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Martin special edition

Opening Notes

It all starts with a question. Inevitably, whenever I talk to an artist, an instrument builder or a guitar collector, he or she will pull me aside and sheepishly ask, “ Want to see the Martin?” And more often than not, I do. Over the last decade as I’ve travelled around the country collecting stories for the Fretboard Journal, I’ve been privy to seeing some amazing instruments up-close, from David Crosby’s 12-string conversion to the 1936 D -18 that an anonymous collector brought to our 2014 Wintergrass workshop which floored everyone in the room. So many instruments, so many “cannons.” It’s not just guitars, either. I’ll never forget the Style 0 ukulele owned by session music legend Bob Bain, which just happens to be signed by Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards and dozens of Hollywood celebrities from the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s; or the cool, rare Martin electrics I’ve seen (Jackson Browne is currently raving about his Martin F-55), even the oddball tiple and mandolins from Nazareth. There have been no shortage of great guitar stories. This eBook is a compendium of sorts, featuring some of our favorite Martin tales and some of our favorite Martin artists from our first decade of publishing. It is by no means comprehensive (and to keep download times sane we didn’t run all of the great photos that appeared in the print FJ), but it hints at the wide array of Martin-related articles we’ve been lucky enough to publish and helps to explain why this iconic guitar brand is just cherished (and often duplicated) by so many. It’s also a testament to versatility: How is it a D -28 can somehow fit so perfectly in the hands of a Loudon Wainwright III or a Tony Rice (the tale of the latter’s larger-than-life D -28 is an especially special cover feature we’re happy to share here). We hope you enjoy these tales and we hope you’ll subscribe to the Fretboard Journal itself. The stories (Martin and otherwise) just keep coming, as do the amazing discoveries from the world of music and lutherie. And don’t forget to drop us a line if you have a great Martin story, we’re all ears. Jason Verlinde publisher the fretboard journal

Join us? Subscribe to the Fretboard Journal and support the world’s most unique guitar publication, filled with in-depth articles and never-before-seen photography. Visit us at fretboardjournal. com and use the coupon code MARTIN to receive 10% off of your order.

PUBLISHER   Jason Verlinde CO-FOUNDER   Michael John Simmons FIELD EDITOR   John Thomas DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS   Scott Krashan DESIGN DIRECTOR   André Mora DESIGNER   Brandon Brinkley

The Fretboard Journal 2221 NW 56th St., Suite 101 Seattle, WA 98107 (206) 706-3252 U.S. SUBSCRIPTIONS   $40.00 for four issues (one year); $75.00 for eight issues (two years). Available at or (877) 373-8273. FOREIGN SUBSCRIPTIONS   Visit COPYRIGHT   2014 by Occasional Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cover Photo: Tony Rice’s Martin D-28, formerly owned by Clarence White. Photo: Art Dudley


You can call me fred............................................................................... 5 The legend of C.F. Martin III (1894-1986) by richard johnston

Little Eyes............................................................................................. 11 The world’s most famous tiple-toting singer-songwriter chimes in by Ed Askew

Behind the Stripes................................................................................ 15 Bob Shane reflects on the Kingston Trio’s wild ride by michael john simmons

The 14-Fret Bet.................................................................................... 25 The true story of Perry Bechtel and the Orchestra Model guitar by richard johnston

Gale Force............................................................................................. 35 David Crosby reflects on history and harmonies photography and text by jason verlinde

58957........................................................................................................ 47 Tony Rice and his Holy Grail Martin D -28 by art dudley

000-401K.................................................................................................. 57 Finding value in a Martin-restoration project by steve krieger

Easier Than a Kid................................................................................. 63 Loudon Wainwright’s memory lane by bob douglas

The Loft................................................................................................. 69 Inside Wilco’s secret hideout by Jason Verlinde

Martin Advertising Supplement......................................................... 75

Plugged In

Chris Eldridge on Charles Sawtelle’s 1937 Martin D-28 Charles Sawtelle’s angular, austere picking style was among the many traits that earned him his classic nickname, “The Bluegrass Mystery.” Before Sawtelle succumbed to leukemia, in 1999, he passed along his beloved 1937 Martin D-28 to his friend and Hot Rize band mate Nick Forster, and, in an act of incredible generosity (or, perhaps, extreme cruelty), Forster loaned the guitar to Chris Eldridge, guitarist with Punch Brothers. Sawtelle would surely be pleased to know that, in Eldridge’s hands, the herringbone is still delving into some of the more mysterious corners of acoustic music. Listen to Eldridge perform “Wildwood Flower” on this D-28 here. Originally appeared the Fretboard Journal #20. Video by Amanda Kowalski.


