Welcome to Nerdville: Inside Joe Bonamassa's Home Collection

At the base of a steep blacktop driveway in the hills of Laurel Canyon, a lazy gate swings open.

Winding our way along the edge of the hill, a canopy of flora opens to the sky and frames our greeting card: a Vegas hotel sign that reads “Welcome to Fabulous Nerdville, California” silhouetted with flashing yellow bulbs.

This was our arrival at Joe Bonamassa’s house to shoot one of the greatest guitar collections in the world.

Just inside the front door, exposed wooden beams frame concert posters and vintage instrument signs. A couple dozen vintage amps catch the best of the midday sun through the skylights.

The museum lies around the corner from a stone hearth dotted with Gibson lap steels.

“We’ll check out the Bonaseum later,” Joe says. “No cameras in there right now.” As we walk toward the kitchen, the tiny glance we get of the room is enough to make our eyes wide.

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Even the kitchen is stacked with gear—old spring reverb units on the cabinets, vintage Marshall PA speakers holding planter boxes. After some small talk about some upcoming kitchen renovations, we make our way through the backyard with canyon views and walk the stone path toward Joe's studio.

From the terrace, I could have thrown a rock and hit Joni’s famous Lady of the Canyon house. Joni was just one of many music legends who found solace in this landscape. Zappa, Graham Nash, Mama Cass, and Jim Morrison, among others, spent time here.

These hills, the sunsets, the dry air—these elements seem to act as a muse for great musicians.

Inside the studio - really the shell of what once was a studio - we find the true nerd sanctuary. This is where Joe winds up a blackface Deluxe, puts on Simpsons reruns, and unwinds. Right now, though, he is pulling out one collector-grade guitar after another and giving us some insight into his process of collecting and his thoughts on making music.

Lucky for us, once we wrap in the studio, he takes us through the Bonaseum, a former living room that now displays Joe's Smithsonian-worthy gear collection. It’s rare for cameras to go into the room - a while back someone else brought in a camera and busted through the grill cloth of a Tweed with his tripod - so we're honored to have the opportunity.

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Go Inside Joe's Collection

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We came to Joe's house with plenty of preconceptions on what we'd find and who we'd be meeting. Some held true—namely, the breadth of his collection—and some were wiped away within minutes of meeting him.

For the indie-rocker crowd, Joe may not be the patron saint he is for the older-school guitar collector community, but that doesn't mean he's any less relevant.

He's built his career with a DIY mindset by renting venues on his own when talent buyers refused to book him a tour, self-releasing records, and building a merchandised empire.

In short, we came to unlearn Joe Bonamassa. You know, that guy in the shades and suit shredding blues riffs to a lawyerly crowd. What we found was a self-aware, often self-deprecating, player in tune with who he is, the musical lineage he is championing, and how his little slice of guitar nerdery fits into the greater music world.

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