If selection of the top 150 guitars is inherently subjective, how do you create a definitive list? For The Guitar Collection, Epic Ink followed a trail from the famed Experience Music Project in Seattle to a guitar store in Utah, until the most authoritative names and diverse points of view rose to the top.
Our final panel and advisory board include the world’s foremost authenticator of guitars, a bevy of celebrity guitar journalists, and a Ph.D. in organology (the study of musical instruments). Their expertise ranges from midcentury modern guitars to the mechanics of the instrument, and their tastes range even further. Their task: to whittle a list of 1,000 guitars down to a compilation of 150. Months of heated and passionate debate ensued, including two days of in-person deliberation in Seattle. Panelists argued over the cultural significance, legacy and contribution, and the relative beauty of each handcrafted guitar. The list that emerged from the fray is exhaustive, authoritative, and complete.
Walter Carter is the former historian for Gibson Guitar Corporation and the author of ten books on guitars, including Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon and Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, he has also written a how-to for co-writing songs and a biography of the Oak Ridge Boys.
Veteran music journalist Alan di Perna is an associate editor for Guitar World magazine and media and development consultant to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. His career spans thirty years of writing on music, pop culture, and musical instruments. His work has appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, Guitar Aficionado, and Guitar Player.
Mathew Hill is curator of guitars at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and curator of the John C. Hall Collection of Musical Instruments at Rickenbacker International Corporation, Santa Ana, California. He holds a MMus—the equivalent to a Ph.D.—in organology from the University of Edinburgh.
Michael Molenda is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine—a position he has held since 1998—and has penned thousands of articles on guitarists, guitar gear, music production, and the mysteries of creativity. Molenda is also a seminal San Francisco multimedia artist who continues to perform, produce, and direct music videos today.
University of Oregon professor Tom Wheeler is the former editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine and the author of The Guitar Book, American Guitars, The Stratocaster Chronicles, and The Soul of Tone.
Bryan Yates has been playing music since his teens. He worked his way through law school playing rock and roll up and down the East Coast with the Casuals featuring Johnny Sportcoast. While at Experience Music Project in Seattle, Bryan interviewed such guitar legends as Les Paul, Chet Atkins, and Ted McCarty, and he created the audio and multimedia content in Experience Music Project’s Guitar Gallery.
The Advisory Board
Dave Belzer of Guitar Center is one of the top vintage guitar authorities in the world, and his knowledge is exceeded only by his passion for the instruments that he loves to play.
Brad Tolinski is the music division editorial director for Future US, and oversees such titles as Guitar World, Guitar Aficionado, and Guitar Legends. His current favorite guitar is a La Cabronita Especial newly purchased from the Fender Custom Shop.
Lynn A. Wheelwright
Lynn A. Wheelwright began buying, selling, and trading “used guitars” in the later 1970s. After working with Alvino Rey, he was inspired to put together a collection of early electric instruments.
He has written for Vintage Guitar and 20th Century magazines, and contributed his knowledge and instruments to a variety of books and publications. He owns and operates a retail guitar store in Utah.