Joe Bonamassa: The Collection

Chances are you already spend so much money on guitars and gear that each time the credit card bill comes you have to snatch it before your wife sees that new guitar you bought or finds that 5150 you just couldn’t pass up on Craigslist. If this is you, then you have something in common with Joe Bonamassa. Joe is not only an exceptional player who was opening for BB King at 12, he’s also a fully indoctrinated lover of everything to do with guitar. Over the last 26 years Joe has amassed one of the most impressive collections of guitars and amps in the world. We decided to catch up with Joe to get the full rundown on what his grand arsenal consists of.
Joe Bonamassa Gibson Guitars(1)
How many guitars do you currently have?
Probably 120 or 130.
Is that the most you’ve ever had?
I had up to 300 at one point but I sold a bunch of them because I wasn’t playing them and it seemed like I needed to justify a number. I had better quality stuff and it’s been more manageable.
What percentage are Les Pauls or Fenders?
I have a huge Fender collection, a bunch of old Strats, Teles, 350s, 335s, 355s, lotta old Les Pauls.

Joe and Seymour discussing the Bonamassa Signature Pickups.
Joe and Seymour discussing the Bonamassa Signature Pickups.

When you are looking for a new guitar, what specifically are you looking for?
I don’t need anything, I’ve gone past the point of necessity. Right now the stuff I buy is super clean vintage stuff or if a just killer vintage guitar comes my way. I just bought a ’55 Goldtop – I didn’t need one since I have a ’52, ’53’, ’54, two ’57s and a ’58. But a ’55 came my way and it was killer and I ended up making the deal.
As far as finding vintage guitars, do you go through auctions or stores?
No auctions, no eBay, I go through trusted dealers. I travel the world and the states a lot and I go into every guitar shop. And all of sudden if there is something there, hey I’m here today and my credit card is accepted, hit me while I’m hot.
Fake eBay Fender Strat
What would be your holy grail score?
There is not one guitar that I looked at back in the day in the Tom Wheeler book that I don’t have that I would want. I shy away from Gretschs, I shy away from Rickenbacker, D’Angelico, Archtop stuff; I’m an electric guitar player. My collection is indicative of that.
What was your first guitar?
It was a Yamaha classical guitar and then I got a Chiquita small scale guitar.
For more info on Joe’s tone and gear, click here.
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  1. Joe, if you like the Les Paul style, check out the Carparelli S4. Mike is a great guy, and he’ll accommodate any particular needs yo have. It’s worth a look.

  2. Selfish mf*krs! Think about the persons who love music and doesn’t have resources for buy not even one! Like me 🙁

  3. Oh & Gacelus, you should change that to Graceless. Selfish has nothing to do w/ it. Most of us had to scrape to buy our first crap guitar.

  4. Dear Joe. My guitar was lost in an unfortunate family situation. My son took it to college for a talent show. I never saw it again. If you have sn extra guitar around, please consider donating it to me. I am 76 yr old musician with very limited income. Thanks and God Bless.

    1. By the time Joe reads this, you’re playing days will be over. To be honest, by the time Joe reads ANY of this, ALL our days will be behind us! Joe don’t come here, hasn’t ever been here, isn’t ever GONNA be here. Have you SEEN his girl? And she’s an AMAZING musician too – Singer/Songwriter from Scotland.
      Who am I kidding, YOU aren’t even gonna come here and read this! Good luck Bob!

  5. my first guitar was a Les Paul Gibson ain’t got it at a rummage for $10.00 and it was stolen from my apartment and please send me a another one. Send it to 1422 western ave. Green bay, wi.54303 and thank you

  6. My first guitar was a Gibson Melody Maker, single cutaway, sunbu
    rst brown to yellow. I don’t recall what year it was made, guessing 59. It had one plastic pickup a volume and a treble, no switch. It worked and sounded and played very well. Kept a good tune with new strings, but I was a beginner and didn’t stress the strings a lot. It had a lot of scratches though, but could have been easily refinished. It was 1973, and I was 16. I paid 25 bucks for it. Wish I still had it. I traded it a couple years later for a Japanese SG copy. Kick me please! Lol!

  7. A friend of mine has a 53 year old Gibson 335…….It is the only on in the world as It has a Maple wood neck, as apposed to a rosewood one………

        1. You don’t want a 1963 mate, you probably want a 1983 mate! As in Play Mate. Me, I’d rather have a 1963, but I’m a sucker for good conversation.

  8. ” I shy away from Gretschs, I shy away from Rickenbacker, D’Angelico, Archtop stuff; I’m an electric guitar player. My collection is indicative of that.”
    – I like this guy.

  9. i cant believe the folks on here with the audacity to ask for a free guitar………….you shame me that I share the planet with you……………paddy murphy

  10. I remember Joe Playing his Chiquita in his living room in Yorkville back in the day! Lucky me to witness what was to become legendary!

