Many people claim the Japanese Zemaitis models are very close to the original instruments built by Tony.
Several years ago, George Harrison lent three of his Zemaitis acoustic models to an exhibition in the U.K. organized by Viscount Linley (Princess Margaret's son). Source: Tony Zemaitis, March 1996, Keith Smart 2001, Information courtesy Keith Smart, The Z Gazette: magazine of the Zemaitis Guitar Owners Club based in England. Visit their website www.zemaitisclub.com for more information.

From Blue Book Publications:

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