Manuel Reyes Maldonado was born in 1934 in a very small village called Jayena in the south of Spain in the province of Granada. He died in 2014 in the Spanish city of Córdoba.
When Manuel was 10 years old his parents Manuel and Evangelina decided to move to the city of Cordoba looking for work for the family. Soon Manuel Reyes’ father and his brother found work in a sawmill in Cordoba called “La Forestal”. While little Manuel also helped the family economically by running errands for merchants.
It was at that very early age that Manuel already began to be interested in and amazed by musical instruments. Once in the house of a neighbor called Carmen, he saw a guitar that was abandoned and broken and asked her to give it to him to try to fix it. Manuel gave it back to her after a while without much success in fixing it, but it gave him a chance to have a first idea of how it was built and to lay his hands on the instrument for the first time.
Since his brother and his father worked in the sawmill at home there were some woodworking tools and also some pieces of wood and Manuel decided to try to make his first guitar without any success, then the second one without success again. But little by little and with a lot of determination, he managed to make better and better guitars. By his teenage years, Manuel’s talent was becoming known to family and friends, and although he made the guitars for pleasure, they began to commission him to make them. Word of mouth kept on working until he started to sell them later on.
Manuel has always said that his way of learning was self-taught. Although there in Cordoba he had the opportunity to meet several times another of the great builders of history, Miguel Rodriguez Beneyto.
Manuel was also impressed by the quality of a guitar made by Marcelo Barbero that he heard and saw in 1954 in Cordoba. He was able to meet Marcelo Barbero on a trip to Madrid and Marcelo, seeing his talent, even offered him a job in his workshop. However, Manuel decided to return to Cordoba where he preferred to live, work and develop his very successful career as a guitarrero.
Manuel Reyes became over the years one of the most important and admired Spanish guitar makers in history.