The following is a summary of the lives of some of the greatest flamenco guitarists of the last 150 years. The list below places the artists in chronological order, and each link leads to a brief description and partial discography. The city indicates where each artist was born or the area most closely associated with his art. Most of this information was taken from the Diccionario Enciclopédico del Flamenco by Jose Blas Vega and Manuel Ríos Ruiz.
Juan Gandulla Gómez. Cádiz 1867–Madrid 1927. Disciple of Patiño. He began his career performing alternately with his mentor and he became famous in the cafés cantantes and theaters of his day. In the early 1900s he moved to Madrid, where he performed for many years in venues and on tours. He accompanied Antonio Chacón in Cádiz and on the singer's first disk recordings in 1909. His playing involves heavy use of the thumb, strumming across chords and picking out very fast single-note lines, although arpeggios can also be heard in his recordings with Chacón, Manuel Torre, la Serrana and Niño de Constantina.
Javier Molina Cundí. Jerez de la Frontera 1868–1956. He began at the age of eight, accompanying a blind violinist in his town, and he was teaching guitar by the age of twelve. He went on to perform at private gatherings with his brother, who was a dancer. After working in a café cantante in Jerez, he left this city in 1885 with his brother and a young singer named Antonio Chacón on a tour of towns in the surrounding provinces. He continued to work in tablaos all over the provinces of Cádiz, Seville, Extremadura and Madrid, where he accompanied nearly all the great singers and dancers of his time. He also worked with the legendary guitarists Maestro Patiño and Paco Lucena, and influenced many others such as Diego de El Gastor and Ricardo. Following the Civil War, he taught guitar in Jerez (the Morao brothers studied with him) and performed for private gatherings and in venues. He occasionally toured Spain with dancers and singers, and he also played classical guitar. In his solo performances, he would combine flamenco, classical and even his own renditions of popular songs. The most outstanding characteristics of his playing seem to be his advanced left-hand fingering and use of open strings. Although he lived well into the 20th century, he only recorded two soleás and two siguiriyas with Manuel Torre. His playing sounds outdated today, much like Ramón Montoya prior to the late 1920s, but his unusual left-hand figures are still interesting. Click here to read an interview with him.
Not much seems to be known about this guitarist, other than the fact that he accompanied Tenazas de Morón and Manuel Torre on the promotional recordings made in the wake of the 1922 Granada singing contest (Concurso de Cante Jondo). Whoever he was, his playing was highly developed and quite unusual for his time.
Ramón Montoya Salazar. Madrid 1879–1949. He supposedly received classes from Maestro Malagueño and Miguel Borrull, and he stated that he was influenced by Javier Molina. In 1893, he began professionally as an accompanist in the café cantantes of Madrid. His talent and fame grew quickly, and he accompanied Antonio Chacón between 1912 and 1926. By the late 1920s, his playing was very well developed, even by today’s high standards. Nearly all guitarists since that time have been greatly influenced by his playing. He toured Europe and America between 1936 and 1938, performing as a soloist in classical-music venues, and he was greatly admired by flamenco and classical guitarists. Following the Civil War, he recorded with many artists, particularly with Pepe Marchena. It is said that he was an admirer of the guitar playing of Miguel Llobet, a student of Tárrega. He recorded with nearly all the great singers from the first half of the 20th century, including Juan Breva, Pastora, Aurelio, Chacón, Cepero, Vallejo and Mojama. Click here to read an interview with him.
Manuel Álvarez Soruve. Badajoz 1889–Madrid 1962. Disciple of Javier Molina and Ramón Montoya. He accompanied many of the great singers of the 20th century and recorded extensively. Guitarists in his family included his brothers Pepe and Ernesto and his son Justo. Manolo was a follower of Montoya and can be seen in photos using the same right-hand position as Montoya (over the sound hole). His playing was rhythmically refined and his thumb was fast and strong. He recorded with el Gloria, Caracol, Pastora, Cepero and many more.
Antonio Moreno Fernández. Córdoba 1890–Seville 1937. He worked nearly all his life in Seville but occasionally toured. He was considered to be a great professional, and he was one of Ricardo's mentors. His playing was surprisingly complex for his time, although you have to look closely at some of his techniques to appreciate it. He made prominent use of first-string rhythmic counterpoint, the echoes of which are clearly heard in the playing of Niño Ricardo. His development of the p-i-p technique remains astounding to this day, as he used the simple ternary mechanism in complex arrangements of slurred triplets and even sixteenths. Many variations on this idea can be heard in his accompaniment of bulerías in A major. He recorded with Pastora, Manolo Fregenal, Niño de la Rosafina and Vallejo.
