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Old 10-01-2004, 10:02 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 16,841
Guitarists, is Esteban for real?

Last night I saw another Esteban infomercial for guitars. I decided to go online and find out if he was for real. It seems he may be a guy by the name of Stephen Paul who really did study with Segovia, and indeed had the name of "Esteban" bestowed upon him by Segovia who supposedly couldn't pronounce Stephen. Stephen Paul was injured by a drunk driver and couldn't play for ten years or so and then regained sufficient use of his hands to begin playing again.

On the other hand, I found one site that says he's a total sham. This is what the site,, had to say:

"So-called “Guitar legend” Esteban was stripped of his legendary status this week when it was discovered that he is an entirely fictional character created specifically to sell pressboard guitars in infomercials.

Allan Holdsworth, guitar legend and president of “Real Guitar Legends For Truth” released a statement on Monday calling for the immediate cessation of all applications of the appellation “Guitar legend” to the television character known as “Esteban”. According to the statement, “Esteban is a fictional character created by L.A. session guitarist Dan Fernaueu for the express purpose of marketing a cheap, poorly constructed guitar-like instrument on the Home Shopping Channel.”

The scandal intensified when the Recording Academy revealed that claims that “Esteban” had won “several Grammys” were false.

These charges come on the heels of last month’s statement from the Musical Instrument Manufacturers Association that the “Esteban” guitar could not, in fact, be classified as an actual guitar due to the fact that it is constructed out of reclaimed materials such as discarded telephone directories and medical waste. The MIMA demanded that the instrument be classified as a toy."

So my question is, does anyone know whether Esteban is legit or not, or even whether his name is Stephen Paul or Dan Fernaueu? I've seen nothing to indicate Esteban is not a genuine, legitimate performer other than on this one site.

(And no, I'm not thinking of buying one of his guitars, I'm just curious as to which is the scam.)

Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.
Old 10-01-2004, 10:13 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Up there, waiting
Posts: 17,203
He's listed at All Music. Seems pretty real.
Old 10-01-2004, 10:33 PM
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: St. Paul, MN
Posts: 58,797
I saw one of those infomercials once. I'd never heard of the guy outside of this infomercial and I have a pretty deep knowledge of guitar players.

I have to say that his performances in the commercial I saw were extremely simplistic. Very basic, open chord blues riffs, maybe a few barre chords, minimal lead work, if any. I saw nothing that a first year guitar student couldn't do (and I am a former guitar instructor). If that dude was a virtuoso he sure didn't show it in his performances.

As to the quality of the "instrument" itself- I think "toy" is a very apt description. They tried to cover how crappy it was by surrounding him with an actual band but there was really no disguising it. It was a cheap, tinny, cardboard piece of shit guaranteed to fall apart within months.

Allan Holdworth, on the other hand, is a very well respected kazz guitarist and is a genuine virtuoso in his own right. I would take him at his word in a heartbeat over "Esteban."
Old 10-01-2004, 10:39 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Scranton PA
Posts: 6,478
Dude creeps me out, with those long fingernails and everything. I know he uses them as picks an all, but it still skeeves me out. I can listen to him play, but I just can't watch him play. IMO, he's a sham, but the actor playing him seems like he can play, so whatever floats your boat.
Old 10-02-2004, 04:52 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 16,841
Well, even though I'm still somewhat confused, I thank you for your answers. I still don't know about the Stephen Paul/Dan Fernaueu identity question, and it appears that Esteban is a legitimate recording artist and not just an infomercial invention, so I don't know how Allan Holdsworth can claim he's a fictional character. This odd admixture of facts that don't seem to add up was what inspired me to post this thread to begin with.
Old 10-02-2004, 05:48 AM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: 7th Level of Hell, Ca
Posts: 16,831
Originally Posted by Starving Artist
Well, even though I'm still somewhat confused, I thank you for your answers. I still don't know about the Stephen Paul/Dan Fernaueu identity question, and it appears that Esteban is a legitimate recording artist and not just an infomercial invention, so I don't know how Allan Holdsworth can claim he's a fictional character. This odd admixture of facts that don't seem to add up was what inspired me to post this thread to begin with.
Well, I googled "Real Guitar Legends For Truth" and the statement, and all I came up with was Perhaps Mr Holdsworth is unaware he has made such a claim, or that he's the president of the 'organization'?

Esteban has some albums selling on I listened to a couple of snippets. Nice, but not that impressive really.
Old 10-02-2004, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 16,841
Excellent points, spooje. I hadn't thought of it that way.

And yes, it seems Esteban doesn't get much acclaim for his playing amongst those in the know musically, but it occurs to me that perhaps he is limited in what he can do due to the automobile accident that left him unable to play for 10 years.