You Can CaLl mE FreD T H E L E G E N D O F C . F. M A R T I N I I I ( 1 894 - 1 98 6)

By Richard Johnston

Previous: C.F. Martin III and C.F. Martin IV talk guitars, circa 1970.


War, and rarely surpassed 300 instruments annually. he Martin Guitar Company has had a lot With big factories like Lyon & Healy of Chicago of Christian Fredericks in its long history. The first, (makers of Washburn guitars, banjos, and mandolins) founder C.F. Martin Sr., was born in 1796, while the boasting production of 100,000 instruments per year, most recent, current CEO C.F. IV, recently turned 50. it was clear that Martin had to change to survive. Smack dab in the middle of the almost two-centuIt’s probably not a coincidence that C.F. III was born ries-old Martin saga was C.F. III, a quiet man who, by just a few months before Martin began building manhis own admission, didn’t lead the company into new dolins and around the same time that Frank Henry markets or champion important innovations. Yet it’s broke away from a moribund New York distributor clear that he left a legacy that has probably been even with long and close connections to previous generamore critical to the company’s survival and to its tions of the Martin family, both in Germany and Amerrecent phenomenal growth. ica. Along with consolidating and standardizing Christian Frederick Martin III was born in 1894 in Martin models, introducing mandolins and issuing the Nazareth, Pa., the first-born child of Frank Henry company’s first catalog, Frank Henry began to aggresMartin and Jennifer Keller. Frank Henry, son of C.F. sively push distribution of the company’s instruments Martin Jr., was the dynamo of change at the small facinto new markets on the west coast of the continent. tory nestled on a tree-lined street just a few blocks By the time C.F.III was old enough to sweep floors and from the town square. Under F.H. Martin’s leadership, wind strings at the small factory adjoining the family the company grew from a small, guitars-only workhome, crates of Martin guitars and mandolins were shop employing about a half-dozen German-born being shipped to Seattle, Portcraftsmen to one of America’s ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN land, San Francisco and Los major fretted-instrument manuFRETBOARD JOURNAL #2 Angeles, with some then making facturers. Martin had been stuck the long boat ride to Honolulu. in a rut for decades when Frank C.F. III, called Frederick, and Henry took over at the age of 23, later Fred, by family and friends, after his father’s death in 1888. had a brother one year his junior, Although widely recognized as Herbert Keller, with whom he builders of the country’s finest played guitar and mandolin guitars, all gut-string in those duets at social functions in the days, Martin’s annual sales had greater Lehigh Valley. Even today, been stagnant since the Civil


Martin’s North Street factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

C.F. III is the only Martin to have headed the company and performed on its signature product in public. What was far more important in his father’s eyes, however, was for Frederick to become the first Martin to attend college, and both he and his brother graduated from Princeton. While the boys were draining the family coffers in nearby New Jersey, their father embarked on an even more ambitious expansion of the company business and began building ukuleles and steel-string guitars for the new Hawaiian music craze. (Frank Henry had other financial obligations besides his immediate family he was also responsible for supporting his mother and two unmarried sisters.) Frederick did well in college and had hoped to continue his studies at Harvard; he was even considering a career outside the Martin orbit, but around the time he graduated the family company was beginning its greatest period of growth, and he was needed back in Nazareth. Although Frederick had served time at virtually every workstation on the factory floor, his education

made him far more valuable in the office. Before he could spend much time there the United States finally became embroiled in “that awful German war,” and both Frederick and his younger brother answered the call. Poor eyesight kept C.F. III out of the army, and he instead volunteered for the army YMCA , served as a secretary for that organization in Georgia and later taught soldiers in North Carolina how to read. Another volunteer at the school in North Carolina was a young woman from Atlanta, Daisy Allen, whom Frederick married in 1920. C. F. Martin III returned to the fold in Nazareth while the company was in the midst of its greatest period of expansion. The little Martin Guitar & Mandolin Company, prompted by Harry Hunt of the Ditson Company in New York and by Frank Hart’s Southern California Music Company in Los Angeles, had been one of the first to take advantage of America’s growing love affair with Hawaiian music and, specifically, the little ukulele. Frank Henry began making special instruments for both companies in 1916, which