Antonio Pérez. Seville 1890–Madrid 1957. He began in the 1920s in the Seville venue El Pasaje del Duque, playing for private gatherings of artists and aficionados. He worked in several tablaos in Madrid until his death. His playing made use of highly rhythmic slurs and a lively air. He recorded with Vallejo, Niño León and Antonia Suárez. According to the first edition of the newspaper El Cante, his grandfather, also named Antonio Pérez, was born in 1839 and was known as Maestro Pérez. A contemporary of Maestro Patiño, he was said to be an excellent accompanist of singing and especially of dancing.
Pedro del Valle Pichardo. Jerez de la Frontera 1894–Madrid 1964. He began playing in his natal Jerez but moved to Madrid in 1920 where he worked as the main guitarist in the colmao Villa Rosa. He accompanied many great artists of his time, particularly Chacón, with whom he recorded in 1928. In 1954, he directed the first recorded flamenco anthology, considered to be of prime importance in the revival of flamenco following its decline in the first half of the 20th century. That same year, he began to work in the Madrid tablao Zambra as the main guitarist, occupying this position until his death. He accompanied nearly all the great singers of the 20th century and is remembered for his original and sensitive style of playing and his knowledgeable accompaniment. He recorded with Chacón, Antonio Chaqueta, Rafael Romero, Pericón and many others.
Miguel Borrull Jiménez. Madrid 1899–Barcelona 1976. His father, also named Miguel Borrull, was a flamenco guitarist with knowledge of classical guitar. He began professionally with his father in a café cantante in Barcelona and worked in others in Madrid, as well as in theaters in Spain and abroad. He recorded with many singers during the first half of the 20th century, including Torre and Vallejo. Like Luis Molina and Sabicas, his playing relied heavily on picado.
Antonio Delgado Bernal. Cádiz 1900–Seville 1980. Antonio was the older brother of Estéban Sanlúcar. He began in Seville in the early 1920’s, accompanying the many excellent singers from that time and place in history. He toured Spain with Marchena and Pastora, and he recorded with Chocolate and Luis Caballero.
Manuel Serrapí Sánchez. Seville 1904–1972. Disciple of his father and Antonio Moreno. He began professionally in 1917 at the age of thirteen and played with Antonio Moreno. In 1918, Javier Molina hired him to play in a tablao, and for the next ten years he played in different venues and toured at home and abroad. In the mid-1920s he began recording and continued with this activity for the next four decades. In 1945, he underwent a throat operation which left him with a deep raspy voice that is clearly discernible on recordings in which he hummed along with his playing. During the 1940s, he also performed in countless tours with popular artists such as Juanito Valderrama and Antonio Molina, and he even performed in concert with Sabicas in Mexico City in 1949. His life coincided with the popularity of the fandango, a style at which Ricardo was perhaps the greatest of all. He influenced generations of guitarists for decades, making a deep impression on modern players like Paco de Lucía, Enrique de Melchor, Serranito and many others who saw in his playing the forging of the next link in the development of the flamenco guitar. His falsetas are immediately recognizable and his creative genius is well illustrated in his brilliant left-hand reworking of chords. But his right hand was also formidable, unique in its constant manipulation of the strings and insistent counterpoint. His fingernails grew in a peculiar upward curve, which is surely responsible for part of his unique tone. His recorded accompaniment of Mairena in 1966 and 1967 is superb. He recorded with nearly all the great singers of the 20th century: Pastora, Tomás, Pepe Pinto, Gloria, Vallejo, Carbonerillo, Mazaco, Antonio and Manuel Mairena, Fernanda y Bernarda, Caracol, Talega, Porrina de Badajoz and many others. It appears that he made more recordings than Ramón Montoya.
Barcelona 1906–1986. He began working in Barcelona and moved to Madrid during the Civil War, where he worked for many years in private gatherings and tablaos. Although his playing style is outdated, it makes a very good starting point for beginners. He recorded with Mairena, Talega, Caracol, Fernanda and Bernarda and others.
Melchor Jiménez Torres. Marchena 1907–Madrid 1980. He began accompanying private gatherings in Seville during the early 1930s. He toured Spain and America in the 1940s and worked until 1970 as the main guitarist in the Madrid tablao Los Canasteros. In 1966, he was given the most prestigious flamenco award for guitarists by the Cátedra de Jerez. Close examination of his playing reveals highly developed technique serving outstanding musicianship. He was perhaps the greatest accompanist of all time, and he developed a tasteful style that offered unparalleled support for singers. He loved the guitar like very few people can, and he played with absolute commitment. He recorded with many singers, including Pepe Torre, Tomás, Pastora, Talega, Antonio and Manuel Mairena, Caracol, Chocolate, Menese, Fernanda and Bernarda, Pepe Culata and Pericón.
