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Musical Space

Musical Space: Stuart Mossman's Place In Kansas Music History

National Music Museum

Local guitar maker Stuart Mossman was a big reason why Kansas has such a strong musical heritage. Not only did he create beautiful musical instruments, but he helped to create a culture around them. His guitars were played by John Denver, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, and Cat Stevens, among others.

Working from his garage in Winfield, Kansas in the late 1960’s, he came up with a design based partly on advice from singer-songwriter Doc Watson. His S.L Mossman Guitar company was established in 1970 and was soon producing up to 10 guitars a day.

At a time when bigger guitar making companies were going corporate and allowing quality to slide, Mossman was able to market hand-built guitars of consistently high quality. Each craftsman who helped build the guitar signed their initials on the label, and Mossman himself tested each one personally.

A serious fire and a bad business deal took its toll on the company in the late seventies, and by the early 80’s the accumulated years of breathing sawdust and lacquer fumes forced him to retire. An employee bought the business and moved away, but it wasn’t really just the factory that impacted our area.

Mossman’s business seems to have been just an extension of his desire to create a musical community around his guitars. When he was teaching guitar lessons, jamming with famous clients like the Carradine brothers, or helping to organize the Walnut Valley Music Festival, Stuart Mossman was making sure South-Central Kansas would long benefit from the joy of putting a pick to a steel string.