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“The narrative that it was handed to me – wrong”: Joe Bonamassa on the origins of his epic gear collection

“It’s sweat equity over 35 years, and I make no apologies for it.”

Joe Bonamassa wearing sunglasses and a suit, playing guitar on stage

Image: Roberto Ricciuti / Getty Images

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Joe Bonamssa has argued that his gear collection is the product of “sweat equity over 35 years” and not something “handed” to him.

Looking back on his collecting journey in a recent chat with Rick Beato, the guitar aficionado sets the record straight on some of the apparent misconceptions surrounding his famous gear collection.

“The narrative is I grew up in a rich family – wrong. The narrative is it was handed to me – wrong,” Bonamassa says [via Guitar World]. “It’s sweat equity over 35 years, and I make no apologies for it. All I do is collect guitars and things that I’m into, because that’s what my heroes played.”

“I don’t collect esoteric things that I don’t have a connection to, that maybe somebody else would have a connection to. I like Fender and Gibson and Marshall, and Fender amps, because that’s what my heroes played.”

The guitarist also hit back at claims that his collecting habits are damaging to the second-hand gear market, saying: “The narrative online is that, by buying stuff and collecting stuff, I am keeping some kid from buying that”

“That reasoning doesn’t hold water with me, because… stuff finds me,” he reasons.

“A gentleman and his daughter brought me a 1972 Marshall stack from Kingston, New York. He wanted me to buy it because he has autism, doesn’t play, and inherited it from his father – and he wanted it to go to a good home.”

“That’s the end of the argument that I’m keeping other people from having this stuff. That’s the end of the argument. It’s the beginning and the end. That amp was only going to one person. If I didn’t want it, he probably would have just kept it.”

That said, Bonamassa does acknowledge the struggles of young aspiring collectors these days, as “there are a lot of younger folks that are into old shit”.

“But back in the ‘90s when I started buying stuff, I had $300, I did a gig and my mom would take most of the money and put it in the bank for me, [and] leave me a couple of hundred.”

“Okay, now I can buy a [Fender] Princeton Reverb. Had the Princeton Reverb – ‘Okay, not really working for what I’m doing, I’m gonna trade that Princeton in. Maybe I’ll try find a Super.’ And a [Fender] Super [Reverb] was $375, so I save some more money. You could experiment with all this stuff and it wouldn’t break the bank,” he says.

“Now, if you want to try a Tweed Deluxe, it’s gonna cost you $10,000. That’s a supply-and-demand marketplace. You’re dealing with a finite amount of gear.”

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