Diego Amaya Flores. Arriate (Málaga) 1908–Morón de la Frontera 1973. In 1923, he moved from the town of El Gastor to Morón de la Frontera. He studied with his brother Pepe and a popular older guitarist from Morón called Pepe Naranjo, who, in turn, learned from Paco Lucena. He played mostly for private gatherings in or near his adopted town, where he became a local legend. His style of playing sets him apart from nearly all other guitarists and seems to be based on older forms of interpreting flamenco, although it must be observed that this is a common impression when listening to older recording artists, such as Juan Talega, Agujetas Viejo, la Piriñaca and others. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the Morón playing style, although Diego and his toque have long been admired by many aficionados. Paco Cepero has stated that Diego was one of his influences. He recorded with Joselero, Juan Talega, Perrate, la Fernanda and Manolito de María.
Agustín Castellón Campos. Pamplona 1912–New York 1990. He was reportedly self-taught, and his first recital took place at the age of seven. Three years later, he worked in Madrid accompanying a famous singer of popular songs and enjoyed great success. He toured Spain extensively until the Civil War, at which time he moved to Latin America, where he toured until 1955. For the last five years of that period, he lived and performed in Mexico, and from there he moved to New York, where he established himself as a world-renowned soloist and prolific recording artist. His recordings from that period were not initially available in Spain, but, upon their arrival, they influenced an entire generation of guitarists. In this sense, he and Ricardo can be considered the two inheritors of the work of Ramón Montoya and also the two sources of inspiration for modern guitarists. Spanish guitarists were stunned upon hearing Sabicas’ recordings in the 1960s, and he was soon invited to return to Spain to accept an award in 1967. Just as Ricardo became influential toward the end of Montoya’s life, so did Sabicas toward the end of Ricardo’s. He took levels of technique to unimagined heights, developing the ideas of Ramón Montoya, Manolo de Huelva and, of course, his own compositions. Following his first visit to Spain, he returned regularly and received numerous awards and great acclaim. It can be said that he was the greatest solo flamenco guitar player of all time, a title perhaps only disputed by Montoya, taking into account the circumstances of his time. He recorded with Angelillo, Niño de La Calzá, Camarón, Juan Cantero, Carbonerillo, Carmen Amaya, Chato de Las Ventas, Chato de Jerez, Pepe el Culata, la Jerezana, Cojo Madrid, Enrique Morente, José Nieto de Orellana, Pena hijo, el Pili, Niña de La Puebla, Rafael Romero, Sordera, Niño de Utrera, Valderrama, Juan Valencia and others.
Andrés Heredia Santiago. Madrid 1924–2012. He began professionally in 1937 and went on to accompany many great singers, such as Pastora, Vallejo, Cepero and others. He also worked in many tablaos in Madrid and was considered to be a great professional. He recorded with Aurelio Sellés, Manolo Vargas, Beni de Cádiz, Rafael Romero and others.
Eduardo Gutiérrez Seda. Seville 1925–1990. A disciple of Ricardo, he began playing in the Alameda de Hércules area of Seville, mainly at private gatherings, and he was awarded by the Cátedra de Jerez. He recorded with Francisco Mairena, Juan Talega, Platero de Alcalá, Bernarda, Perrate, Tomás Torre and Manuel de las Angustias.
José Cala Repeto. Jerez de la Frontera 1927–2006. He began playing for private gatherings in Jerez. In the 1950s, he moved to Seville, where he worked in tablaos. He performed abroad in festivals and tours and recorded with many singers, especially el Chocolate. His aggressive style of playing was precise and highly dynamic. He recorded with Antonio Mairena, Chocolate, Naranjito and la Sallago, and he also made four solo recordings.
Manuel Delgado Lara. Brenes (Seville) 1928. He began as a singer and quickly took up the guitar professionally in the Alameda de Hércules area of Seville. Born just a year apart, he and Antonio Arenas play similar ideas. He has recorded with Chocolate, Beni de Cádiz, Diego Clavel and Menese.
Manuel Moreno Jiménez. Jerez de la Frontera 1929. Like his brother Juan, he studied with Javier Molina and has dedicated his life to flamenco and the guitar. He worked for many years accompanying the dancing of Antonio (with Antonio Mairena) and the singing of Terremoto, and he has also worked in the promotion of flamenco activities in Jerez and festivals throughout Andalusia. His playing is full of dynamics, starts and stops. He has recorded with Caracol, Terremoto, Sernita, la Paquera, Perla de Cádiz, María Vargas, la Sallago, Juan Talega and Antonio Mairena.
