Special Thanks to:
Freddie Cisneros is one of the few original guitar techs of Prescott. He’s originally from Fort Worth, Texas but has lived in Prescott for many, many years.
I first met Freddie back in 2000 when I was 24 years old. I was detailing cars at a local auto dealership called York Motors. One day, I met a customer named Ruth. Big, tall, sweet lady from Texas, and a longtime friend of Freddie’s.
Somehow, the subject of guitar playing came up. She told me that she was a friend of Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan, among other famous blues guys as well, and that they all used to play at her club all the time. I told her that I really liked those guys. She told me that if I like the blues, then I need to go meet Freddie.
So, I went down to the Folklore Center, which was the local instrument repair shop owned and ran by Jerry Page. I walk in, and I hear the sound of a banjo strum above my head as I opened the door. Jerry had it rigged up that way. Ruth had told me that Freddie was the guitar tech at the Folklore Center, so I brought my Mexican Strat that needed a new nut. I ruined mine from trying to cut the slots with a butter knife.
I walk in, and I asked for “Fred”. Jerry promptly corrected me and said, “It’s Freddie, and he’s right there.” I looked to my right, and I saw, behind the counter and almost camouflage against a backdrop of tools and guitars, a short guy, about 5’ 4”, maybe. He reminded me of my dad but with really a strikingly dark complexion and a full head of hair, thick eyebrows, mustache, goatee, hairy arms, and every bit of it, pure white. So, I was instantly struck by his distinctive features.
I had recently started tinkering with my own Strats, swapping parts, trying to get a better setup, and better tone. I grew up in the garage with my dad, watching and helping him build Harley Davidson choppers, so when I saw Freddie at his workbench, with his apron on, surrounded by all those tools and guitars, I was instantly fascinated, and I wanted to work with him.
I introduced myself, and he said, with his Texas accent; “Hey man.” I almost told him that I wanted to work with him, but I chickened out because although he was cordial, he seemed to be a man of few words and I had just met him, and I didn’t want to bug him.
He told me that he could replace the plastic nut on my Strat with another plastic one for $45. I left the guitar with him but on my way home, I felt that $45 was too expensive for me at the time and that I would be able to do it myself with a little bit of determination. I called him and told him that I changed my mind and that I would be by in the morning to pick it up. He said, “No problem.” After that, I was bound and determined to work on my own stuff. (And the rest is history, thanks, Freddie!)
But when I met him, I told him that his friend “Ruther”, as she told me to say, sent me to see him. I told him that she said he was the “Blues guy of Prescott”. He invited me to see him perform at the Bird Cage that following Sunday. I went and saw him, and he was not only a mean Texas blues guitarist, but he was also a Wild-man on stage. I was completely impressed and inspired.
He offered to give me guitar lessons, (as I hadn’t been playing long) but I couldn’t afford it and also wanted to learn on my own. So now, I not only wish I would’ve spoken up sooner about working with him, I also wish I would’ve taken lessons from him too!
Nonetheless, I continued to develop a business relationship with him because I as I learned more about working on guitars, I would go see him for strings, tuning machines, parts, etc. And I would bring in guitars that I was building or working on and share with him. He was always encouraging and supportive and he at least seemed somewhat impressed.
Finally, 11 years after I first met Freddie, I decided to speak up. At this point, Freddie had opened his own shop called Mercy Guitar Hospital. And I walked in one day to get some strings, and he was buried in guitars. I asked him how he was doing, and he told me, again with that Texas accent, that he was “Overwhelmed, man!” He pointed around the shop and there were guitars everywhere, waiting to be repaired. This time, I spoke up. I told him that I would love to help him out if I could. He asked me if I was serious, and I said “Absolutely!” He said he would give me a call sometime.
Now, instead of a banjo as a doorbell, Freddie had a cowbell. I told him that I looked forward to hearing from him and I walked out the door. I got about 10 steps out the door, and I heard that cowbell behind me. Freddie came out to me and said, “Hey man, are you serious about helping me?” I said, “Serious as a heart attack!” He said, “Come by tomorrow and we’ll get started.” I couldn’t believe that I was gonna work with Freddie, the great blues-man/guitar tech from Texas! I had hated every other job that I ever had, so, it was truly, a dream come true.
I had come a long way with working on guitars before I started working with Freddie, but he showed me a few things that we’re real game changers. I can honestly say that I’ve made thousands of dollars, on a few tricks that Freddie showed me. (Sorry, Top Secret!) Although, to be honest, I was hoping that I could just learn a few things from Freddie, and that I would be able to brag to everyone that I actually got to work and hang out with him. However, after a few months, Freddie said that he wanted to retire, and that he was “Turning it over” to me. He told me that I was a fast learner, and that I had a natural feel for this craft and that he felt I was the guy.
I couldn’t believe it. I was thrilled and really nervous, all at the same time. As far as I was concerned, Freddie’s shoes were awfully big for a guy like me to fill. But I wanted to prove to him that he made the right choice, and to this day, I still want Freddie to see that.
I once told him that when I first met him, I wanted to work with him and be his right-hand guy but I was too intimidated to say anything. He told me; “You should have said something, we could have made a lot of money!” I’ll always regret not speaking up sooner but better late than never, I guess!
So, with that, I would like to extend the most sincere thanks, from the bottom of my heart, to Freddie Cisneros, my friend and mentor, for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.