Thanks to Performing Songwriter magazine for this article that appeared in the Tools of the Trade column, July/August 2004 (Vol. 12, Issue79) and for granting permission to reproduce it here.

RICK GORDON'S 1977 Collings Guitar
By Clay Steakley

Long before Collings was known as one of the most respected names in luthiery, and before artists like Lyle Lovett, Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris, Pete Townshend, Joni Mitchell and Lou Reed were seen toting them onstage, there was a guy named Bill Collings repairing guitars in the spare bedroom of a Houston apartment.

Nashville songwriter and session guitarist Rick Gordon owns the earliest identifiable Collings original. "It's actually the second he made," Gordon explains. "He offered me the first one, but it was a dreadnought. I'm a little guy and I really love the 000-sized guitars. I turned down the dreadnought he'd built, but a friend of mine purchased that guitar later on and it was stolen out of his van." All guitarists who bought unidentified acoustics in pawn shops may feel free here to pause and scramble frantically for their guitars.

"The only way you'd know it's a Collings is that he signed the brace on the back of the guitar. He didn't even want to sign it, but I got him to sign it in pencil," Gordon laughs. "It reads, '1/77 Bill Collings.' The guitar was started in November or December of 1976 and completed in the middle of February '77."

"It's 000-sized. We basically went and traced a 000 Martin from a music store and made it just a little bit deeper to get a little more bass response out of it. We also put a cutaway in it, which, back in 1976, was pretty much unheard of in an acoustic guitar. It was something that I really wanted. It has wood purfling around the front and back with herringbone inlay on it. There are these fret inlays that were on the 1940s Martin 000-28 that were really beautiful -- an abalone inlay design that I asked for and Bill was able to put in for me."

When Gordon met Collings in the 1970s, he had little idea what he was in for. "Bill would be out in the audience at shows and say, 'Man, I want to make you a guitar.' I just kind of dismissed him as a rowdy spectator until one day I talked to him at length on a break. I realized quickly that Bill was not just some- body who drank lots of beers at my shows --

he was the real thing. He offered to make me a guitar for the price of materials if I would promote his guitars. Two weeks after he finished the guitar, I moved to California. I didn't really think about it then, but he could have been pretty pissed at me for doing that. But I moved back to Houston three months later and told all kinds of people about the guitar, including Lyle Lovett."

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Nashville songwriter & session guitarist Rick Gordon with the earliest identifiable Collings original.

These days, Gordon plays the guitar exclusively on sessions, with the likes of Jon Vezner, the late Walter Hyatt and Trout Fishing in America, as well as a number of Nashville songwriters and artists.

"It's the most balanced-sounding and eminently recordable guitar I've ever heard," he says. "It sounds exquisitely detailed to say the least. It's perfect for strumming, it has no compression whatsoever. And it's the most articulate-sounding guitar for lead work."

But it's the price that will make guitarists weep. "It was Brazilian rosewood and German Sitka Spruce, an ebony fingerboard and a mahogany neck. The materials were $325, and what I actually ended up paying was something like $175 in cash, and the rest of it was my used furniture that I had to get rid of in order to go to California." Gordon laughs and adds, "But he had about six new orders within a couple of weeks."