Antonio López Arenas. Ceuta 1929–Madrid 2008. Disciple of Alberto Vélez. For many years, he worked and lived in Madrid, and he recorded with many singers, such as Rafael Romero, Lebrijano, Camarón, Turronero and Indio Gitano.
Félix García Vizcaíno. Canarias 1929–1998. Although he was born in the Canary Islands, both his parents were from Utrera, where he lived from the age of six onward. He played with a little-known follower of Maestro Patiño named Capinetti. He did practically everything a guitarist could do over his long career. He worked in many establishments, both in Spain and abroad, and was the featured guitarist on the famous Magna anthology. He worked as the first guitarist in the Madrid tablao Corral de la Morería for thirty years, and he was well-known for his wit. He is considered to be a follower of Ricardo. He recorded with nearly all singers in the 1960s and 1970s.
Juan Carmona Carmona. Granada 1933–2016. Along with Mario Maya, he began as a dancer at an early age and quickly took up the guitar, learning from his father tío José Habichuela and from Juan Hidalgo López “el Ovejilla.” In 1956 he began to work in Madrid in tablaos and recording sessions, and in the opinion of many he eventually became the best accompanist of singing of his day. His playing was awarded on many occasions, he toured and recorded extensively, and he was in such demand that he had to come out of retirement on several occasions. He recorded with Perrate, Chocolate, José Tomasa, Naranjito, Pansequito, Carmen Linares, Fosforito and many others.
Juan Moreno Jiménez. Jerez de la Frontera 1935–2002. He studied with Javier Molina and worked in nearly all facets of accompaniment: in fiestas, in tablaos, touring abroad, playing festivals and recording with some of the great singers of the 20th century. His playing was steeped in Jerez tradition. Juan was the brother of Manuel Morao and the father of Moraíto (Manuel Moreno Junquera). He recorded with Mairena, la Piriñaca and others.
Pedro del Valle Castro. Madrid 1940. He began performing with his father in the Madrid tablao Zambra and has gone on to accompany many great singers. His playing makes use of an older, more aggressive right-hand approach to playing than that of modern styles. Like Diego de Morón and Parrilla de Jerez, he has developed his style within tradition. His excellent accompaniment can be heard in recordings with Rafael Romero, Juan Varea and Carmen Linares.
Manuel Fernández Molina. Jerez de la Frontera 1945–2009. Disciple of Rafael del Águila and member of an immense dynasty of flamenco artists. He spent many years working in tablaos and recording with many artists. His solo recordings and academic work are of note. Like Diego de Morón and Perico Lunar, he developed his playing within tradition. He recorded with Borrico, Agujetas, Piriñaca, la Paquera, Menese, Terremoto and others.
Diego Torres Amaya. Morón de la Frontera 1947. Son of the great Joselero and nephew of Diego de El Gastor. Although he has worked and lived abroad extensively, he has developed an older style of guitar playing without recurring to sources outside of flamenco. His playing is perhaps the purest to be found today and his accompaniment is excellent. He has recorded with Joselero.
José Luis Postigo Guerra. Seville 1950. He began as a dancer and quickly took up the guitar. He has won awards, toured abroad and recorded extensively, and he has performed frequently in festivals and at peñas. He plays in a driving, highly rhythmic style reminiscent of Melchor and Juan Maya “Marote.” He has recorded with Antonio el Arenero, José Mercé and Fernanda and Bernarda.
Enrique Jiménez Ramírez. Marchena 1950–2012. Son of Melchor de Marchena. He debuted at Manolo Caracol’s tablao Los Canasteros at the age of 15 and went on to work abroad extensively. Enrique is often cited as one of the core contributors to the Caņo Roto school of modern flamenco guitar. His playing as a solo guitarist was underpinned by his deep understanding of accompaniment, and he was considered to be among the best in both styles. With his refined technique and strong right hand, he took harmonies and approaches to accompaniment to new heights. He recorded with Antonio and Manuel Mairena, José Menese, Pansequito, Lebrijano, Turronero, Manuel Agujetas, Vicente Soto, José Mercé, Fernanda y Bernarda de Utrera, Carmen Linares, Fosforito and many others.
Diego Carrasco Fernández. Jerez de la Frontera 1954. Also known as el Tate, he often performs as a singer. He has recorded with la Piriñaca, among others.