required an expansion of the factory the following year. In 1915, Martin hadn’t even been able to sell 200 guitars and only about 300 mandolins. By 1920, however, guitar sales were more than 1300, mandolin production topped 1500 and more than twice that many ukuleles were sold. Frank Henry and factory foreman John Deichman had their hands full training dozens of new workers and, thanks to the war, they could no longer count on finding German immigrants already skilled in fine woodworking. Herbert Keller, who had always been more handsome and self-assured than his older brother, went out on the road as a salesman for Martin’s ever-expanding line of fretted instruments. Frederick helped oversee production, but his most important role was as the chief correspondent in charge of answering the flood of mail that now streamed into Martin’s office. While Frederick and his brother had been away at college and, later, fulfilling their obligations during WWI, their father had made some dramatic changes in how Martin conducted its business. Starting with Ditson and Southern California Music, Frank Henry had begun to build instruments for a number of different companies, including industry giant Wurlitzer, that were sold under their well-known trademarks rather than simply under the Martin brand. Many of these had special features unlike stock Martin models, and most of them had unique model codes as well. Needless to say, keeping all the different models straight for the flood of orders was no easy task, especially since many of the custom-brand accounts were also ordering stock Martin models at the same time. Martin was soon making every variation of ukulele imaginable: five soprano models, plus koa versions, taropatches and tiples. More than a half-dozen different mandolins were offered as well. The Martin guitar line was even more confusing: the company was filling huge orders for its new Hawaiian and other steel-string models, now including tenor guitars, while still trying to keep its old gut-string customers happy. A look at Martin’s production log of the period is enough to make one dizzy, and in the midst of it all was Frederick, trying to keep the peace when orders were delayed, a ukulele was cracked in transit or a long-standing dealer was furious over new competitors on his turf. Twenty-five years later, when he was finally in charge of the company, C.F. III would greatly simplify Martin’s model line and sell its wares primarily through distributors; looking at the nightmare of confusion Frederick had faced when he came back to Nazareth with a new bride, it’s easy to see why he would do so. Fortunately, the Martin Company has kept many of the files from this hectic period in its history. Always frugal, the office protocol was to type the answer to any correspondence using carbon paper so the back of


the original letter had Martin’s reply copied on it. Despite being several months behind in production, Frederick still patiently answered virtually all requests for custom instruments, or sales pitches about a new patented improvement, no matter how outlandish. His replies were often something like this: yes, the plans for a self-tuning guitar are interesting, but the company is too busy to explore it further; or, sorry, because of the backload of orders for existing models we cannot entertain a custom order for a double-neck taropatch at this time. Some of Frederick’s correspondence with longtime favorites, such as American Guitar Society founder Vahdah Olcott Bickford, was downright cozy, with concerned reports on the health of their respective parents and shared seeds for their gardens. Regardless of the topic, C. F. Martin III was always polite without being condescending and, with most business letters, he stuck to the point of the matter without being dismissive. Compared to current business policies in the music industry and especially compared to smash-mouth emails and online postings Frederick’s letters to even the most combative customers were usually courtly in both manner and content. The demand for ukuleles and steel-string guitars had led to another expansion of the Martin factory in 1924, with a second story being added to that new building the following year. Ukulele production peaked in 1926, with more than 14,000 of the little instruments sold that year alone. From that point on, the Hawaiian music craze began to decline, but Frederick and his father had far greater worries. In 1927 Herbert Keller died suddenly of peritonitis, and C.F.III was soon sent out on the road as Martin’s salesman. Retailers might have been surprised to meet Frederick after previously being called upon by his younger brother. Herbert had been closer to the stereotypical traveling salesman of the roaring ‘20s: single, confident, well-dressed and a bit of a ladies’ man. Frederick was well-dressed, but that was probably where the comparison ended. In 1928, he hand-delivered a custom 000-45 to an entertainer who was performing in New York, and that guitar would have a tremendous influence on the company’s future. Jimmie Rodgers, widely credited as the Father of Country Music, had ordered his dream Martin with his name in bold block letters on the fretboard and his signature vocal style, “Blue Yodel,” lettered on the headstock. Rodgers would die of tuberculosis just a few years later, but the guitar continued to advertise for Martin for another four decades in the hands of Ernest Tubb. Although Frederick wasn’t a fan of Rodgers’ music, he certainly recognized the man’s status and wrote a personal congratulatory note on a small paper label just inside the soundhole. Pearl-bordered Martins with the singer’s name inlayed on the fretboard quickly became the rage, and Gene Autry,

