Friday, October 26, 2012

Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars 3rd Edition Review

Como estas?

Any serious collector of vintage guitars has to be familiar with George Gruhn, the owner of Gruhhn Guitars in Nashville, Tennesee. I have done business with him, having purchased guitars from him, and had him authenticate some pre-CBS Fenders over the years. He is the most popular authority on the history of vintage guitars, as well as how to identify and verify the originality of these instruments.

He has shared his knowledge with us though “Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars,” which was originally published in 1992 in collaboration with Walter Carter, who has is also a fabulous guitar historian. It includes acoustic and electric guitars, amplifiers, basses, banjos as well as ukuleles and mandolins. There are specifications for each instrument form the major manufactures such as Fender, Gibson, Martin, Gretsch, Rickenbacker, and even Mosrite.

His book went through an extensive rewrite in 1999, adding a boatload of new information and correcting mis-steps from the first edition. This book was well laid out, and it was easy to find out exactly what I needed to know. After 10 years, he issued a 500-page 3rd edition in 2010 (which I bought), and it appears that the wheels have fallen off the cart.

All of the good information is there, but the way it has been re-categorized is abysmal. The earlier editions were sorted by type (such as bass, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, archtops, etc.), but now it is now sorted by model and manufacturer in alphabetical order, and this makes for some interesting bedfellows. This might be ok if you know exactly what you are looking for, but what if you are trying to IDENTIFY a guitar? Let’s say you have a lonely and unidentified Gibson acoustic, and you are a die-hard Fender guy so you have no clue about what it could be. You whip out your 3rd edition and sift through the entire Gibson section to try and find it. Every limited edition SG, every Flying V, those awful faded guitars, and every one of the half-million variants of the Les Paul. What a pain the butt.

This is not going to cut the mustard, and it pains me to say this, as I really like George Gruhn, but I cannot recommend “Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars 3rd Edition.” Your best bet is to forgo the new information and purchase a new copy of the 2nd edition, which is still available on