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Meeting the Legendary George Gruhn at Gruhn Guitars in Music City

by Rich and Laura Lynch

For George Gruhn 2020 was probably not the year that he had hoped for. It should have been a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of his famed guitar store in Nashville, Tennessee but the pandemic had other plans. George only just recently re-opened his showroom to the public. He told us this and other stories during a spontaneous interview session on Saturday, May 08, 2021 at the shop that bears his name.

George Gruhn at Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, Tennessee.

During our conversation Gruhn covered many topics. We inquired about who he has met over the years so we asked about a few of our favorites: Bruce Springsteen - yes. Tom Petty - yes. Jackson Browne - yes. Neil Young - yes. George recalled selling over 20 guitars to Neil in the 1970's. Plenty more famous folks have purchased an instrument from him, too. In more recent times, blues axe man and preservationist Joe Bonamassa has been a steady customer with Gruhn adding that "Joe's bought about a 'new house' worth of guitars from me."

Gruhn suggested that he has met just about everyone in the industry and he has begun work on a book to document his experience in serving the world's greatest guitarists. This is pretty impressive for a man who practically fell into his line of work.

The Les Paul 90th birthday Les Paul gold top and so much more.

"This business is essentially my hobby that got out of hand," George shared. "I started by dealing some guitars out of my college dorm room and now I have an 18,000 square-foot building with three floors filled with guitars and the basic operations of the business."

"George Gruhn knows more about vintage guitars than anyone on earth," states Guitar Player editor Tom Wheeler. Gruhn moved to Nashville in 1969 after getting his bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and doing graduate work at Duke University and the University of Tennessee. On January 2, 1970, Gruhn Guitars Inc. opened at 111 4th Ave North with an inventory of twenty-two instruments. Their office equipment consisted of a telephone and an old-style mechanical adding machine.

The business and legend expanded and they moved to a location on Broadway where they stayed for many years until 2013 when Gruhn Guitars relocated to their current home at 2120 8th Ave South. Their customized building has free parking and allows George to display their full inventory of 1,100+ guitars, basses, mandolins, banjos, ukuleles, and amplifiers. This shop provides a spacious setting for visitors and a more efficient work environment for the staff. The first floor is open to the public, the second floor houses special vintage instruments and the third floor is the repair shop.

The Martin Wall at Gruhn Guitars.

They also have extensive Martin and Taylor collections and they were awarded "Taylor Showroom Winner" in 2015 and 2017. Gruhn picked on a Martin guitar made exclusively for his store's 50th anniversary while we talked. As we were admiring the many instruments there we spotted a 90th birthday edition Les Paul signed by the innovator himself. Also of interest were carbon based guitars. George said that these instruments could withstand extremes in temperature and conditions and still sound good perhaps not as warm as a traditional acoustic guitar but a solid touring friend.

In addition to running a revered guitar shop George himself is a bit of a celebrity. He was featured in a Visa commercial in the 1990's and has appeared on the History Channel's American Pickers as a consultant. But wait there is more - Gruhn also has a YouTube Channel with 4.84K subscribers (as of this writing) that features conversations with George, tutorials and artists playing instruments.

Gruhn Guitars Inc. has grown tremendously since its start however the basic foundation of their business principles remains unchanged. Knowledge, integrity, and service are remarkably low-tech but key. The store is more than just a showcase for hundreds of instruments. It is a group of people with an incredibly wide range of experience, knowledge and passion - many of whom have been with the organization for years. Gruhn Guitars Inc. has a wide selection to meet the price and professional needs of each customer that they serve so stop in Monday through Saturday and see it for yourself.

Gruhn Guitars is the perfect marriage of online and brick and mortar sales and service.

Related Links: For more information on GRUHN GUITARS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Gruhn Guitars | Martin Gruhn 50th Anniversary Models | Gruhn Guitars YouTube Channel


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