In the early 1980s, Bill Collings shared a small shop space with mandolin-builder Tom Ellis in Austin. From that location, Bill refined his instrument designs as his reputation for outstanding quality and meticulous attention to detail quickly spread. Years later, Collings Guitars would challenge the worldwide industry with instruments built at a level of quality—with a level of consistency—no other builder could match. But in those early days, Bill worked alone, hoping to deliver instruments that inspired something new.
From the 2019 Collings catalog: "One of the rarest and most labor intensive instruments in our lineup, Bill Collings' elaborately appointed 17" archtops represent the pinnacle of Collings craftsmanship. From the voluptuous curves to the seamless intersection of the neck and cutaway, every last detail sings quality."
Apart from the electronics, every component and every detail of this beautiful AT-17 was built by Bill Collings. Its design features a slightly wider waist, similar to a dreadnought. According to Collings' Mark Althans, "He likely built it for a customer of his who was looking for a modified archtop tone—a tone that incorporated a more loose or bass oriented voice." The result is exceptional archtop tone. While this guitar would fit the bill as a first-rate jazz box, it's incredibly versatile and dynamic.
The workmanship on this AT 17 is remarkable. It features over-the-top, hand-carved Ebony parts. It's hard to fathom the amount of work Bill put into the pickguard, bridge, and tailpiece. Interestingly, the fingerboard purfling surrounds the first fret entirely. This is a subtle detail that would be hard to reproduce. Bill outfitted the guitar with a floating Bartolini pickup with volume and tone controls discreetly set into the pickguard.
This Collings AT17 represents one of the first approximately 75 archtop guitars Bill made before he assigned serial numbers to instruments. It is a highly collectible example of one of the industry's geniuses refining his craft. It is in excellent condition with some minor cosmetic wear, but it is free of any repairs, modifications, or issues. It includes a custom Collings Ameritage cae.