who idolized Rodgers, ordered what is perhaps the most famous Martin guitar of all, the first D -45. From the letters he left behind, it’s clear Frederick did as little as possible to boost the sale of such stage guitars. In one letter he cautions a young Autry that such decoration “would be purely ornament and would not improve the tone at all,” to which Autry probably muttered the 1930s equivalent of “well, duh” and then ordered another helping of flash. Other letters suggest that Frederick wasn’t a fan of the big dreadnoughts in general: “Frankly, we do not recommend a guitar as large as this because the tone becomes unbalanced, the bass being too heavy in proportion to the treble.” Even as late as the mid 1930s, Frederick still advised potential customers that the 0-28, Martin’s original concert model, “delivers the most pleasing, balanced tone.” Balance, whether in a business letter or in a guitar’s tone, was of utmost importance to C.F. Martin III. And he had more on his mind than just Martin guitars and the men and women who made them. As his grandson later pointed out, Frederick’s role model was Woodrow Wilson; he considered himself a Wilsonian Democrat and he believed that a businessman should repay the community that supported his company with more than just the payroll. Frederick started the Lions Club in Nazareth and served as president of the school board. He also helped found the local YMCA , was on the hospital and library boards and aided in funding the library. The ukulele boom slowed dramatically in the late 1920s and then went bust along with most of the rest of the music industry when the Great Depression took hold. Frederick didn’t play much of a role in the innovations that sparked what is now considered Martin’s golden era. The 14-fret OM model and the resulting modernization of the dreadnought, two of the most copied guitar shapes in history, were the work of Frank Henry, Deichman and possibly others at the factory. But Frederick also had little to do with Martin’s now-notorious flops of the same period: its ill-conceived archtop guitar and mandolin models that paled in comparison to Gibson’s efforts. As Martin would prove again a few decades later, flattop fretted instruments were what it did best. By the time the Depression loosened its grip, Frank Henry Martin was 70 years old. C.F. III now had two young children, Frank Herbert and Pamela, and as his father slowly retreated, he also had increased responsibilities at the factory. Frederick continued to serve a variety of civic functions in Nazareth, including chairing the local Selective Services Board, and made long walks (with lots of stairs) through the factory every day to check on his community of workers. But the renewed prosperity at the end of the Depression didn’t last long before the onset of World War II brought new

challenges, both in terms of restrictions on the amount of brass and steel the company could use and in the loss of many key craftsmen to military duty. Martin’s archtop guitars, which needed heavy metal tailpieces, were the first to be discontinued and would never return. Many other Martin instruments were dropped from the price list, including the pearl-bordered guitar models, because of the difficulty in acquiring certain key supplies during the war years. Frank Henry Martin retired in 1945 and died just three years later. Now in his early 50s, C.F. III was fully in charge of the instrument factory he’d worked in for more than 30 years. Unlike his father, however, Frederick did not seek change and innovation. After the tumultuous years of the Depression and the long war, he sought stability for his workforce and found it in the steady demand for Martin guitars and ukuleles. Many of the instruments that had been discontinued during WWII were reinstated in the company’s catalog, such as tiples and the plainest of the carved-top mandolins, although the pearl-bordered guitar models that would later become the stuff of legend were not revived. Unlike Martin’s archtops, which fell victim to a lack of demand as much as to wartime restrictions, their 000-42 and D -45 models sold quite well in 1941 and ’42. Demand was high for fancy stage guitars, as witnessed by Gibson’s success with its big SJ-200, and the materials and talent needed to make pearl-bordered guitars was readily available. Despite the fact that most of the workers who had made the last D -45s less than a decade earlier were still on the payroll, Frederick kept the relatively Spartan D -28 as Martin’s highest model. Given the comments in Frederick’s earlier letters about the unnecessary “flash” of pearl-bordered guitars, one can’t help but wonder if leaving the fancier models out of the catalog wasn’t the new boss’ way of putting forth his own vision of the ideal Martin guitar. He didn’t drive fancy cars or wear flashy clothes and, perhaps unconsciously, his company’s guitars reflected a similar sensibility. Throughout the 1950s and early ‘60s, C.F. III’s reluctance to change his company’s instruments meant that Martin guitars were pillars of quality in terms of both materials and workmanship in an industry looking for every possible shortcut that modern manufacturing could offer. Gibson even went so far as to use hollow injection-molded plastic bridges, fastened to the soundboard with machine screws, on all but its highest flattop models. Such visible compromises were only the tip of the iceberg; the rush made by Martin’s competitors to shave minutes from the total “build time” inevitably resulted in a slow and subtle degradation of tone in their guitars. In contrast, from 1947 until 1964 (when Martin moved from its old multistory North Street factory to a modern building on the outskirts of town) the changes in Martin guitars were


