John Monteleone, world-renowned luthier to the likes Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Ben Harper, is the subject of a new documentary, John Monteleone: The Chisels Are Calling, which is now available to view on digital streaming services.
Monteleone has been described as “a living master” and “the modern day Stradivari of guitar”, a man whose instruments are part of the permanent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Directed by Trevor Laurence, John Monteleone: The Chisels Are Calling attempts to document Monteleone’s life in guitar-making – a career that began with his repairs to the family piano aged 10, and has led him to make stunning one-off instruments for some of the world’s most iconic players.
“John’s love for life and passion – whether it be food, music, art or architecture – just all goes into the instrument,” explains Ben Harper, who is interviewed in the film. “He is as fearless a luthier as hopefully you are as a musician.”
The film features contributions from some of his well-known clients, including Mark Knopfler, Ben Harper, David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Julian Lage, Anthony Wilson and Woody Mann.
“It is a great privilege and honor to be documented in this very special way. I am also deeply humbled by it,” Monteleone told Guitar World.
“This is something that I could only have dreamt about and now, here it is. Looking back on the past years I am thrilled to see the bulk of my work now passing in front of me on the screen. Hard to believe that my career has been so many years in the making and it’s like looking at a mountain that once used to be in front of me, is now in the rearview mirror.”
Monteleone’s instruments exchange hands for prices that sometimes exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in the film, the luthier takes the viewer back to his Italian roots, explaining the inspirations and materials involved in his work.
“I can often visualize a particular project in my head and as I begin the process of sorting through the materials for that instrument coming together,” he tells us. “The construction of every guitar or mandolin takes me on a magical journey as it begins taking shape on my workbench. What can be more exciting than to be a part of the birthing process!”