Joe Bonamassa just bought one of Norman’s Rare Guitars’ most prized instruments

Norman Harris and Joe Bonamassa
(Image credit: Norman's Rare Guitars/Instagram)

It was only last week that Joe Bonamassa was discussing the “overwhelming” nature of his guitar collection, but now the music world’s foremost guitar collector has added yet another instrument to his mammoth catalog.

It’s not just any old guitar, though: his latest addition is one of Norman’s Rare Guitars' most prized electric guitars.

JoBo’s purchase was announced by the popular vintage guitar store’s official Instagram account, with a cryptic picture depicting the blues rock ace posing with Norman Harris holding a nondescript brown hardshell case.

No other details concerning the identity of the guitar were given at the time, save the tidbit that JoBo’s latest acquisition was taking home “one of Norm’s favorite guitars”.

Confirming the speculation of many commenters soon after, Bonamassa later revealed the guitar to be an original 1950 Fender Broadcaster – an ultra-rare model that starred in an episode of the store’s Guitar of the Day series last week.

This historic model is one the first examples of two-pickup electric guitar design ever, predating both the Nocaster and Telecaster tags that were later assigned to Fender’s flagship Broadcaster model, which was to be stripped of its original name owing to trademark issues with Gretsch.

Indeed, it was the Broadcaster – with the help of the slightly earlier single-pickup Esquire model – that paved the way for Fender’s electric guitar activity, becoming known as one of the first production-line solidbody electric models.

“This is a guitar that really is painful for me to sell,” Harris said in Guitar of the Day. “I’ve kept it all these years. It’s one of the cleanest Broadcasters ever. It’s beautiful.”

Harris went on to say that Bonamassa had been on the lookout for a Broadcaster for a while and had “dibs” on the instrument for sometime now.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he added. “This is one of the most important guitars I’ve ever sold. This is something I’ve had stashed for many years, and it’s just time to [sell] it.”

The guitar is in immaculate condition, having been previously owned and cherished by prolific studio guitarist Al Hendrickson, whose resume includes stints with Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, Woody Herman, Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin and many others.

Since passing hands to Harris, it remained highly prized in the guitarist’s warehouse, resulting in a 73-year-old, all-original guitar that looks as though it was made just a few years ago.

But despite this pristine condition – it sounds absolutely gorgeous, too – it’s apparently only the second-best Broadcaster Bonamassa has supposedly encountered. The best, he says, belongs to Etta James and Paul McCartney guitarist, Brian Ray.

Regardless, it’s yet another high-profile addition to Bonamassa’s ever-growing guitar collection, which currently comprises approximately 500 guitars and 500 amps – bringing the total haul to around 1,100 to 1,200 pieces.

As you can imagine, this lends itself to some interesting logistical lifestyle changes: “People come to my house and they are overwhelmed, and it is overwhelming,” Bonamassa recently told Kenny Aronoff.

“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,” he went on. “The difference is, I live there! So I wake up, I get my coffee and there’s hundreds of guitar amps around [me].”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.