Does Nashville have the best guitar stores in the country?

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Extract from the September / October 2021 issue of Acoustic guitar | By James Volpe Rotondi

Although many cities in the United States have excellent guitar stores, if you are looking for a guitar, Nashville, a city known for its relationship with the instrument, might be the best place to find one. Here’s a look at Music City’s “Temples of Spruce” to find out if Nashville really has the best guitar stores in the country..

“We believe that music has the power to heal, not just to entertain,” says Pamela Cole, which opened in January 2009 Fanny’s house of music with her partner Leigh Maples. The boutique is a Nashville landmark in part because of the much-visited mural painted on its exterior that features an all-female cast of guitar icons from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Loretta Lynn to Joan Jett and Joni Mitchell.

Fanny’s, which sells a host of used acoustic and electric guitars, accessories and even vintage clothing, can be found at the intersection of Holly and 11th streets in East Nashville, perhaps the neighborhood most associated with the huge change in the city’s demographics and property prices – over the past two decades.

“This community really embraced us from the start when we only had five guitars, three amps and ten guitar pick packs,” says Cole. “As Nashville has grown, so have we. In fact, we’ve even launched a non-profit organization called Fanny’s School of Music, an addition to our store that will add ten classrooms, a music therapist office and a community space / performance area on the second floor.

Through the devastating tornado of March 2020, quickly followed by the pandemic, Fanny’s, like many other guitar stores in Nashville, had to think quickly and adapt to changes in not only the city’s diverse new population, but also of the guitar market itself. .

“We started in 2013 as a vintage guitar store, and we still are, so that hasn’t changed much,” says Walter Carter of Vintage Guitars from Carter, well known to aficionados as the co-author of the unmissable Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars. “But the growth and popularity of Nashville has had a huge impact on our business. We started just as the TV show Nashville has started to air, and that, along with our good location, some name recognition and the success of many of our YouTube videos shot live here, has been very good for us.

Carter Vintage Guitars is known for its great selection of classical guitars and famous YouTube videos featuring renowned guitarists. Photo by Jon Roncolato

For the buyer of vintage guitars, Carter’s is a real fantasy park, a place where you can see the same Stratocaster that Ed King recorded “Sweet Home Alabama” on, alongside a Gibson L-00 from before. war, a 1940 Martin D-18 and manufacturers like Taylor, Larriveé, Sahlstrom, Gallagher, Preston Thompson, Blazer & Henkes, and more. Carter says that while the baby boomers who started the vintage guitar explosion in the ’80s may be buying less guitars these days, they may be more likely to sell them.

“Yes, those same people who bought these guitars 20 years ago are now providing us with a good supply, so you don’t have to go out and shake the bushes like you did before. Having said that, we still get instruments from people who have had them under the bed or in the closet for decades – you know, “It was my grandpa’s guitar” – and every now and then, if you have any. luck, they’re just perfect. ”Carter’s fan club includes players like Brian Setzer, Molly Tuttle, JD Simo, Billy Strings, Marcus King and Chris Thile, all of whom have dropped in to play a few licks for the Carter camera. and enjoy the wooded atmosphere.

It’s even hard to think of guitar shops and Nashville without invoking Gruhn Guitars, the now-legendary mecca of gatherers that began life on Lower Broadway in 1970, and eventually moved to a less frenetic and much larger location in the 8th Avenue South neighborhood in 2013. While Eric Newell now directs in Much of the daily business, George Gruhn himself – a true original, famous for his brooding prophecies and unsurpassed vintage guitar knowledge – still epitomizes the store’s rigorous attention to detail.

Gruhn Guitars in Nashville offers new and used instruments.  In the photo, from left to right: a 1966 Ramirez José Flores flamenco, a 1953 Martin D-28 personalized for Charlie Louvin and a 1932 round neck Dobro.
Gruhn Guitars offers new and used instruments. In the photo, from left to right: a 1966 Ramirez José Flores flamenco, a 1953 Martin D-28 personalized for Charlie Louvin and a 1932 round neck Dobro. Photo by Gary Scott

Surprisingly, this most dedicated of vintage guitar experts is remarkably positive about the current generation of guitars. “New guitars from Martin, Taylor, Gibson, Collings, Santa Cruz, Larrivee and others compete very strongly with vintage products,” says Gruhn, “which was not the case in the 1970s, where a lot of guitars had been dumbfounded by bean counters who really didn’t know anything about guitars. But the quality of today’s new guitars, although it might not be as good as, say, the golden age of pre-CBS Fenders or [Ted] The Gibsons of the McCarty era are damn good. That’s why a high percentage of what I’m selling now is new.


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“Look, I always have a soft spot in my heart for vintage instruments,” he admits, “but if a customer has the choice of spending $ 4000 on one of our Gruhn exclusive Martin Sinker Mahogany D-18s , instead of spending over $ 60,000 on a 1937 D-18, they’ll take the new one every time. And the new one surprisingly comes close.

Downtown Music City’s Coolest Retail Space Is Surely The New Gibson Garage– imagine some sort of Apple Store meets Disneyland for everything Gibson, and I mean everything: “Every model that Gibson, Epiphone, Kramer, Mesa / Boogie and KRK make is available and on the floor,” says Mark Agnesi, Director of Gibson Brand Experience. And on the ceiling. The massive 8,000 square foot retail space is topped off with a rotating track filled with hanging Les Paul, Juniors, SG, ES-335 and more. The acoustic room alone, packed with J-200s, J-45s, Hummingbirds, Epiphone Frontiers, and more, is larger than many stand-alone stores. “A few years ago, explains Agnesi,[Gibson CEO] JC Curleigh asked us all, “So where is the place to go for the ultimate Gibson experience? And we have not had an answer. So we decided to build one.

The Acoustic Room at the sprawling new Gibson Garage retail space in downtown Nashville
The Acoustic Room in the sprawling new Gibson Garage retail space in downtown Nashville. Photo courtesy of Gibson Guitars

Gruhn Guitars, Carter’s Vintage Guitars, Fanny’s House of Music, and the new Gibson Garage are just a few of the notable selling points that cater to Nashville’s many pro players, budding hotshots, happy enthusiasts, and vintage collectors. passionate. This surplus retail wealth also includes classy outfits like Rumble Seat Music, Handcrafted Guitars, The North American Guitar, Track music, Eastside music provision, Music Corner, and more. While there are those who believe that the continued exodus of guitarists traveling or relocating to Nashville is simply a case of “bringing sand to the beach”, from a retail perspective, Nashville is clearly a beach which can continue to accommodate as much sand as there are washes. on its shores.




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