Inside Vince Gill's Guitar Collection
On a recent visit to Nashville, Tennessee, USA, the Bbop team had the pleasure of meeting legendary country music singer, songwriter and guitar player Vince Gill, and taking a look at his amazing guitar collection.
He’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and owner of 21 Grammies- the same number as Paul McCartney. He once turned down an invitation to join Dire Straits; he's played with Eric Clapton, Sting, and everyone else you've ever heard of, and he recently joined the Eagles. Though he’s known mainly for his voice and songwriting, his guitar picking skills can hang with anybody.
He's also one of the world's nicest guys, and he spent several hours just hanging out with us and talking about guitars, recording, and the music world.
One room in his home is part professional music studio, part guitar museum, and part lounge area – basically, every musician’s dream.
Vince started his career playing acoustic bluegrass, and has the acoustic instruments to show for it. He is a huge lover of Martin Guitars, and has an amazing collection of them, as well as quite a few Gibsons and some old archtops. Among the highlights:
- 1942 Martin D-28 herringbone: his pride and joy. He traded everything he had for it in 1971, and it’s been with him ever since.
- 1928 OOO-45 Martin – another “holy grail” type
- Martin OO-40 small body that belonged to Chet Atkins
- Several Gibson Lloyd Loar Mandolins – probably the most sought after of all mandolins.
Vince stresses that he’s not strictly a guitar collector. “Every single one of these instruments gets played, they go on records, they travel with me to concerts, or musicians around town record with them” he tells me. “There’s no point in a great musical instrument being locked up in a museum or somebody’s house – they are meant to be played.”
Though he’s clearly an expert on vintage guitars and guitar history, he still tells me he chooses by the feel and sound - and by whether the guitar “speaks to him personally”.
The first thing Vince asked me was, “what’s your holy grail guitar?” My answer, embarrassingly, was “probably your 1953 Telecaster”. To which he said, “want to play it?”
The '53 Tele on the cover of the 2011 album "Guitar Slinger"
Well, I did hold it at least. That was something. I was too nervous to play with him standing there. It’s a very recognizable tele in rare white finish, with the quintessential telecaster tone. Though he has another 20 or so vintage telecasters sitting out, he says he’s never been able to find one that plays like that one. He bought it in 1978 for $450.
Somewhat surprisingly for a country musician, he also plays a Stratocaster quite often, and he takes a Gibson 335 and a Les Paul on the road too. His main Strat is a 1959 once owned by Duane Eddy. He also has one once played by Jimi Hendrix and later owned by Robben Ford.
And then there’s the 1959 Les Paul Sunburst sitting in front of the fireplace. He bought that one from his brother-in-law.
A lot of the electrics stay in specially made furniture, with drawers furnished with plush like a vintage guitar case. And the wallpaper in the room is Fender tweed!
1959 Strat in Fender Tweed Case Drawers
He uses tube amps custom made by boutique U.S. builder Little Walter, though he has a pretty wide selection of old amps too (including a 1959 Fender Bassman) and matches the sound with the song.
There are boxes of pedals all over the place. His engineer brings them by and he tinkers with them until he finds the sound he is looking for.
One of his live pedalboards
It’s hard not to notice the giant monitor speakers in the middle of the room. ““Yeah, I got the biggest ones I could find. When you’re recording a solo, you’ve got to feel it man!”.
1950s Gretsch Roundup (right)