I don't know, it's funny. In some odd way he's kind of likable. He has a pleasant manner and way of speaking. I found myself watching the commercial and liking him in spite of myself.
Old 10-02-2004, 12:06 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Van Nuys CA
Posts: 13,285
I saw his infomercial too. Don't bother. That guitar he is hawking is junk. You can walk into any music store or pawnshop and get a better one. His playing seemed "average". If you want to hear really good "fingerpicking" of any sort, listen to the following as a sampler: Julian Bream, John Williams, Andres Segovia, Chet Atkins, Laurindo Almeida, Charlie Byrd. If you want to hear what is possible even after serious injuries, listen to Django Rhinehart and Les Paul. I think you'll notice the difference.
Old 10-02-2004, 12:47 PM
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Taint of creation
Posts: 33,150
[""]Esteban Guitar Review [/url]

Manufacturer: Esteban
Model: Guitar
Category: Acoustic Guitars

Purchase: The guitar was being sold for about 100 bucks on TV....I scored it for 30 bucks less on an online auction, pretty good deal right?..

Likes: Wrong!!! I mean, even for $70, the manufacturers should have put some quality care time into making this instrument. If Esteban likes this thing as much as he says on the infomercial, he must be on mind altering drugs...or perhaps he's never had the chance to play a real guitar before, who knows?

Dislikes: Ok lets see...Well as soon as I opened the box up I noticed a small dent on the top of the guitar and the pick guard was all scratched up as if it had been used before.. It did say 'brand new'... Anyway. The whole thing is cheaply made, the strings are too high off the fretboard which is poorly painted and seems to be "touched up" in some areas with nail polish. The nut looks like its being held on with elmers school glue and may dislodge any second. Ummmm.. oh yea and I had to place a small piece of paper underneath the low E string inbetween the bridge and the peg that holds the string down in order to keep it from buzzing whenever I pluck it.

Quality: Poor constuction....With the $70 I probably could've bought the materials and made it myself and put my autograph on it. Too lazy for that though.

Summary: The guitar does play music, but for someone who's looking for a quality piece, a local guitar dealer is the way to go. Even for a beginner this guitar is too difficult to play because of the sting height. Do not be fooled by Estebans lame acting on the infomercial...he's just saying its good cause he needs food on his table.
More love for the Esteban (pages of love!) - Guitar User Reviews - Esteban Burswood Acoustic
Old 10-02-2004, 12:50 PM
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Flying over your house
Posts: 135
Seeing as how Rock and Roll Confidential is a music humor site, I'd be hesitant to take anything they say at face value
Old 10-02-2004, 01:14 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 16,841
Moon-Watcher, thanks. I didn't know that. My only experience with Rock and Roll Confidential was in the post quoted above which I found through Google.

Steve, astro, thanks for the infol. I wasn't thinking of buying one of these guitars; I was just wondering about whether or not Esteban was a fictional character created for the infomercial, due to the Rock and Roll Confidential site mentioned above.

I must say however, that it looks like Esteban has sold out big time by agreeing to put his name on and hawk these guitars. And speaking of hawking them, what kind of life would it be to own or work for the company that has to deal with the customers who buy these things? And how can they look themselves in the mirror or sleep at night? What jerks!
Old 10-02-2004, 01:31 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Van Nuys CA
Posts: 13,285
I have no idea. I have owned guitars that were developed with the consultation of the person whose name went on them. In some cases, the musician actually designed it, or had a part in the design. I once had a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman. Excellent. I now have a Gibson Les Paul Custom. Legendary, maybe the best electric ever made. I really believe that when a true musician lends his name to an instrument, it should go beyond whatever pay he is getting. After all, if it is a piece of junk, it reflects on him too.
Old 10-02-2004, 02:30 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 16,841
Wow, Steve! Congrats on your guitars (and the talent to play them). Once upon a time I had a '64 Gibson (I forget the model) but I never progressed beyond the noodling in the garage stage.

And as far as Esteban goes, you're right. My formerly relatively high opinion of him, both as a guitar player and as a person, is now completely in the tank.

Old 10-02-2004, 11:24 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Decatur, Illinois, USA
Posts: 14,041
Well, huh.

I just bought a guitar at Big Lots for $29.99. They had a whole truckload of them, with scribbled markings on the boxes that said things like, "Scratches on neck--UPS will pick up" and "Broken". So I rummaged through, opened all the boxes, found one that only had one itty-bitty scratch on the neck. I assumed it was just your average Big Lots Generic Made-In-China El Cheapo, the equivalent of those knock-off fake-Barbie "Fashion Model Dolls".

