Joe Bonamassa discusses living with his 500-strong guitar collection: “The sheer magnitude of it all would overwhelm even the most jaded collector”

Joe Bonamassa onstage – the guitarist has said his vintage guitar collection now numbers 500 guitars and amps
(Image credit: C Brandon / Getty)

Joe Bonamassa has said his vintage guitar gear collection now numbers some 500 guitars and 500 amps and runs to a total of around 1,000 to 1,200 pieces.

Most guitar nerds (and their loved ones) will be familiar with sensation of tripping over instruments as they walk around their home, but spare a thought for Joe Bonamassa, who houses the vast majority of his 1,000-piece haul in his LA residence.

“People come to my house and they are overwhelmed, and it is overwhelming!” acknowledges the guitarist in a new interview on Kenny Aronoff’s podcast

“If I went into it blind – not knowing what to expect or just seeing a few pictures on Instagram – the sheer magnitude of it all, would overwhelm even the most jaded collector. The difference is, I live there! So I wake up, I get my coffee and there’s hundreds of guitar amps around [me].” 

Bonamassa dubs it “organised hoarding” and describes his collecting habit as one more akin to a compulsion than a simple passion which, even for the son of a guitar dealer, explains a lot of his decision-making. 

“[When people] get down to asking the critical questions, it’s: ‘Why?’” says Bonamassa. “Well, I have an addictive personality and my answer is always: ‘If you have to ask that question, why? Well, you don’t get what it’s like being a collector.’”

The guitarist is speaking to a sympathetic host in the shape of legendary session drummer Kenny Aronoff, but nonetheless acknowledges the inherent madness of the habit. 

“You’re doing something temporarily that will eventually be broken up into bits,” says Bonamassa.

“I know that 500 guitars, 500 amps, 1,000-1,200 pieces in the collection… eventually, I’m not going to be around and this whole thing [will break down]. This Nerdville sign may either be thrown away in the dump or some kid may have it in his basement, going, ‘I got Bonamassa’s old sign!’”

The numbers the guitarist mentions suggest that his collection has grown significantly since 2019, when Bonamassa said he had about 400 guitars and amps

He also tells Aronoff that he has an annual clearout of around 5% of the collection –which would equate to around 20-25 guitar amps and electric guitars a year. 

All of which means he must have added roughly 40-50 guitars and amps annually since 2019 to grow the collection to its current figure.

Regardless of the future of the collection as a whole, it seems inevitable that some elements of it will be split up, not least because, as Bonamassa puts it: “There are certain things they’re going to bury me with – it’s just non-negotiable!”

Despite his impressive collection, last month Bonamassa discussed one guitar geek who he says makes him look like “a hobbyist”

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.