A review by IndyMojo Music Editor – Danielle Look

Guitars! Roundups to Rockersopened on Saturday March 9th at The Eiteljorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis and will run through August 4th  The thoughtfully curated exhibit boasts more than 100 guitars that were once handled by some of the most influential players in music’s history. More than just a display of guitars, the show takes spectators on a journey through the instrument’s history that spans more than 200 years and encompasses numerous genres.

Despite “Guitars!” content being rooted in objects that are inherently loud, the exhibit’s expansive room is surprisingly quiet thanks to The Eiteljorg’s innovative use of technology. Visitors are encouraged to check out an iPod and headphones from the museum’s front desk that is pre-loaded with track after track of musical samples that correspond with items on display. It’s one thing to look at the first-ever electronically amplified guitar, but it’s certainly another thing to hear what it sounds like while standing before it.

While the curators understood how mind-blowing it is to come face-to-face with iconic guitars once belonging to music greats such as Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison, they designed the exhibit to encourage guests to start their adventure at the beginning of the instrument’s storied history and build up to the guitar-shredding greats of the 60’s and 70’s we all know and love.

Guitars! begins with a jaw-dropping limited edition (one of fifty) Martin guitar with stunning pearl and abalone inlay work. The guitar, like many on display throughout the exhibit, is on loan from the personal collection of owner and CEO of Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay. His renowned collection also includes three guitars tied to legendary performers George Harrison, Stephen Stills and Jerry Garcia, as well as a mix of electric and acoustic guitars spanning over 100 years of guitar-making.

The exhibit’s brilliant telling of the story of amplification is a highlight- including a number of hollow-neck Weissenborns and some of the earliest guitars used in experiments to electrify the instrument. That particular section of the exhibit climaxes with the 1932 guitar that disproves the common belief that Les Paul invented the first electric guitar.

The journey across genres begins with singing cowboys, touches on mandolins and Hawaiian music, stops on jazz to pay tribute to Alvino Ray and Charlie Christian, and hits western swing and rockabilly before delving into modern rock of the 60’s through to present day.

Built for music-lovers of all ages, Guitars! presents a wealth of information and history to be consumed and interacted with: videos to watch, scrapbooks to flip through, case after case of guitars and memorabilia to look at, and even a guitar “corral” that offers guests a chance to pluck and strum real guitars. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, a rock music history buff, a culture-conscious parent to a developing youngster, or a general fan of music- Guitars! Roundups to Rockers is not to be missed.

Check out the Eiteljorg’s website for more info, photos and their calendar of related events, including performances in conjunction with the exhibit from Riders In The Sky, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and more.

For more pictures from our visit check out IndyMojo’s Facebook page.

IndyMojo owner Jason King and I with Jerry Garcia’s Tiger Guitar.


More info: Press Release..


Featured guitars include rare and vintage instruments, plus 

guitars played by who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century musicians

More than 100 guitars—owned by greats including Roy Rogers, Charlie Christian, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Woody Guthrie, Buddy Holly, Les Paul and others—will be displayed together for the first time ever, when Guitars! Roundups to Rockers, presented by Eli Lilly & Company,opens at The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art on Saturday, March 9.  The exhibit explores the Western connections of guitars and artists who have provided the soundtrack for America. The experience, including interactive content, is guaranteed to appeal to guitar gearheads, musicians and everyday music lovers of genres from Western swing to wailing rock, thrashing punk to bouncing jazz.

Five reasons to get excited about Guitars!

  • The guitars in this exhibit have never been displayed together before and likely never will be again. Normally, one would have to travel the world and gain entry to some of the best museums and private collectors’ homes to have this experience. Guitars! is a one-time-only chance to see these phenomenal instruments in one place.
  • Guitars! isn’t simply about instruments, but also artists, including Patsy Montana, Jerry Garcia, Metallica, The Decemberists, Stephen Stills, Sleater-Kinney, BarneyKessel, Keith Richards and Gene Autry—a veritable who’s who of 20th and 21st century music.
  • The exhibit features rare guitars, including the oldest known Fender (1942), a New York Martin (1837), and a brilliantGibsonLloydLoar Quartet, (There are only a few of these sets in existence.).
  • Guitars! includes 10 guitars from the renowned collection of Jim Irsay, owner and CEO of the Indianapolis Colts.Irsay provides three guitars tied to legendary performers George Harrison, Stephen Stills and Jerry Garcia.  His collection also comprises a mix of electric and acoustic guitars spanning over 100 years of guitar-making.
  • See “The Flying V”– the actual axe used to create the tunes in the game Guitar Hero, plus a plethora of unconventional instruments.


Discover the guitar’s Western roots
The story of the guitar is inextricably linked to the West. Guitars! begins with a look at Spanish/Mexican residents who played guitars in 18th century California and Texas. Later immigrants from the East Coast and Midwest, Germany, England, Scandinavia, and elsewhere contributed to the cultural mix of the region, establishing communities in the West and bringing their musical traditions that influenced the genres of Western swing, cowboy or Western music, country, big band, jazz, and blues. From Los Angeles to Seattle to Kansas City, the exhibit also explores the movements that contributed to rock and roll, including surf music, acid rock, punk, grunge and heavy metal.

In addition, Guitars! honors design, invention, and workmanship. For instance, the exhibit demonstrates how the quest to amplify and electrify the guitar is essentially a story of Western American inventiveness. Chris Knutsen, a Scandinavian immigrant who began creating acoustic Hawaiian, harp, and other guitars in Washington state, developed instruments with hollow necks and greater resonance. He later moved to California, influencing Hermann Weissenborn, a German-Jewish immigrant who developed similar instruments from 1900 to 1936.  John Dopyera invented and designed resonator guitars for the National Company and created the “Dobro” in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Adolph Rickenbacker, a Swiss immigrant, arrived in Los Angeles in 1918 and later formed a partnership with George Beauchamp and Paul Barth. Together, their work led to the production of the first commercially successful electric guitar in 1931 and formation of the Rickenbacker Company, whose later products were used by major players, including Tom Petty and members of the Beatles .

Live performances and film premieres mark Guitars! programming
Guitars! is supported by ongoing programming, including films, guitar instruction, a guitar “corral” that offers guests a chance to pluck and strum, live performances and more. Highlights include:

Opening Day featuring a performance by Cowboy Celtic (March 9)
On opening day (and the second Saturday of each month) guests can live out their rock star dreams. Get a rock ‘n’ roll airbrush tattoo or a guitar-wielding caricature from artist Mike Altman. Plus, listen to local bands and take in a guitar-related flick. Cowboy Celtic’s afternoon performance, beginning at 2 p.m., is included in museum admission.

Film Screening: “The Wrecking Crew” (April 13)
Guests are welcome to join us for the Midwestern premiere of The Wrecking Crew at 4 p.m.  Denny Tedesco, producer and director of this award-winning film will introduce the story of the nearly-anonymous LA studio musicians who were Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” and played on the top hits of the 1960s. Screening is included with general museum admission.

Performance: Riders In The Sky (May 11)
At 7 p.m., see the Grammy Award-winning Western music and comedy troupe who have performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to The Disney Channel. Ticketed event. Call 317-636-9378 to purchase. 

Performance: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (June 1)
Get ready for raucous, Hoosier-grown, three-piece, American country blues! Concert begins at 7 p.m. Ticketed event. Call 317-636-9378 to purchase.

The Eiteljorg Museum seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America. The museum is located in Downtown Indianapolis’ White River State Park. For general information about the museum and to learn more about exhibits and events, call (317) 636-WEST (9378) or visit