And it said "Esteban" on the box, and it says "Burswood--Made in China" on the inside, so while Googling around to find out something about "Esteban Burswood" guitars, it occurred to me to check Cafe Society.

So, huh. It's a real guitar? Albeit a cheap one?
Old 10-03-2004, 12:20 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 16,841
Duck Duck Goose, what a coincidence that you picked up your guitar at the very time there happens to be an "Esteban" thread in Cafe Society and that you thought to look for one here. As you have probably read for yourself by now, you have a guitar that will most likely begin to fall apart in anywhere from a couple of days to three or four months. They are supposedly made of particle board and pressboard (ground up phone books), and very poorly made. If I were you, I'd see about returning it for your money back.

Good luck.
Old 10-03-2004, 01:21 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Where the owls say "Whom"
Posts: 5,493
I've been playing guitar for 37 years (and boy are my arms tired).
A good online resource for guitar reviews is "Harmony Central" - but one should always be cautious of any review. These reviews are written by individuals who just want to share their opinions with others. (I've posted a few myself). Of course there can always be a few "company shills" who have nothing but praise for a guitar. (Then again, there can be extremely negative reviews of guitars posted by people that might be "trolls", have been playing for five minutes, or expected much more than any guitar could do.)

That being said, here's what the folks had to say about the Burswood Esteban Classical:

Generally the two major complaints seem to be:
1) It isn't all wood
2) The "action" is too high (strings are too high above the fretboard).
(Oh I do not own one of these guitars so I am relying on the opinions of others).

Being a gutar-player, this is one of the few info-mercials I have ever watched. Yeah Esteban seems like an okay guy who put some serious thought into designing this instrument. However, after reading the comments here and at "Harmony Central", the guy is a sleaze.

Recently, he has been appearing with an electric version of this guitar. (I wonder what the pickup is - some magnet wire wrapped around a finishing nail? Anyway, I could not see it on the guitar - probably hidden away.) And it comes with an amp. The amp has a button that allows you to push it into overdrive so you can get those hard rock sounds, etc. My own feeling is that the Esteabn Acoustic guitar market probably dried up and so they made a few changes to it and now they can hype the virtues of this electric guitar. Oh and because it is electric and comes with an amp, they can charge more for this guitar. I don't know about you, but this makes me feel as if he is trying to milk every sleaze dollar that he possibly can. Also, I wonder if he had this two-fold plan in mind even before the first info-mercail was aired.
Old 10-03-2004, 03:59 PM
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Ohio
Posts: 5,192
That was funny. Those reviews of Estebans guitar had me rolling. Especially the one about the guy who took it to his luitheir and had the neck, pickups, and body replaced with Wahsburn equipment and then it sounded great.

Old 10-03-2004, 10:25 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Decatur, Illinois, USA
Posts: 14,041
Wellll...I've been examining it, and it doesn't look like particleboard or pressboard. It looks like "wood". And I'm not having any trouble with pressing the strings down onto the fretboard--they don't seem too high up. They look about right, actually. I noticed from those online reviews that they seemed to divide neatly into two categories: "People whose guitars were pieces of crap that fell apart immediately", and, "People whose guitars turned out to be pretty fair beginner guitars". So maybe it just depends on which Chinese factory built your guitar, as to whether you get a dud or a pretty fair beginner guitar.

P.S. Big Lots does not give refunds. Exchanges only. So I can exchange it for 30 bucks worth of Halloween tschotschkes and Head N Shoulders travel size. Woot.

And it's only 30 bucks anyway. I paid nearly that much for Guitars for Dummies.
Old 10-03-2004, 11:38 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Posts: 18,811
But...but...but...he SAID it's just as good as the other model that sells for thousands of dollars! And that it's even prettier!!

I'm so disillusioned.
Old 10-03-2004, 11:40 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Where the owls say "Whom"
Posts: 5,493
You said it's 30 dollars? I thought it was $100.
Old 10-04-2004, 02:00 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 16,841
Wolf, the original guitars were sold on televison for $100. They are now being sold with some sort of electric pick up and an amplifier and a case for $200. I saw this commercial just a few nights ago. Duck Duck Goose bought his for $30 in a closeout of slightly damged guitars at Big Lots. (See post #14 for details.)
Old 10-04-2004, 03:25 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Auckland
Posts: 6,670
"Discarded telephone directories and medical waste"? What kinda medical waste? If it's one of Keith Richards' old needles, or David Crosby's liver, this could be your chance to own a piece of rock 'n' roll history. Dunno about the telephone directories, tho': now if it was "Discarded Penthouse issues", I'd be there - imagine owning a guitar made equally out of the Pet Of The Month for March 1976 and Michael Jackson's nose.

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