Manuel Ramírez de Galarreta y Planet was born in Alhama de Aragon in 1864. Although the habitual residence of the family was Madrid, the father’s profession forced them to reside some time in this town. Manuel learnt the guitar-maker’s trade, from his elder brother, José.
At the age of 27, in 1891, he decided to establish himself on his own. At the beginning, his idea was to move to Paris, and when he communicated his idea to José, he helped him to carry out his project.
However, for reasons unknown, Manuel changed his plans, and he finally established himself in the nº 24 Cava Baja Street of Madrid, which caused an enmity between the two brothers. The rift between them was, sadly, never resolved. After a time in Cava Baja Street, Manuel moved his shop to nº5 Santa Ana’s square, and later on to nº10 Arlabán Street, where he stayed indefinately.
In a short period of time he was to develop great prestige, by not only making guitars, but also violins, and he was named “Luthier of the Royal Conservatory of Madrid”. In addition, he continued the school begun by his brother, and the guitar-makers he mentored were recognized as amongst the best.
These pupils were Santos Hernández, Domingo Esteso and Modesto Borreguero.
With all the success obtained by the tablao guitar designed by his brother José, it was natural that Manuel continued building it, but little by little he started developing it and perfecting it, culminating in an instrument that, still today, is the “model” for this type of guitar. Around 1912, a young man presented himself in the workshop in Arlabán Street with the purpose of renting a guitar for a concert he was to give. The clothes and general appearance of Andrés Segovia were outlandish. The strangeness of the petition, as well as the visitor’s aspect, made Manuel play with the situation giving him a guitar but not taking him very seriously.
However, after listening the youth playing, Manuel was so amazed that he decided to give him the guitar. That prodigious guitarist who played in taverns in exchange for a coffee was Andrés Segovia. The guitar that Manuel gave him is now on display in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.