A Man, a Guild, and George Gruhn

Apr 2013

George Gruhn
George Gruhn

A great bunch of folks from the Let’s Talk Guild forum had gathered in Nashville, Tennessee in April 2013 for a chance to see and play some great guitars, swap stories and build camaraderie. As a result of that event, and a phone call placed by a dear lady from Texas, Ms. Toni Hynds requesting a special tour, I was privileged to spend a Saturday with George Gruhn.

I was late arriving at George’s world-renowned guitar store in downtown Nashville, so I didn't see anyone from the Guild group when I entered the store. It is likely I wouldn’t have noticed anyone, anyway, as all I could do was take in the myriad guitars hanging on the wall and the sea of people streaming in and out. 10 or 15 minutes flew by, and I had barely begun my own tour when I received a call from Toni asking where I was. The group was upstairs (by appointment only) viewing the private collection.

I entered the upstairs gallery and was greeted by George, who shook one hand while handing me a guitar with the other. I sat down to play one of his prototype instruments, a Guild double cutaway. The guitar was relatively light, especially for a vintage Guild, and sounded great.

Playing a Gruhn designed Guild Double Cutaway
Playing a Guild Double Cutaway

After listening for a few minutes, George handed me another one of his prototype instruments, a Tacoma that had been designed to be an extremely affordable guitar. It had no appointments whatsoever, was small and light, and produced an amazing amount of volume.

Playing a Gruhn designed Tacoma
Playing a Gruhn designed Tacoma

George listened to me play, then disappeared to return with yet another instrument for comparison. “Here”, he said, “Play that on this one.” and he handed me a small well-worn Martin. I handed him back the Tacoma and as I began to play emotion welled up in me just as others were spinning around in awe and amazement to locate the source of the incredible sound. I stopped playing to express my astonishment at this instrument. George smiled and told me it was a pre-war 00-28 Martin, well known for such a sound. He also commented on how well the Tacoma, a guitar costing 1/100th the price, held up in the comparison.

1930 Martin 00-28
1930 Martin 00-28

And so it continued that day, with George bringing me guitar after guitar ranging in age from a brand new slope shoulder D-21 Special Martin to an 83 year-old $50,000 Martin D-41. George noodled on a prototype Tacoma Papoose and a Gibson mandolin. The day ended much too early, as I could have stayed to play and listen and talk with this extraordinary man well into the evening.

George Gruhn, that was the most fun I have had in a long time. You are a true gentleman, and I thank you!