Welcome To Nerdville: Inside Joe Bonamassa’s Museum and Vintage Guitar Collection | Reverb.com

– Extraordinarily rare
that I’m allowing cameras in the Bona-seum. American history. Every screw, nut, bolt,
capacitor, tube, speaker. This light switch looks
like it’s from China but I got that with the house. Welcome kids! Welcome to Nerdville. (bluesy guitar solo) I had a moment when I bought this house ’cause it came with a console, and I was like, yeah
I’m gonna do a studio, maybe even ’cause the
console’s already there, ’cause you would figure that’s
the most amount of money. But there was no preamps,
there was no patch bays, there was no any of that stuff. A couple of my friends, they started using terms like black hole. And, you know, the gift
that keeps on charging. So I said, you know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna just turn this room into, to a soundproof nerd sanctuary where I can come out here
and wind up a Deluxe Reverb, and watch you know, American Pickers and Simpsons marathons
till I’m either passed out or sick of it. My father was a vintage guitar dealer so I grew up kind of in a guitar shop. I grew up on guitar safari. We would answer strip ads. They used to call this
thing, in upstate New York, called the swap sheet. And it would be like,
Gibson B-25 acoustic, $250. You’d call and, hey, got anything else? Yeah, I got a few amps,
you wanna come over? Well it’s an hour and a half away, sure. And we would drive all the
way out, an hour and a half to buy a really crappy, probably
cracked B25 Gibson acoustic just because you never knew what else somebody else was holding, and offer enough money to
where everybody would win and we’d always make it,
the offer loud enough so the guy’s wife would hear it because the allure of
the new kitchen remodel was so great and the pressure from that would always make the deal happen. I’ve seen it like a million times. You hear, we could buy new cabinets! Why don’t you sell that dusty thing that’s been sitting in the garage? You know, great! Got a blackface Showman out of the deal. (smooth guitar solo) This guitar was bought on
guitar safari in New Orleans, about three years ago. It was in Algiers Point. Now this is where Steven
Seagal, my friend the actor, films that cop show. And the driver, I was like,
we gotta to Algiers Point, guitar shop, and he’s like, dude, we’re not going to Algiers
Point for anything! He goes, you sure? I go, it’s the middle of
the day, what could happen? Guitar safari. We come in peace. Mike goes pokin’ around. And all of a sudden this
guy comes out and says, yeah, this is the guitar
shop, come on back. We go into this guy’s garage. And he goes, I got a
Goldtop, you wanna see it? I’m like, sure. Pulls this thing out,
I’m like, oh man, fun. Late ’55. So it’s the first, one of the
first Tune-O-Matic bridges. He bought it from the original owner who played it on Decatur Street, and all in New Orleans for its whole life. And when you see this kind
of patina on a Goldtop, that’s the South. That’s high humidity, high
heat, a lot of sweaty bars. And I just loved the story. I walked out with it and I immediately, I just was like, I got
it back to the hotel and I was like, I’m
looking at it, I’m like, what am I gonna call this thing? ‘Cause I don’t name ’em
all, but I name some of ’em. I wanted to just go, this is the Cajun. It’s just, how cool is that? You know, a beat up Goldtop, you know? (bluesy guitar solo) This is, the very first
black Strat ever made. Howard worked at McCord’s music, which was the biggest
Fender dealer in the midwest and McCord’s ordered it in summer of ’55 and he got it around November ’55. I had a poster of this on my
wall when I was 11 years old. And I just longed after this guitar, I just thought it was the coolest black, with all that patina. The late Bill Blackburn,
who just passed away, decided to sell this guitar. It had spent 17 years in the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because Howard Reed, after Cliff Gallup left Gene Vincent and the Blue
Caps, replaced Cliff Gallup. So, this guitar is very
historical as far as, you know, rock n’ roll history. And more historical as, how many black Strats have you seen? Millions. This is the earliest
known black Fender Strat. (clean guitar chords) When I first started
playing professionally, around age 11, you know, we’d get paid for the gigs and you know, I’d make $300, $500, for an 11 year old, that’s, man, I was Mr. Burns, okay. I was loaded. Especially if school lunch was a dollar. So I’d just sock it away
and my father would do these guitars shows and
I’d have a little stash and I’d go buy a tweed Deluxe. ‘Cause I wanted a tweed Deluxe. Didn’t know what I was looking at and probably got taken for a ride. But this is back in the
day, when a tweed Deluxe was $500, 650 if it was clean. Had to be, and my father
would yell, you overpaid! A rosewood neck Stratocaster
with a sunburst finish was 2500, a refinish would
be about 1250 to 1500. What gets me now is when
