American Luthier Icon Bill Collings Dies at 68

The American guitar community lost one of its icons yesterday with the passing of Bill Collings, founder of Collings Guitars of Austin, Texas. The news was confirmed in a post on the company's Facebook page. Collings was 68 years old.

Building his first guitars in the mid–'70s after dropping out of medical school, Collings grew his company into one of the world's most respected manufacturers of stringed instruments.

Longtime friend and collaborator Walter Carter of Carter Vintage guitars told us, "I had never seen anyone so excited, so passionate about building a guitar.

"The sky over the guitar world is a little darker today, and it's hard to imagine it being as bright again without Bill." - Walter Carter

"Bill was what we call 'a character' — a unique, memorable, and lovable personality. It was always an adventure to talk with him...Bill led the way forward for so many builders. The sky over the guitar world is a little darker today, and it's hard to imagine it being as bright again without Bill."

Jazz guitar virtuouso Julian Lage voiced a similar opinion of the master: "Bill was magical. One of the most inspiring human beings in every way. His passion and dedication to the evolution of guitars and mandolins was infectious and powerful. His presence lifted everyone to their highest level, and I feel so lucky to have been his friend. Bill was the embodiment of presence and passion, and he was a true leader."

Collings MF, F-Style Mandolin

Collings guitars can be found in the hands of a massive range of professional musicians, all of whom swear by their unrivaled sound and playability. Lyle Lovett was an early adopter and fan, while today's list of devotees includes everyone from Joni Mitchell to Conor Oberst.

Of Collings' work, Mr. Oberst told us: "Bill Collings was a true craftsman and artist. I proudly play his guitars every night. I own four of his acoustic guitars of various sizes and models and have played them for years. They were clearly made with great care and love and you can literally feel that in your hands when you hold them."

Equally at home working on a vintage hot rod as a vintage archtop, Bill Collings brought a famous cowboy energy and natural engineering genius to a line of meticulously crafted acoustics that honored the very best of the American guitar legacy.

Collings instruments are frequently touted as among the finest in the world, and this reputation has led to steady growth and expansion for the firm over the years.

In 2005, Collings expanded to a new production facility where a team of around 50 people built and distributed guitars, ukuleles, and highly coveted mandolins.

In 2006, the firm branched into electrics, with models like the 360 and I–35 earning wide acclaim in the guitar community. More recently, Collings launched their Waterloo brand, which honors the style of lower–end Depression–era guitars, like Gibson's Kalamazoo brand.

Video with Bill released in 2015.

Through it all, Bill Collings and the company he built have maintained a clean reputation for the extreme detail and integrity of its guitars.

In an era where the number of boutique guitar builders is at an all–time high, the luthier community can look to the legacy of Bill Collings as one of the true benchmarks for success in the craft.

For us here at Reverb, Collings will continue to serve as a role model for how to build tools that serve and amaze the music community. As Reverb founder and CEO David Kalt expressed, "Bill's vision for impeccable quality and craftsmanship is a huge inspiration for everything we do at Reverb."

Our thoughts are with the Collings family and company at this time.

Via the Collings Facebook page:

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