Chris Carnes (1942-2000)

Diego del Gastor (1908-1973)     Juan Talega (1887-1971)
w/ Chris Carnes                      accompanied by Chris Carnes

   8-2-00 It was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle today that flamenco guitarist Christopher Carnes (1942-2000) has died at the age of 57. He died on June 25th of heart failure in a hospital in Eureka, California.

   Chris began to study Flamenco Guitar with Mario Escudero, in Los Angeles (where Chris was born) in the late 1950's. In 1960 Chris went to Mexico City, where he met Carmen Amaya. His first playing job was performing in a flamenco ballet "El Sevillanito" with other members of the Amaya family, in Mexico.

   In 1963 Chris went to Spain, arriving on his 21st birthday. He studied with Perico el del Lunar and Juan Maya "Marote". In 1964 after hearing rumours about Diego de Gastor, Chris went in search of him and found the legendary flamenco guitarist living in Moron de Frontera, in the Province of Sevilla. Diego virtually adopted Chris, who dedicated himself to the style of Diego's music. In 1968 Chris began playing at "La Cuadra" in Sevilla. He played there for over a year, six nights a week. In 1969 Chris became interested in the style common to the area of Lebrija, studying with Pedro Peña. In 1976 he recorded with Loli & Manuel, and had a hit with "Pasaje del Agua". In the 1980's Chris returned to the U.S. and was frequenting the Bay Area.
   I first met Chris through a purchase of a catalog of 12 cassettes of Diego del Gastor, Antonio Mairena & others, that he offered for sale in Guitar Player magazine in 1987. About a year or so later we met at the residence of Marc Silber in Berkeley. I remember him talking about how rare Hernandez y Aguado flamenco guitars were. "Out of over 400 guitars that they made, most are classicals, and maybe 10 are Flamencos."
   Chris worked under the psuedonym Cristobal Dos Santos. The reference of Dos Santos, is to the fact at one time he owned two flamenco guitars by Maestro Santos Hernandez (1879-1943) of Madrid --luthier to Ramon Montoya & Andres Segovia. One of these guitars Chris found in an antique shop window in Spain for $80.00. When you tell people how little it cost, the envy is unquenchable.
In 1989 Chris hosted the radio program "The Gypsy Flamenco Hour" on public radio KZYZ FM in Mendocino County, California. In 1990 the Spanish government officially invited Chris to play in the "Bienal de Sevilla", a concert series held in the Lope de Vega theatre, which was built in 1929. This particular year the series was dedicated to Chris's mentor, Diego del Gastor.

   In 1995 Chris visited Fine Fretted String Instruments, without any notice. Upon his surprise arrival, I said, "You know, I just last year acquired the two volume "Diccionario Ilustrado de Flamenco", and your name is it, along with Anita Sheer's & Jack Buckingham's. You all have a listing and paragraph biography". They are the only non-Spainards to be listed in this now out of print Illustrated Dictionary of Flamenco. I took the book off the shelf to show him and his driver. Chris was enroute to Stanford University Medical Center, for testing, as he had had problems with his heart, for quite a while at the time. That was the last time I saw Chris, he was a real visionary, to have been on the scene during the Golden Era of Flamenco.

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