they still use the same term, player, it’s in player’s
condition, you know. 1964 Strat, player condition. Issues, routed, blah blah blah blah. $10,000, like, what working musician’s gonna spend $10,000 on a guitar
that’s not right, you know, it’s like, back when I
was coming up it was, it was more obtainable and
you had the opportunity as a budding collector, without
going into the poor house, to really try all this
stuff and figure out what worked for you and what didn’t. And I figured out a long time ago, that if you had a desert island, a Gibson guitar and a Fender amp, that was the magic combination for me because it would always, it
just sounded like B.B. King. (bluesy guitar solo) Especially if you dime the reverb, and I’m too lazy to go
turn it down so sue me. None of this is legally binding. (bluesy guitar solo) This is one of the rarest
Fender guitars that I own. It’s so strange. For as many sunburst Strats
as Leo made in the ’50s, he made a handful of Teles. In ’55 and in ’58. These sunburst finishes
in the ’50s, over ash, they sunk into the grain lines. And that’s something you can’t fake. So when this thing came out of the case, I was like, oh yeah, I’m in. Easy enough. And, still stock with the… (bluesy guitar solo) I’m a firm believer like, this guitar, came from the original owner to me, I’m the second guy
who’s owned this guitar. Ask me how many times this
guitar has been apart. Zero. Why? I don’t care what the
fuckin’ neck date is. I don’t care what the pot
codes are, what week of ’58. I know it’s a ’58, two reasons why. Because the neck shape kinda dictates it, the serial number’s pretty
close, starts with a two. And the logos changed in ’58. And, the finish on the necks
have this kind of crazing that’s intrinsic to ’58. That’s all I know. And the guy said he’d bought it in ’58. I don’t need pictures
of the cavity, of the, ’cause, would you wanna be unscrewed 50 million times for a photo op? No! You know, I hate when people
pop the neck for no reason, what’s the neck, they
had to know, they didn’t. If you don’t know, don’t buy it. If you’re unsure, don’t buy it. If you think you’re gonna
flip it and make some money, really don’t buy it. So you have to enter
into that deal, knowing, that one day your prize possession that you think is worth all this money could be worth nothing. And then you have to ask
yourself the question. Do you still love it? And in my case, absolutely. I’d rather have this than anything else. (bluesy guitar solo) Hi, my name is Joe and
I’m a guitar addict. And this is what happens when addiction, coupled with a modicum of success in the music business meets, and there’s no authority figure
to say no and please stop. (blues music) Very underrated amplifier. The DeArmond RT5. Basically a tweed Harvard Killer. Overwound transformers. Really mint EH-150. Found in Pennsylvania. By the way, none of this stuff is eBay, okay, so if you’re an eBayer, you don’t have to worry about me ’cause I’m not dealin’ with people that post under assumed names like Mr. Shades. I’m pretty proud of the
tweed amp collection. In all of these lies the mint set. Narrow panel, ’58 through
’60, ’57 through ’60, ’cause you have to count
the low power Twin. You have Champ, Princeton, Harvard, Vibrolux, Deluxe, Super, Tremolux, Bandmaster, low powered Twin, Bassman, high powered Twin. All in mint condition, I
can deliver you a mint set, out of the catalog, and
there’s multiples of each. This took me years, with a Y, to put this all together,
and mint tweed stuff is so difficult to find. The amps wore out in the shop, if they’d sit around the shop for a year, they go out of the shop lookin’ beat up, because they just wore
out, so to find it all in this kind of condition is pretty rare. This is a 1945 K&F, Kauffman, Doc Kauffman
and Leo Fender amplifier. This is a 1946 K&F Woody. One of the earliest known ones. Bottom mount chassis. And I found this, this
was a barn find in Ohio. And I brought it to my amp tech. And he pulled it apart for the first time and he looks at it and he looks at me, and he’s a big Leo Fender fan as well, and he goes, Joe, I gotta tell ya, I think, most likely, Leo wired this amp and I said, you know what,
I can’t prove that Leo wired this amp but it looks
like, pretty crude work and it’s not gonna
sound that great anyway, so, it’s history, you know what I mean? And then this is a ’47, Fender Woody. He broke away from Doc Kauffman. And look at how primitive
that Jensen speaker is. I would’ve had a 1948 Dual
Professional to show you, but I blew that up upon pluggin’ it in. So that’s at the shop. The thing about collecting, is, you don’t have to keep
up with the Joneses. You know, you don’t have
to have one of everything just because they tell ya. I like Fender and Gibson,
so that’s what I buy. And, you know, there’s
plenty of other Marshalls and plenty of Voxes for everybody else. I, you know, just stay out of my way when I want a tweed amp. (blues music) I took my friend Kirk Fletcher, who was out on the Three
Kings tour with me, and I said, hey, wanna go
