My grandfather, Ted Beringer, got the idea to build his first guitar in 1950 at the Skyline Night Club in Billings MT, where he saw a man playing a new design of guitar from Fender called the Stratocaster. He asked to see it, and upon inspection said, “I could build one of these.” I imagine his interest was peaked because the instrument was an electric guitar, and his business was Ted’s Electric, a power tool repair shop. He experimented for months building and rebuilding parts and even went so far as to wind his own pick ups, because at the time you couldn’t buy them. Eventually, it was completed; his first guitar. The guitar that in his words weighed like a ton of bricks and looked more like a pizza paddle with strings than a Stratocaster. Everyone has to start somewhere. All that remains of that guitar is a photograph. He couldn’t ever recall exactly what happened to it, but it seems to have been dismantled and turned into other guitars.
Over the next 50 odd years, Ted built several hundred instruments in the tiny shop adjacent to the humble home he shared with my Grandmother and where they raised their five children. He didn’t keep sales records until later in life, so there’s no telling just how many of his instruments are out there. He was an outstanding member of both the Guild Of American Luthiers and the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans where he was always open to sharing with his peers. He never built the same guitar twice, there were no assembly lines, no custom orders. He invented countless new methods, tools, and instruments including nylon string archtop guitars, fretless archtop basses, nylon string mandolas (shaped like a balalaika), and an octave 12 string mand-itar to name a few. For Ted every instrument was a new experiment, a new journey of understanding and creation.
-James Bolenbaugh, museum founder
Special Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible:
Ossie Abrams, Nancy Ahn, Jenn Allen, Sofia Alvarez, Mollye Asher, Ika Avaliani, Ti Baker, JoAnne Beringer, Jack Beringer, Jolyn Beringer, Douglas Beringer, Barry Beringer, Greta Beringer, James Beringer, Rose Beringer, Katherine Beringer, Dan Bishop, Gary Blakely II, Michael Bolenbaugh, Joseph Bolenbaugh, Peter Bolenbaugh, John Boyd, Christopher Brown, Joanna Clarke-Sayer, Liz Clayman, Barbara Cokorinos, Alec Contestabile, d’emploi, Devin Dahl, Anthony and Ruth Dater, Henry Dater, Jim DeFrank, Tony DeFrank, Jill Diamant, Barbara Doux, Kathleen Doyle, Sandy Dvarishkis, The Dyre Family, Michelle Enemark, Rae English, Gökçen Ergene, Elizabeth Erikson, Mary Feeley, Taylor Feltner, Alina Grossman, Daniel Grossman, Jessica Harlem-Siegel, Elizabet Harper, Chris Harrison, Bruce Harvey, Geir Moe Heimark, Gina Herold, Constance Hoffman, Michelle Hogle, Yu-Han Huang, Nancee Ille, Mike Inwood, Scotty Iseri, Korey Jackson, John Jasieniecki, Christine Jones, AnnaRose King, Nikki Kirchheck, Minden Koopmans, Sherry Koopmans, Shiva G. Krishna, James E. Lawlor III, Randy Lebeau, Diane Long, Ryan Long, Jonathan Mann, Angie Maxson, Bill McCool, Blake McCormick, Patrick and Lana Meehan, David Meyer, Frank Michaud, Olga Mill, Mark Milstein, Kate Morris, Emily Morrison Nichols, Marci Mudd, Nick Neidorf, Jill Noell, Rebecca Noell, Edie Noell, Cait O’Connor, Kieran O’Mara, Marie Olesen, Marcy Patterson, Chien-Yu Peng, Rebecca Phillips, Peter Punch, Rodger Punch, Maggie Raywood, Emily Ray Reese, James Rhodes, Adele Romanski, Mike Rugnetta, Sara, Jeff and Quinn, Dante Olivia Smith, Aaron Smulktis, John Stoddart, Lauren Stoddart, Alex Stoddart, Una Sullivan, Jeff Troxel, Derek Van Heel, Paul Vargas, Marilyn Wade, Gene Wade, Brian Wade, Margot Wade, AnneMarie Wade, Dannikke Walkker, Christina Watanabe, Debbie Wicks, Pearre’ Williams