Video by Chris Beier
Welcome to our Being Texan video series, in which we explore the dreams and realities of Texans from all walks of life, from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, the Trans-Pecos to the Piney Woods.
Lyle Lovett plays a Collings. So does Keith Richards. The list of Collings owners is long and eminent: George Strait, Brandi Carlisle, Pete Townshend, Patti Smith. Prince played one at his last show in 2016.
We’re talking about Collings guitars, instruments handmade at a workshop just west of Austin. In Being Texan: Collings Guitars, you’ll take a trip inside the nondescript space, where craftsmen turn good wood into great guitars (acoustic and electric) as well as mandolins and ukuleles. Collings gets its wood (ebony, mahogany, Indian rosewood, quilted maple) from Alaska, Virginia, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Fiji, Brazil, India, Bosnia, Cameroon, and Central America. Craftsmen season it for a year, storing it in climate-controlled rooms to keep the moisture content just right. Then they cut it, carve it, sand it, brace it, bend it, assemble it, and lacquer it. “We suffer every little detail,” says Steve Nall, head of production.
The results are phenomenal—guitars with a clear, warm, emphatic tone. The results are also very expensive. The cheapest Collings guitar starts at $3,400 and some cost four times that much. Owners say they are worth every penny.
Bill Collings, the man behind the guitars, was an intense perfectionist who demanded the same from his employees, mostly young men who also revered guitars and what they could sound like—if made properly. “His guitars have personality,” Lovett once said about them. “The sound is full of energy, just like Bill Collings.”
Collings died of cancer in 2017 but his instruments live on, made by craftsmen who share his passion for getting every detail right. In this short film, you’ll get a view into the process behind every Collings—as well as the vision. “Guitars are really personal things,” says general manager Steve McCreary, and watching these guys work, you can see why artists like Lovett fell in love with a Collings the first time they played one.
Director Chris Beier is a filmmaker who’s crafted documentaries for Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Google, and, of course, Texas Monthly. Thank you to our friends at Tecovas for sponsoring the series.
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