limited to its tuners and to minor adjustments in pickguard and headstock shapes. Frederick didn’t have it his way for very long because there was another engine of change named Frank Martin, one with a radically different head of steam than his grandfather, Frank Henry. Frank Herbert Martin, C.F. III’s son, had joined the company in 1955, the same year that C.F. IV (or Chris, the current CEO) was born. Frank Herbert had shown no interest in guitars (or the family company, for that matter), but his passion for sports and sports cars gave him little financial success; he turned to the family business out of pure necessity. Around this time, the Martin Guitar Company saw an incredible growth in demand as a result of the folk revival. As American youth stampeded back in time to embrace the music of Depression-era hillbillies, union organizers and newly rediscovered blues singers, Frank led his company in a headlong rush to modernity in an effort to capitalize on the increased demand for acoustic guitars. One of his first moves was to hire salesmen that would take orders that Martin couldn’t fill. Kids were being told they’d have to wait up to two years for a D -28, and Frank Martin, perhaps more than any other Martin before him, knew what could happen to the dreams of youth in two short years. In 1963, the company’s last full year at the old factory, it sold approximately 6,000 guitars, about what production had been for more than a decade. In 1966, production was above 10,000, and by 1971, the year Frank Herbert replaced his father as president of the Martin Organisation, the number had more than doubled. Frederick, in his late 70s at this stage, still made his daily rounds of all the workstations, while Frank and the rest of the front office crew rarely stepped off the carpeting. As acoustic guitar sales began to decline and the company’s debts from Frank Martin’s ill-advised expansions outside the guitar field became troubling, a new personnel manager (also named Frank) was hired to get the workforce in line. Instead of the traditional monthly meetings with management, the workers now received formal documents, written by lawyers, demanding numerous concessions over such issues as vacation days and going to the parking lot to close your car windows when a thunderstorm rolls in. Martin’s guitar makers responded by joining the largest union they could find, an AFL - CIO affiliate that happened to represent workers at the local cement plant. A strike was called in September of 1977, and 180 Martin employees walked out. Unlike most strikes, salaries weren’t the issue. The strike lasted eight long months. Frederick couldn’t bear to cross the picket lines in the parking lot and had someone drop him off at the front entrance instead. Whenever strikers were interviewed for the local press, they mentioned the difference between the


current Martin leadership and the way Frederick treated them. Instead of letters from lawyers and closed doors to the front office, they were used to seeing “the Old Man,” as they affectionately called him (when he wasn’t within earshot), face to face almost daily. Frederick was stern and often critical and perhaps his daily visits to each workbench weren’t always appreciated but the workers never had to go looking for him. As one striker had mentioned, “He always found time to talk to you.” The strikers eventually rejected the union and came back to work, but it was a hollow victory for Frank Martin’s corporate style. By 1982, with annual sales below 5000 guitars per year and many workbenches cloaked in cobwebs, the board of directors had asked for his letter of resignation. C.F. Martin III had been grooming his grandson Chris in the earlier Martin tradition and, still chairman of the board at 90 years old, he prevailed in getting young Chris a position as a vice president in the wake of Frank’s departure. A year before his death in June of 1986, Frederick made a rare public appearance at the Symposium of American Lutherie held in nearby Easton, Pa., and spoke of his love for the primary material ingredient in his life’s work: “I confess, I am in love with wood. Wood to me has personality. It talks to me in its grain, in its consistency, in its hardness or softness, in its music. The vibrating wood…just a plain reed vibrating in the wind is musical.” There are a lot of instruments made at the old North Street factory during C. F. Martin III’s long tenure still vibrating out there today, guitars of all sizes and styles plus mandolins and ukuleles, playing every possible type of music all over the world. Their sheer number and variety represent an unparalleled legacy, and somewhere among all that music is the spirit of Frederick himself, a plain reed who didn’t start the Martin tradition, but who certainly kept it alive. fj

