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In Memoriam: Lance McCollum

In Memoriam: Lance McCollum

March 1, 1958–February 1, 2009

by Harvey Leach

Originally published in American Lutherie #98, 2009

We are members of one of the greatest fraternities on earth. Luthiers get to take nature’s greatest materials and reshape them into things of beauty and functionality. Our creations leave our mark on society because for each piece to reach fulfillment it must be passed into the hands of a second artist, the player.

Lance McCollum was a builder of great guitars. Some of the players of his instruments include Roger Hodgson of Supertramp, Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, Winfield Champion Todd Hallawell, and Grammy winners Mark Mancina and Doug Smith. In his career Lance built approximately 250 guitars.

Lance first visited my shop about fifteen years ago. With him he had his first two guitars. As is true with most of our early efforts, they were somewhat crude examples of what was to come. However, the maker’s talent was unmistakable. Some people build guitars to try to recreate the past. Others, like Lance, try to expand the boundaries and push the limits of what has been done in the past while still keeping the traditional look and feel of a great guitar.

Photo by Kayleigh McCollum.

Lance’s specialty was in the creation of guitars that had “piano-like” tone. He was also well known for his more unusual pieces such as baritone, harp, and double-neck guitars. His “interwoven” rosettes were simple yet elegant and became his trademark.

Lance could always be counted on if you needed a source for something, be it great guitar wood or a great restaurant. Lance was a “people person,” a fact that was never more evident than at a benefit concert a month after he passed away. It showed in the level of talent that came to pay tribute, and in the people who came to watch.

Like all of us, his days were numbered. But like those of us who choose this profession, his work will live on and only get better with age.