|STRING IT UP
Have a guitar built, restored or
repaired at Guitar Doctor, or just
stop by for a story or two about
OC’s guitar heroes.
18171 Euclid St., Fountain Valley
714.437.9607 :: guitardoctor.net
Before I get to Doc Pittillo’s Guitar Doctor shop, I allow myself to indulge in wanderings of the imagination. In this particular scene, ailing guitars sit in the waiting room, coughing and sneezing, waiting their turn to be called into the doctor’s office. The doctor – likely a large cello – holds a stethoscope to their erratically vibrating strings. Diagnosis: old age.
Guitar Doctor is not actually like that though, much to my disappointment. Doc Pittillo’s shop looks exactly as a guitar shop should – guitars hanging on walls, glass cases full of musical paraphernalia, scraps of wood and string strewn about. There are vintage amps and a back room full of tools and saws, and then, a dimly lit table with half-shapen guitar pieces and wooden templates, like something out of a Renaissance-era workshop. It’s all a little chronologically confusing, especially when you throw Pittillo into the mix, an OC-born and -raised luthier with floppy blonde hair, a surfer’s lilt and an encyclopedic knowledge of guitar-making, restoration and repair.
“I learned by doing,” says Pittillo, who moved his guitar repair business from Costa Mesa to Fountain Valley in 1996. Pittillo’s childhood in Newport Beach was a hands-on one, helping his dad build Indianapolis and sprint cars and “banging around the streets” with guitars in his high school years. Along the way, he met an old aerospace engineer, who offered him an apprenticeship working on instruments for room and board.
“He taught me about analysis and I taught him people skills,” says Pittillo, recalling the engineer’s matter-of-fact manner.
Pittillo later took to the road, touring as a guitar player in a band; when he returned home, he’d fall back on repairing guitars, all the whole rubbing elbows with a legion of OC’s finest musicians and legendary guitar makers – George Fullerton, Doc Hoffman, Paul Barth, Leo Fender, the guys from Santa Ana-based electric guitar manufacturer Rickenbacker.
“We were all hobbyists; we loved the instruments,” says Pittillo. “We played. We worked on them. It was a neat time.”
And while times change, they don’t change that much, especially when it comes to the love of an instrument. Pittillo’s store is still the center for guitar hobbyists of all kinds. Amateur players, professional musicians and collectors turn to him for his expertise and guidance, whether their preferred stringed instrument is a ukelele or a priceless archtop D’Angelico, and budding musicians get their start strumming on the couch in his entryway.
“This is what I grew up doing,” says Pittillo. “It’s what I know.”