Little Eyes T H E W O R L D ’ S M O S T FA M O U S T I P L E - T O T I N G S I NG ER - SONGW R ITER CH I M ES I N

By Ed Askew


Goldie’s, the local music store. I don't remember much except that the store was very small and crammed with musical instruments, especially guitars. I asked Goldie if he had a tiple. And he showed me a Martin. I strummed a bit on the instrument, and asked "how much". He wanted $85. This was a good price, even than, but I didn't have the money. So I left, disappointed. I still had my original tiple. One thing I like to do, occasionally, is write poetry. And I continued doing this at Yale (though I have kept none of it). And at that time I became familiar with the music of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. So after graduation I decided to write a song; since I had an instrument that I was playing and I was doing some writing. I mean, why not play and sing my own songs? And after considerable effort I came up with a two chord song. It was terrible but that didn't matter. I had done it and would improve. About a year after I got out of Yale, I got a job in a private school in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The first chance I had, I went back to New Haven to look up Goldie. He now had a partner and had moved into a big store on Chapel Street. I walked into the store and asked to see a tiple. The salesman showed me the same Martin I had seen two years earlier. This time they wanted a lot more money. Out of desperation I told the guy that Goldie said I s a child, I was always could have it for $85. He looked at me like I was crazy drawing pictures and I was always singing. Even now, but said he would get Goldie. Goldie came out and the not much has changed in that respect. In the attic of salesman, holding up the tiple, said, "This guy said you the house where I grew up, in Stamford, Connecticut, said he could have this for $85." The old man looked there were two things that interested me—a large me, looked at the salesman and said, "I'm gonna cry"; framed photograph of a rather stern looking man turned around and walked out of the room. And that is whose eyes seemed to follow you wherever you went, how I got my Martin tiple. and an old tiple without strings. I remember we used I played and wrote like a demon once I had it. I used to throw it around. to play for the whole school almost every morning When I entered high school, I decided to get some when we would gather together, before classes began. strings for the tiple. At the time (late 1950s) you could I wrote almost 30 songs that year. In June of 1967, the get books of pop songs. And these songs had little school closed its doors forever and I lost my first finger diagrams for ukulele. (The tiple is tuned like a teaching job. I moved to New York City for a few uke.) So I did that. And on family picnics I would sing months. This is when I met Bernard Stollman of ESPsome pop songs for everyone. Disk’. I had been running around the East Village, tiple I continued to do this through my senior year, and in hand, showing up at coffee houses at all hours. throughout my years at art school. I would play for tips or just for the pleasure of it. Now, I must explain that the tiple I was playing had Someone, I don't remember who, been kept in an unheated, uninsuggested that I contact ESP. So I sulated attic through my entire ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN found the number and called up childhood. The result of this FRETBOARD JOURNAL #13 Bernard. I wanted to play for neglect was that the neck was him. He said he did not do audiwarped (you couldn't play it tions, but if I taped a few songs above the fourth fret) and under I should bring over the recording the nice old finish the wood was and he would listen to it. I told completely dried out; to the him that I didn't have any idea point that a few years later it just where I could get a tape fell apart. recorder. He said, "Don't worry, At some point, while I was at you'll find one" and said goodbye. Yale art school, I went down to




I found a reel-to-reel machine somewhere, recorded a few songs, and took the tape over to ESP. When I arrived someone got Bernard, and I stood there next to him while he listened to my songs. I was very nervous and could not tell anything from the expression on his face, but when the tape came to the end he seemed to relax, turned to me and said he would like me to make a record for him. The first record I made for ESP was self titled (later released as a CD on the ZYX label as Ask the Unicorn, and recently rereleased by ESP as Ed Askew once again). The second album that I recorded for ESP, Little Eyes, was not released at that time. It has been made available to the public recently, however, by De Stijl Records. I just loved that tiple and played it for 20 years until I had to stop because of hand problems. I no longer have it; I left it on a railroad platform as I got on the train in Stamford around 1997 and was not able to track it down. I still write for the piano however and occasionally strum a Martin uke. fj

