Joe Bonamassa names the biggest guitar geek he’s ever met

The blues rock guitar god and notorious gear head has been discussing the man he considers the guitar community’s “craziest anorak

Joe Bonamassa recently sat down with Louder for a quick chat around the release of his new live album, Tales Of Time. During the conversation, he was asked for his opinion on the biggest guitar geek he has ever met.


The guitarist is, by his own confession, a dyed-in-the-wool guitar nerd of the highest order – indeed Bonamassa dubbed his home studio/guitar museum ‘Nerdville’ in homage to his passion – so if he is paying tribute to someone’s geekdom, it’s time to take note.


In the Louder piece, writer Dave Ling asks Bonamassa if he has encountered anyone “capable of ‘out-geeking’ you on the subjects of guitars and music?”

“There are tons of people that make me look like a hobbyist,” responds Bonamassa. “[But] I’ll tell you the craziest anorak I’ve met, and it’s Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick. What he doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing.”


It’s fair to say that Bonamassa understands the power of that statement better than most, and the two guitarists are kindred spirits in many ways.


Bonamassa’s dad was a guitar dealer, who took the young JoBo on ‘guitar safaris’ every weekend. Nielsen, meanwhile, grew up with parents who owned a music store.

In 2020, the two guitarists compared notes on their collecting habits during a discussion for Bonamassa’s Live From Nerdville podcast – in doing so, the blues rocker revealed Nielsen had a formative influence on his own passion for guitars.


“When I was a kid, I was given a copy of the Guitars Of The Stars book and it was your collection,” recalls Bonamassa in the clip. “That was one of my [first] things, where I was like, ‘Man, this is cool!’ And I got addicted to the hunt for them. And the smell of them and the history.”


“It started [for me] because my grandmother collected coins and stamps,” says Nielsen, in response. “Then the music store my parents had didn’t have Gibson, or Fender. It had Martin… at that time, I couldn’t afford to spend on brand new whatever, so I’d buy used guitars… I just liked it… Each one had something the other didn’t have. I started out just like you, with one!”


Nielsen’s 500-strong electric guitar collection is particularly prized for its Gibsons, and among his most notable instruments are a 1959 Gibson Les Paul and a ‘58 Korina Flying V. Meanwhile, the 1958 Gibson Explorer is one of the firm’s rarest ever models, with only 19 thought to exist. Nielsen? He owns three of them.

In 2019, Bonamassa revealed that his collection extended to about 400 guitars and 400 amps, but it is arguably more wide-ranging than the Gibson-obsessed Nielsen.


As he showed off in his 2020 Gibson The Collection video tour, Bonamassa’s hoard includes the 1959 “Lazarus” Les Paul Standard, 1959 “Lorelei” Les Paul Standard, a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty, plus a 1952 Telecaster and his 1955 Fender Stratocaster hardtail.


Since then, in 2022, we know he picked up another big one in the form of a filthy 1960 Les Paul that a UK resident found in a closet, so it’s only growing. Who knows where he’ll be at by the time he hits Nielsen’s vintage years…


Check out the full interview here.

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