Božo Podunavac–Božo Chicagoan

Božo Podunavac (1928-2015) was a Serbian-born luthier who immigrated to the U.S. in 1959. Božo was raised in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and worked as a toolmaker before taking on a five year apprenticeship under leading Yugoslavian luthier, Milutin Miadenovic. Podunavac moved to Chicago, where he started working in the repair department of various musical instrument dealers and manufacturers as well as for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In 1964 Božo opened his own shop and began building guitars with his name “BOŽO” on the peghead. Podunavac apprenticed in the old world tradition of his homeland, and relished in building highly ornate instruments. Božo left the Chicago area in the mid 70’s and moved to Southern California and opened up his own shop in San Diego along with a school of lutherie. Due to some health problems, he moved to Florida where continue to offer his services here until his passing in 2015.

Podunavac’s Chicagoan displays a spruce top, book matched flamed maple back, and sides, and an intricate blue abalone inlay border throughout the body. The neck features a three piece flame maple construction with a thick mahogany center strip , and an ebony fingerboard with rope marquetry abalone inlays, and maple binding. Floral abalone inlay is also used on the pickguard, tailpiece, neck heel, and headstock display. Ebony is used on the pickguard, truss rod cover, and on the centerpiece of the gold plated tailpiece. The headstock features gold plated Grover Imperial tuners with strairstep style tuning buttons.

Božo’s legacy lives on today in an active Facebook Group, “Bozo Guitars”, where friends, apprentices, and customers gather to swap stories.