Terry Fritz never envisioned his love of woodworking would transpire into building guitars — especially guitars that tour the country.
“It’s like stepping into a Rolls Royce,” says Dan Fedoryka, member of the band Scythian and owner of a custom performance guitar from Fritz. “You are ruined for anything else.”
Fritz Guitars, which opened in 2017 after Fritz took a short course on repairing and building guitars to become a luthier, has since built custom guitars for a variety of artists, including Piedmont Blues artist, Lakota John. John helped with the design, and he now uses it as his primary instrument when performing around the world.
And each and every custom-built guitar by Fritz is a labor of love.
“This is not a production facility; each of my guitars is handcrafted and unique,” he says. “I am always on the lookout for new tonewoods and improved methods for creating the most beautiful and resonant instruments. In the end, no two of my guitars are exactly alike, and each has its own special voice.”
Although the average guitar takes three to five months to make, Fritz’s background in woodworking and talent as a draftsman allow him to make his own patterns, tools, and jigs. He includes features found only on the guitars he makes, such as sound ports and transitional arm bevels that make holding a guitar easier.
He also waxes poetic about the specialty wood he uses. Wood used for some manufactured guitars is actually plywood. But not Fritz’s; thick plank-like boards in exotic woods like African Bubinga (walnut from California), East Indian Rosewood, and other woods transform the guitars into polished works of art.
As a precursor to his woodworking career, Fritz spent hours making handcrafted cabinets and furniture with help from his father and grandfather. But his day job wasn’t exactly his true calling.
“I worked for 35 years in sales and marketing in the veterinary pharmaceutical field,” Fritz says. “While that was a lucrative career, each day I felt like ‘I have to go to work.’ Now, in my second career, my thinking is more along the lines of, ‘Yay, it's Monday. I get to go to the shop.’”
Fritz markets his business at music festivals, including the International Bluegrass Music Association events in Raleigh; MerleFest, America’s top rated roots music festival, in Wilkesboro; and the North Carolina Folk Fest in the Gate City.
In fact, the latter helped open the door to a friendship with David Holt, a Grammy award-winning bluegrass artist. Holt fancied one of Fritz’s guitars — so much so that it’s currently on display at the North Carolina Transportation Museum as a part of Holt’s favorites.
Today, Holt and Fedoryka both continue to thrill audiences on tour with their Fritz guitars, which is a dream come true for Fritz. Back at his shop, Fritz continues to make works of art, one-stringed guitar at a time.
“I love what I do here, and despite devoting just as many hours as my previous job, I feel like I am creating, not working,” Fritz says. “If cared for properly, these instruments will provide enjoyment for generations to come.”