“90 percent of my guitars are in mint condition – untouched and unmolested... The last 10 percent – those are the ones I play on the road”: Joe Bonamassa on his legendary collection, perseverance, and how he picks his touring guitars

Joe Bonamassa performs onstage
(Image credit: Kit Wood)

Over the past two decades, Joe Bonamassa has been a familiar face in these pages, as a widely appreciated, virtuosic blues guitarist, as well as an avid caretaker of the instrument’s legacy, who has collected and preserved not only hundreds of guitars, but also mountains of classic amplifiers and guitar ephemera.

As such, it might be difficult for readers today to imagine a time when he was just another struggling guitarist trying to make his mark in music. But after being ushered into the ranks of B.B. King and Danny Gatton before age 13, and forming the band Bloodline with Waylon Krieger, Erin Davis, and Berry Oakley Jr. – the sons of Robby Krieger of the Doors, Miles Davis, and the Allman Brothers Band bassist – Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa, as he was known then, tanked as a solo artist.

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Jim Beaugez

Jim Beaugez has written about music for Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player and many other publications. He created My Life in Five Riffs, a multimedia documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary artists back to their sources of inspiration, and previously spent a decade in the musical instruments industry.