Ivor Mairants

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Ivor Mairants (b. 18 July 1908 c.20 February 1998) was a jazz and classical guitarist, teacher and composer.

With his wife Lily in 1958 he created the Ivor Mairants Musicentre, a specialist guitar store in London that was the first of its kind in the country and is still among the foremost of its kind in the UK.


Ivor Mairants was born in Rypin, Poland. He came with his family to the United Kingdom in 1913. He attended Raine's Foundation School in Bethnal Green.[1] He took up the banjo at the age of 17,[2] and became a professional musician at the age of 20.

From the 1930s he was a featured banjoist and then guitarist of many of Britain's leading dance bands including those of Bert Firman, Ambrose, Roy Fox, Lew Stone, Geraldo and Ted Heath. In the 1960s and 1970s his guitar playing was often heard on television, radio, film soundtracks, and many recordings with the popular Mantovani orchestra, and with Manuel and his Music of the Mountains. His recording of the 'Adagio' from Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez with Manuel sold over one million copies. His guitar quintet broadcast regularly in the late 1950s on the BBC's Guitar Club series.

Ivor Mairants devoted much time to writing music and instructional methods for the guitar.

Zenith guitar headstock and neck
Zenith Guitar label detail

Mairants worked with American guitarist Josh White to create The Josh White Guitar Method (Boosey & Hawkes) in 1956. It was an influential book for the fledgling UK blues/folk scene and was the first blues guitar instruction book ever published. UK guitarist John Renbourn and American guitarist Stefan Grossman (who was living in the UK at the time) have cited it as a critical influence on their playing. The success of the book The Josh White Guitar Method prompted Mairants to commission a Zenith “Josh White” signature guitar based on Josh's Martin 0021 from German guitar maker Oscar Teller. Scottish guitarist Bert Jansch owned one of these models in his early playing years. On the last page of "Josh White Guitar Method" (printed 1956) there is a photo of this Zenith Josh White signature guitar and some text about it.[3]

In 1958, his book "The Flamenco Guitar" was published. It was written with the cooperation of Torroba (conductor), Sabicas and other guitarists. It was probably the first method for playing flamenco music written in English.

The Guild Guitar Company in the US worked with Josh White on a signature model in 1965. Mark Dronge took Josh White to the Guild factory in 1965. A guitar made to Josh White's specifications was made and was meant to become a signature guitar for Josh White, but it was never mass-produced. Mark Dronge explained that "The scene was starting to change. The Beatles were so influential and all these bands came out and the electric music was getting bigger and the plans for Josh White model just kind of fell by the wayside, unfortunately."[4][5]

Framus Zenith model 17

Mairants also commissioned German guitar manufacturer Framus to make further Zenith Guitars, with Boosey & Hawkes being the sole distributor and each one personally signed by him. These included the Zenith Model 17 acoustic which became Paul McCartney's first guitar and on which he subsequently wrote most of his early songs.

In an interview McCartney relates how he was surprised to see a 'chit' in Abbey Road Studios that Mairants had signed as a session musician - "...he was a God to us."[6]

In the 1950s Ivor Mairants established his Central School of Dance Music in London. All instruments were taught at this innovative establishment, but special emphasis was given to the guitar. In 1958, together with his wife Lily, he opened The Ivor Mairants Musicentre. This was Britain's first specialist guitar shop situated in the heart of London's West End. Although the store was sold in recent times to one of the UK's major instrument distributors, it still bears his name and continues to stock one of Britain's finest ranges of guitars. Over the years he was often employed as a specialist consultant for leading instrument makers and importers.

From the 1930s Ivor Mairants was a prolific columnist in several leading music journals including Melody Maker, BMG and Classical Guitar. In 1980, his biography, My Fifty Fretting Years, was published by Ashley Mark Publishing in the UK, and in 1995, his The Great Jazz Guitarists, a collection of note-for-note transcriptions of historic jazz guitar solos, was published by Music Maker Publications in Cambridge, UK.

He was a member of the Worshipful Society of Musicians, a prestigious and ancient British guild, and a Freeman of the City of London. In 1997 the Worshipful Society of Musicians inaugurated a new annual competition; the Ivor Mairants Guitar Award.


  1. ^ February 2004 newsletter, Old Raineans Association.
  2. ^ Mairants, Ivor (1994). The Great Jazz Guitarists 1 (2003 ed.). Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. p. 6.
  3. ^ Josh White Guitar Method.pdf
  4. ^ History Detectives
  5. ^ Transcription of History Detectives program
  6. ^ 'The Beatles Recording Sessions' Pg. 9, Lewisohn


  • Ivor Mairants. Ivor Mairants Guide To Latin American Rhythms For Guitar. Published 1962 by Latin-American Music Publishing Co. Ltd. 8 Denmark St. London WC2
  • Harper, Colin, 2002. Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival
  • Wald, Elijah, 2000. Josh White: Society Blues

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