  11. My first guitar was a student sized Chunka with nylon strings. My next guitar was a used Chunka that I bought off a kid in the neighborhood used for $50 including the matching Chunka amp. I’d put the amp facing out of my bedroom window and play D’yer Maker until my fingers bled, sometimes almost making it all the way through. When I finally replaced it with my original Chunka which I had been filing down frets and bridge on to make more playable and then fitted an electric pickup into the soundhole with some creative hardwaring and wiring, which I’d never seen before because this was 1974. I’m not saying I’m the guy that invented it, just that I had never seen or heard of one, so I might as well have. I drilled a hole big enough to install the jack into, and plugged into my old Chunka amp and played away! It was kind of nice to not get blood all over my sheet music when trying to play a song. Finally I was able to use that electric for what it was best suited for – slicing hardboiled eggs.
    My first real playable instrument that didn’t get me laughed at when I brought it out was an old Global bass that I got used from a friend who had taken it apart and then lost interest. I saw it for the first time in pieces in a cardboard box. I’ve still got a picture of me playing that old bass in a band I was in on Long Island. Those were some good times! If you’ve got somebody that’s looking to learn to play, be it you, your kid, or even a friend, PLEASE get them something playable! Find somebody that knows how to play and ask them to check it out before you buy it. BEFORE you buy it. “Hands of Steel” Malone at the local music store has been professionally trained to play unplayable instruments (featuring Chunka guitars). Don’t make this any harder that you have to. I’ve seen more people quit because of crappy instruments when they might have really ended up enjoying playing.
    I used to wonder if I could have grown up being as good as some of the greats had my first guitar been better. But let’s not kid ourselves, guys like Clapton, Page, and Joe are born with a gift, a blessing and no amount of playing, practice or desire can equal that. Clapton was better TWO YEARS after he had first touched a guitar that I could be if I lived to be a thousand and practiced eight hours a day, every day for those thousand years. I’ve got no complaints thought. I’ve enjoyed making music, entertaining people, and spending more than I could even possibly make on gear and effects. During the worst of times I could take out my guitar and play to myself. It calms and relaxes me, and maybe kept me from losing my mind. I love everything about it, and wish everyone else could too.

  12. I actually HAD my “Holy Grail” guitar once. It was once of those once in a lifetime finds. It was in an old Fender hardshell case in a music store in Riverside, California thrown in a dusty corner with some other odds and ends. Of course I HAD to look in the case. Inside I found an experienced maple Strat neck attached to a mess with double humbuckers and a warped piece of plastic that was bowed up into the strings. This was around 1985, when there were NO Starts with double humbuckers. The guy wanted $200 for it all, including case. The neck was BEAUTIFUL – someone had obviously spent a lot of time making it perfect. The KILLER was when I turned it over – “To Mat, Lookin For (unreadable). Edward Van Halen”. Yeah, I kinda freaked a bit, but didn’t say anything. Those guys MUST have looked at the back, right? Maybe it was somebody’s idea of a joke, right? Who cares, I wanted a nice Strat and I thought those parts could be made back into one.
    I took it into Hollywood to a guy I had spoke to before, Art Valdez of Valdez Music. His store used to be across the street from the Guitar Center in Hollywood. Art was AMAZING and a really nice guy. He’d build all kinds of instruments for everyone that WAS someone, and had the signed posters on the wall to prove it. He was the first guy I ever saw that scalloped frets, but I digress…
    Art didn’t much care who signed it, he cared about making music. He looked at the pieces I gave him and did his best to convince me to let him replace ALL the electronics, cut a new faceplate, and rebuild it as three singles, “the way it was MADE to be”. He told me about how the guy that modified it must have been a hack, because it looked like the body had been routed out with a hammer and a screwdriver. Sounds FAMILIAR? He really liked the neck, and eventually agreed to put in back together with the two humbuckers, but did cut a new plate and replaced all the rest of the electronics, which he said was junk. It wasn’t when he got it back to me! That was THE sweetest guitar I had ever had my hands on! Intonation and action were PERFECT!
    Now you don’t really care what else happened other than where the guitar is now, right? Well, I wish I knew. I lived in a crappy area of San Bernardino (of Zappa fame), and came home from work one day to find my front door lying flat in the ground. I had a good idea who was behind it, but I couldn’t prove anything. I even offered HIM a “reward” if he could help me find it, no questions asked! But he or whoever he steered into my home to do the job had either moved it already or he was afraid that by dealing with me he’d get caught. My baby was gone forever, and probably for a pittance that would have added insult to injury had I known.
    I’m hoping someday my baby shows up again, and that those pieces of garbage didn’t repaint her or sand the inscription off the back. I always thought it would be cool to show Eddie one day and ask him who “Mat” was, but with the guitar gone, the story doesn’t really play either.

    1. Loved Art Valdez.. back in the 70’s,
      he fixed my 52 tele.. huge chunk out of the neck on the high E string side on the first fret, I had him put a 6 saddle bridge on it and he stamped the original serial number onto it. of course I saved the original. He also put new tuners on it and added a strip of wood to raise them. He was an amazing luthier. I took all my high end guitars to him.. only regret. I traded my 52 gibson les paul gold top to him for something he made. It was only his 4th build of an electric. It had some issues. I later gave it away. But I will never forget Art’s precision repairs!!!

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