guitar safari-ing with me? We’re gonna go to one shop only. Kirk had been my friend for a long time but he’d never seen me out in the wild, when the storm’s about to
rage and we’re in the car, we’re going over to this guitar shop and I say, Kirk, just so you understand, what we’re about to get
into is a little bit of a hostile negotiation, and I go, what you’re gonna see here,
it’s gonna be fast and furious and you’re gonna go, what the hell? Check? Check. I come in, of course, there’s
nobody else in the store. How you been, you know, get
the formalities out of the way and then I go, hey, still
got that seafoam Jazzmaster? Yeah, can I see it? (surfy guitar solo) We came to the price
in about three minutes. I shook his hand. And I see, just see my
friend Kirk going, what? Put the case aside. I said, you still got
that pelham blue EB-OF? (fuzzy bass solo) $6500 for the bass, free Z.Vex. Shook his hand. Put the case aside. You still got that fiesta red ’62 Jaguar? (surfy guitar solo) I shake his hand. I go, nice to see you again. We walked out. Three guitars in about seven minutes. And he was like, what did you just buy? I go, guitar safari. What not to do to a ’51
Nocaster, put a humbucker in it, but once it’s done, now we’re
having some fun, you know, ’cause it’s like, it’s
a great combination, ash body and the humbucker
and the flat pole. ’61 first year, just the year
before the Keith Richards one, the Keith Richards one was block frets, so I think it was
probably ’63, this is ’61. ’64 335, why, because Clapton played one. ’57 Goldtop that’s pretty nice, that’s really nice condition. That’s a GA-83S, and it has a single 12 and two eights on each
side, it’s a stereo amp. That’s an EH-150 matching set and the Radio & Stage cases, the amp, that was the guy’s whole kit. That was his life in music. – [Interviewer] Wow. – That came from Vermont. This is the brown stuff. The chocolate covered amps,
couple of Vibra-Verbs, pretty rare, I like the reverb tanks. This is a very unique circuit. It’s an ’81 amp. Loud and clean was the goal. So he achieved that goal with these amps, the only problem is, when
you turn it up to like nine, they’re still clean. And they’re loud, but they’re
just super, super clean. And they only made about 500 of ’em. This was one gonna be my transition from Marshalls to Fenders, I thought three white Twins would be pretty cool, but it just sonically didn’t
work, so now they’re here. That’s a 20 watt Lead & Bass, it’s like a ’71, really mint. You turn everything up to 10, and like, if you need to get your Bluesbreakers on, that’s the way to do it. All my Marshalls, I know
exactly where they came from ’cause I pulled all of those,
at least the bottom stacks, from the original owners. Two mint matching stacks
and a mint Park stack that I pulled out of Marseilles, France. I wheeled it down a
cobblestone road with Mike. And that’s enough Marshall
fun for a lifetime. Our friend Rick Nielsen
who, I kind of nicked the whole idea of playing
authentic, vintage guitars on the road from him because it was always so nice
to see a Korina Explorer or a sunburst Les Paul
or, just, a bevy of, and Tom had Rickenbacker Transonics and Robin had Blackguard Tele, you know, and they were on the road,
they were working musicians, on the road, so why? So I know Rick Nielsen’s
into Skylark lap steels and so am I, so, let’s have
a bidding war, shall we? As far as guitar-wise,
I either love them mint or I love the turds. This is a ’66. That black spot on the
pickguard isn’t a sticker. That would be the second
layer of the pickguard because the dude wore through the first. When I got this, not only
were the frets worn out, there were huge divots
through each string, through the fret into the wood. So this guitar almost has a self scallop. And I bought this guitar because I said, if something this loved for so long, it had to be good, and I plugged it in. And it rings. It just howls, you know. And it’s, I’m a huge Bonnie Raitt fan so this is my Bonniecaster. I’ve owned this the longest, I
bought this when I was a kid. I was 14 years old. Saved up all my money, and
it was mint when I got it. And I played it through
all my early career, took it on the road, even this, that, that ill-advised time when I was, like, you know, young and had a studded belt and I thought I was really, really cool. I just figured it out, that after putting this
big mark in the guitar, and looking at myself in
the mirror on a daily basis, that I’ll never be cool. (bluesy guitar solo) This is Carmelita aka The Claw. You see that, those three kinda chevrons? Looks like a claw, that’s
why they call it The Claw. And the guitar ended up in
Hawaii in the early ’80s and was sold to, eventually
went to a friend of mine in Missouri, and then it went to a friend of mine here in California. And Carmelita’s in a bunch of books. It’s in Beauty of the Burst. And the thing about Carmelita,
in this serial number range, I own three in this serial number range, I own 1948, 1951, which
