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An Unforgettable Saturday with George Gruhn

George Gruhn

A great bunch of folks from the Let's Talk Guild online 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 an unforgettable Saturday with George Gruhn.

To say that George Gruhn has an appreciation for quality guitars would be equivalent to saying that Van Gogh liked to paint. I knew the man was knowledgable, but I had no idea to what extent…

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 as I gawked at the guitars, and I resigned myself to having missed my opportunity. 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 George's private collection.

I was told to visit the security guard at the back of the store who would verify my identity and let me on to a private elevator. Cool!

The elevator doors opened and I was immediately greeted by George, who shook one hand while handing me a guitar with the other. This was going to be fun! 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.

Guild Double Cutaway

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-design Tacoma

Playing a Gruhn-design Tacoma

George listened to me play, then disappeared to return with yet another instrument for comparison. “Here”, he said, “Play what you were just playing on this one.” and he handed me a small, well-worn Martin. I handed him back the Tacoma and carefully lifted this small-bodied, unfamiliar (to me) instrument onto my lap. Before I began to play that guitar I just brushed my thumb across the strings and the instrument shuddered - it quivered on my lap! That was a new experience. I began to play, using the lightest touch, and it was as though the guitar leapt at the opportunity to perform. Emotion welled up in me just as others were spinning around in awe and amazement to locate the source of the incredible sound. I literally had to stop playing to wipe a tear from my eye, and took the pause 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 he thought 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 one guitar after another, ranging in age from a brand new slope shoulder D-21 Special back to a 1941 Martin D-28. Wow! What a great-sounding guitar! And that was when George told me to look at the $50k+ price tag. Now I understood.

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, you are a true gentleman, and I am honored to have spent such time together. Thank you!

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