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Lyle Lovett Remembers Guitar-Builder Bill Collings As A Master Craftsman And Friend

Eric Frommer/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Lyle Lovett owned the 29th guitar built by the legendary Bill Collings.

Texas Standard interview by Jody Denberg.

Bill Collings dropped out of college to start making guitars.

Little did he know that his passion for exquisite craftsmanship would earn him the respect of musical talents who would help set a new standard for the quality of acoustic sound, and earn him a place in the Texas music scene for the Collings guitar.


One early customer – the owner of Collings’ 29th masterpiece – is Texas native, singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett. He bought his first Collings guitar in the two-bedroom apartment that then served as the craftsman's home and shop, and where the two immediately became friends.

Lovett says that Collings had an intricate understanding of the classic acoustic guitar, and was able to thread elements of those designs, including shape and materials, into his own work.

“Bill Collings made his guitars special,” Lovett says. “He understood how guitars should work.”

Lovett says that as Collings' business grew, he never sacrificed his commitment to quality.

“He was able to keep that same individual uniqueness as he grew, which is such a rare thing and a difficult thing to accomplish,” he says. “But Bill Collings was able to do that.”

Collings died Friday after a battle with bile duct cancer, and will be remembered not only by Lovett, but other legendary artists who were able to procure their own handmade instrument. Collings customers include Joni Mitchell, Keith Richards and Robert Earl Keen.

Collings’ store in the central Texas hill country will carry on the legacy of his artistry, and continue to sell guitars in his name.

Written by Lila Weatherly.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Bill Collings dropped out of medical school to make guitars. He was, in fact, a pre-med student. The earlier version further stated Collings died after a battle with leukemia. It was, in fact, bile duct cancer.

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
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