is the Skynyrd Burst, and the 1953 which is Carmelita. It’s not the year, it’s
just the serial number after the nine. And they all intrinsically
have the same kind of neck which tells you they
were built in batches. And a friend of mine has 1945, which is basically, there’s
a two piece top, right? His top matches the bottom of this and then the bottom of
this matches, you know, so it was basically the same piece of wood that was used to make ’em and we actually took pictures of it, you know? (reverby rock guitar solo) The reverb smooths out the blackface. The old blues guys, you know,
they would crank the reverb. (reverby rock guitar solo) That’s the Mike Bloomfield
thing, you know? (reverby rock guitar solo) This guitar will end
the show and tell day. This guitar is known as Amos. I named this guitar because of this guy. Here’s Amos Arthur,
owner of Arthur’s Music in Indianapolis, in 1958,
holding this very modernistic wedge shaped guitar. He has the look on his face, going, why in the hell did
Gibson send me this thing I’ll never be able to sell to anybody? You can barely sit down and play it. Here’s Amos the guitar on
the stand, in the shop, 1958. Here is Kenny C., their guitar instructor, on the roof of a convenience store during a pole sitting competition, it was like a record setting event, like, this woman up here in the photo, she’s sitting in a box, like
100 feet off the ground. And I bought this guitar from Norm Harris, of Norman’s Rare Guitars. And Norman was very
kind to sell this to me ’cause he’d owned it for forty years. He knew I wanted a real V, and I’d only go to him because I knew if he’d sold me a V, it was real. And I didn’t have to do the,
is it real, is it not real, and then to unearth all this
documentation was even better. I decided that I think one
of the best guitar safaris you could ever do is to
take, especially when the music store is still open and it’s run by the granddaughter and
the daughter of Amos Arthur. Last year, Rick, Mike and myself, discreetly, it wasn’t for
publicity or anything else, it was just for pure guitar geekdom, and, and for the love of this kind of thing. And for the love of a mom n’ pop shop that has been open since
1952 which is very rare. And we took it back and
we took the case back and that guitar had not
seen that store, and, hadn’t seen those people in almost, I don’t know, 57 years. It was just the greatest day
to just put the guitar on the, you know, on the counter,
and watch them look at it. And it was a direct link to their grandfather and their father. And that’s what it was all about. So they had this rickety ladder. And we’re dragging this
very valuable guitar up the rickety ladder and
I’m on the roof of the store. And I recreated the shot. And I got pictures, whatever, bought in, and this truss rod cover. They were nice enough to
loan me their father’s one off the, off his personal
guitar, it was an L-7. A friend of mine found
a blank from the ’50s, and it’s one of these fancy things they would sell after
market in the music stores and we had it engraved Amos
Arthur in tribute to him. So, the idea of this thing
is not to look at it and go, wow, it’s a very rare wedge-shaped guitar, the idea is to play music with it, and I play it every night. (bluesy guitar solo) Oh yeah, it was in Spinal Tap! Norman loaned all his
guitars for the movie. And in the movie you could
see it sitting on the stand so this guitar was in Spinal Tap. So thanks to Norm and
thanks for the people at Arthur’s Music because
ultimately it is a very special guitar with a very special story. I can’t top this. After all this stuff
today, I can’t top this. (bluesy guitar solo) If nobody knew me as a collector and I just used endorsement stuff, and, you know, I just
sat here up in my little, my little hovel, you know,
going ha ha, look what I got, to who? Nobody’s here, you know, it’s like, my whole idea is to share. And you know, some people
take it the wrong way, like I’m flaunting, I’m not flaunting it, I’m just sharing it. It’s all about sharing the information and keeping this thing somewhat honest. When it comes down to just
assessing where you are as a musician, are you proud of that? Just because you own a
guitar, or you own a bass, are you proud of the work
you did as a musician to become the musician that you became? Ultimately, we could throw
all this stuff away and, I’m still proud of the
work, the 35 years of work, that I put in to become
the musician that I am. And, whether you like the
way I play or you don’t, it still took 35 years
of hard work and practice to sustain a career, come up
with this dog and pony show, and ultimately, you know, learn how to, learn the instrument and try to get as much as you can out of it, you know, and to me, that’s what it’s about. And I’m not sure if I’m right or wrong, it’s just my opinion. And the hipster kids don’t care about me, and they shouldn’t care what I think. But I’m watchin’. Oh, I’m watchin’. (bluesy guitar solo)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *