Collings Guitar showcase filled with licks at IBMA

Jake Workman & Friends with their Collings Guitars at IBMA Bluegrass Live!

During Bluegrass Live! on Saturday at IBMA, Collings Guitars presented Jake Workman & Friends on the Workshop Stage in the Raleigh Convention Center. It was a high-level bluegrass showcase featuring Jake Workman (Kentucky Thunder), Bob Minner (Tim McGraw), Stephen Mougin (Sam Bush), Allen Shadd (three-time national flatpicking champion), and mandolinist: Josiah Nelson (Tray Wellington) playing their Collings instruments. Zak McLamb provided the bass.

On Facebook following the performance, Collings raved about the showcase.

“The highlight of our IBMA experience was a jaw-dropping performance by Jake Workman & Friends, all on their personal Collings instruments.

What an honor to have such high-caliber musicians choose to play our instruments, and what an absolute treat for everyone in attendance to hear them pick together!”

Steve Nall of Collings Guitars said that all of these great flatpickers were happy to take part.

“We reached out to some of our players in the bluegrass vein. We had a lot of great players. They all brought their Collings. It didn’t take any arm twisting. They were all happy to do it. It made me pretty proud. They made the song selection. We built the guitars and they did the rest.”

Instrumentals played included Clinch Mountain Backstep, Cherokee Shuffle, St Anne’s Reel, Cattle in the Cane, Big Mon, and Vassar Clements’ Lonesome Fiddle Blues. Steve Mougin also sang Bill Monroe’s Little Georgia Rose.

Following their performance, the players described their instruments.

Workman shared…

“That one I played is brand new as of IBMA. I hadn’t played it until the day before the show. I have a couple others though also and they are all great.

It’s a special D1A Traditional model. In general, Collings guitars are so consistent, sound-wise, and always absolutely flawless in their fit and finish. I’ve been playing them since 2007 and will continue for many years to come. The crew at Collings all take pride in their work and are the best guys to hang with also.”

Shadd described his as well.

“The guitar I was playing is a 2013 Collings CW MhA. It was the guitar that I chose as my prize at Winfield in 2013 for my first place finish. If you’re not familiar with how that works, there are three prize guitars; first place gets first choice, second place gets to choose between the two remaining guitars, and third place receives the remaining guitar as their prize. The prize guitar offered by Collings can always be identified by the special ‘Wheat’ inlay on the headstock, only ever done on those prize guitars. When I won the first time in 1997 the Collings prize was a D2h, which was rosewood. So I have both a rosewood model and this 2013 mahogany model.

Love both of them, and really love the folks at Collings.”

Minner said his is a sneak peek guitar. “It’s a prototype of a new limited series Collings will be offering soon called The Builder’s Choice. I’ve had mine, which is the first mahogany example, for about five months. It’s a stellar instrument in every regard.”

Mougin praised his instrument profoundly.

“I got my CJ 35 directly from the factory after playing one at the Telluride Music store which haunted me for months. I played half a dozen vintage instruments that day, then the store owner put the Collings in my hand and it knocked me out. I’ve been playing it for the last eight years with the Sam Bush Band, which is a record for me with one guitar!”

Nelson also talked about his mandolin.

“It’s a 2019 Collings MT gloss top with a one piece back. The finish is honey amber. It has an Engleman spruce top, eastern flamed maple back and sides. I purchased it back in 2020 and it has been my main instrument ever since.”

The late Bill Collings first started building guitars on his kitchen table in Houston, TX. In 1989, he rented a 1,000 square foot building in Austin and hired two helpers. In 1999, he introduced the first Collings mandolins. Six years later, he broke ground on a new 27,000 square foot facility featuring CNC technology. Today the company’s mission is to continue Bill Collings’ legacy following his death from cancer in July 2017.

Nall talked a bit about the building process.

“It takes four to six months for base models; the fancier, the longer. We have 50 employees on the floor and 70 total. Our production schedule is 22 acoustics per week. We are always prototyping, improving efficiency, and utilizing research and development.”

He was very excited following the showcase performance.

“As a builder, it is exciting to listen to what we made in the hands of these professionals. It was like Christmas!

IBMA is player-sensitive. It is my very favorite show.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.