Guitar building.

Grand Guitar

Field review by the editors.

Bristol, Tennessee

According to his family, Joe Morrell had dreamed for years of building a building shaped like a giant guitar. He was in the country music business, manufacturing dulcimers, running a record shop, even performing under the name Herbie Hootenauger. He envisioned the "Grand Guitar" as a gateway between the interstate and his hometown of Bristol, Tennessee, the self-proclaimed "Birthplace of Country Music." On May 13, 1983, it opened to the public.

Guitar building.

"I've always thought, why would anyone stop at a square building that looked like every other building?" he told the Sullivan County News at the time. "I have a lot of crazy ideas."

The guitar was definitely not like any other building. Seventy feet long and three stories tall, it was painted to resemble a Martin Dreadnought acoustic guitar (Morrell's personal favorite) and was accented with a gargantuan saddle bridge, sound hole, pick guard, finger board, turning keys, and strings. Inside, the building housed a gift shop, a recording studio, a country music AM radio station, and Morrell's personal collection of hundreds of musical instruments, including one made of matchsticks, another shaped like a pig, and a third made from a dead armadillo.

Grand Guitar appeared in National Geographic in 1985, and in 2014 was added to the National Register of Historic Places. But by then Joe Morrell was dead, and the building had been abandoned for years, its paint faded and peeling, its nylon strings broken and sagging. It was purchased by a developer who'd built a shopping plaza -- which he called a "a multi-faceted shopping experience" -- across the interstate, and who vowed to restore Grand Guitar. But years have passed since then, and the building remains empty and forlorn. If it could play a country music song today, it would be a sad one.

Grand Guitar

3245 W. State St., Bristol, TN
I-81 exit 74A. Drive east on US Hwy 11W for a half-mile. You'll see the guitar on the left.
Closed, private property.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Where Hank Williams Passed Up A Last MealWhere Hank Williams Passed Up A Last Meal, Bristol, VA - 3 mi.
Birthplace of Country Music MuseumBirthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol, VA - 4 mi.
Country Music Distribution MonumentCountry Music Distribution Monument, Bristol, TN - 4 mi.
In the region:
South Holston Dam, Bristol, TN - 9 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Tennessee

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Tennessee.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

May 22, 2019

My Sights

My Sights

Map and Plan Your Own Roadside Adventure

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Tennessee Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Buck Atom: Space Cowboy Muffler Man, Tulsa, Oklahoma (May 20-26, 2019)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from Subscribe now! Hotel & Motel Finder

Special rates for hotels.

Book Now