14 Jul How a multi-million dollar company started
Collings Guitars – The Twelfth Fret
Bill Collings moved from Ohio to Houston, Texas in the mid-1970s. More interested in guitars and engineering than in medical school, he took a job at a machine shop and began building guitars on his kitchen table with just a few hand tools. Before long his instruments were in the hands of local talents Rick Gordon and Lyle Lovett, which led more Texas players to seek out Bill for custom guitars.
After building about fifty guitars and a few banjos in Houston, he headed west to pursue lutherie in southern California. By the mid-1980s, Bill was building flattop and archtop acoustic guitars in his own small shop. His reputation for outstanding quality and meticulous attention to detail quickly spread. In 1989, he rented a 1,000-square-foot space and hired two helpers.
That same year, George Gruhn, the acclaimed collector and purveyor of vintage fretted instruments and owner of Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, asked Bill to make 24 custom “Gruhn” guitars, giving the Austin luthier national exposure. By this time musicians such as Pete Townshend, Joni Mitchell and Brian May were playing Collings instruments and demand continued to grow.
By 2005, Bill broke ground for a new 27,000-square-foot shop featuring CNC technology that modernized machining processes and made parts production more consistent, accurate and safe.