Guitar Aficionado

The Guitar Collection: Buddy Holly's Gibson J-45


This fall, Epic Ink will unveil The Guitar Collection, a lavishly oversized tome showcasing the most culturally important, historically significant, and visually stunning guitars ever made, from Billy Gibbons’ “Pearly Gates” 1959 Gibson Les Paul, to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Number One” 1962 Fender Stratocaster, to Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads” 1964 Gibson ES-335TDC. Presented in a custom-made leather guitar-style case, this package is a superb collector’s limited edition that is a fitting homage to these instruments from the world’s most exclusive public and private collections.

Guitar Aficionado’s new Nov/Dec issue, on stands soon, contains an in-depth story on the making of this ambitious new tome as well an excerpt of the guitars featured within. As an added bonus, we’ll be spotlighting one more legendary instrument from the Collection here every Wednesday.

Copies of the book are available at as well at select high-end retailers like John Varvatos.

And now, without further ado…

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Made circa 1944 and played by Buddy Holly

From the collection of Michael J. Malone

Buddy Holly was always seen onstage with a Fender Stratocaster, but offstage this Gibson J-45 was his main guitar, as indicated by the heavy pick wear around the sound hole. Inspired by the leather covering that Elvis Presley used on a Martin D-28, Holly made his own tooled-leather covering for the J-45, featuring the titles of his 1956 Decca recordings “Love Me” and “Blue Days Black Nights” along with his home state of Texas.

Holly’s J-45 was made during World War II, a period in which Gibson put a decal on the headstock proclaiming “Only a Gibson Is Good Enough.” Wartime metal shortages limited Gibson’s guitar production, and by 1944 the company could not procure the material for the adjustable truss rod, which had been used in the neck of virtually every Gibson since the company patented the invention in 1921. As indicated by the lack of a truss-rod cover on the headstock of Holly’s guitar, Gibson made some guitars toward the end of the war without the adjustable rod in the neck.

After only eighteen months in the spotlight, Holly died at age twenty-two in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. His influence on rock and roll remains strong, and the J-45 remains the flagship model of Gibson’s dreadnought line.