The first words I heard from Bill Collings in person when I was heading out to meet him with my trusted Collings UC1 in hand were “UKULELES SUCK!” I turned around to see the one and only legendary instrument builder. The next hour of musical discussion was truly wonderful and pretty surreal. I had already toured the Collings facility, but next door I was introduced to Bill’s car workshop with some amazing cars being restored. These included an original Jaguar owned by an actual king!
Clearly Bill has a love of all great workmanship and throughout our conversation he regularly talked about “the need to care” and this is totally reflected in all of his instruments. I have always said that every Collings instrument whether electric or acoustic sounds and plays great! I can’t say this for any other builder on planet earth. We talked extensively about the work involved in making great instruments and the Collings facility is an amazing combination of seriously high tech machinery and a small army of skilled staff who worked on each instrument. Everyone commented on the fact that all instruments needed to be of the highest quality and the attention to detail is quite amazing.
Bill is quite a character and I really enjoyed interviewing him for Uke Magazine. The full interview will appear in the December edition. Expect some really interesting copy about the commercial aspect of building instruments, the philosophy behind Collings and their thoughts on ukuleles. It was a wonderfully surreal encounter. He also was intrigued by the “Mr Bear tuner” from Japan, so I left him with Bill who I suspect would make for a great companion! At one point he said “Play me something” so I played a section of The Small Change Diaries “Cold Mountain” Fortunately my last two years of relentlessly practising meant that it was quite a reasonable rendition of the track! I also gave him a copy of the SCD CD and Uke Magazine which he really liked.
He also signed my Collings UC1. I’ll be thinking about this interaction for a fair while and it was a perfect example of a company that really cares about quality. He is also now even starting to make his own cases and stressed the importance once again of attention to detail in all such matters.