Editor’s Postscript: This article originally appeared in the Fretboard Journal #13 from 2009. An FJ subscriber happened to have this issue on his coffee table when a friend stopped by and noticed the tiple article. Twenty years prior, he had found a tiple on a Connecticut train platform and had no luck finding its rightful owner; the instrument continued to sit in his closet. Thanks to this article, he was able to reunite Askew with the Martin!



By Michael John Simmons Photography by Amanda Kowalski


Kingston Trio toured relentlessly, playing on college campuses and in nightclubs across the country. From 1958 to 1964 (the year they left Capitol records), they had played thousands of shows and had released 19 LPs, five of which made it to the top spot on the Billboard charts. The Kingston Trio brought the urban folk revival into the mainstream of American popular culture and made Martin guitars and long-necked banjos must-have items for musicians everywhere. The details of Kingston Trio’s early days are fascinating, but sadly only one man is left to tell the tale: Bob Shane, the group’s lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Dave Guard, the trio’s banjo player, died in 1991 and Nick Reynolds, the group’s tenor guitarist and percussionist, died in 2004. John Stewart, who replaced Dave Guard in 1961, died in 2008; Frank Werber, the Trio’s manager, died in 2007; and Voyle Gilmore, their producer at Capitol Records, died in 1979. Bob Shane is now retired from performing. In 2004, shortly after his 70th birthday, he suffered a major heart attack. He now lives in Arizona, where he oversees the Kingston Trio’s business interests. I was very excited to have the opportunity to talk to him. My mother had quite a few Kingston Trio records when I was growing up, as well as records by performers who followed in their wake such as the Limeliters and the Chad Mitchell Trio. She really liked the music, but n the summer of 1957, comedian Phyllis she had a soft spot for the Kingston Trio because in Diller was forced at the last minute to cancel a week1956, when she was a teenager, Dave Guard pulled her long booking at San Francisco’s Purple Onion nightout of a wrecked car. club. Frank Werber, a talent agent who had an office I wanted to talk to Bob Shane about the early days of above the venue, saw this as a perfect opportunity for the Kingston Trio. When I called him for this story, I was the new act he had just signed to get some much pleased to discover that he had been thinking quite a needed stage experience. He persuaded the Purple bit about that period himself. The roots of the KingsOnion to give the slot to his group, the Kingston Trio. ton Trio go back to the early 1950s, to the Punahou That first week went very well and the Kingston School in Honolulu, Hawaii, where fellow students Bob Trio—Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard— Shane and Dave Guard first met. Shane, who had were asked to stay on for another week, and then started out on ukulele years before switching to tenor another, and then another. Eventually, their one-week guitar and later six-string guitar, taught Guard a few trial booking stretched from June until December. chords and they began working out a few songs. “ We During that time, word about the Trio’s powerful singplayed and sang Hawaiian music and mellow music,” ing and hilarious stage patter made its way down Shane recalls. “ We also liked Tahitian music because south to Los Angeles. Various music industry figures, it was more up-tempo than Hawaiian music. We also and the occasional movie star, made the trek north to San Francisco to check out what the fuss was all about. sang a couple of songs from Samoa. We were both big fans of the Weavers and just loved Voyle Gilmore, a producer at the way they harmonized. We Capitol records, liked what he ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN weren’t great guitar players, but it heard and signed them to a FRETBOARD JOURNAL #23 didn’t really matter because all we contract. In February 1958 the wanted to do was sing harmony.” Kingston Trio recorded their After graduating from high first LP. One song off that LP, school, the two friends headed “ Tom Dooley,” became a maseast to California, where Guard sive hit and immediately made enrolled at Stanford to study ecothe Kingston Trio the most nomics and Shane got into nearby sought-after musical act Menlo College, where he enrolled in America. in the business administration For the next few years, the

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Bob Shane at home in Arizona with his personal Martin D-28KTBSDG. (The long model name translates to “D-28 Kingston Trio Bob Shane Double Pickguard.”) This limited edition signature model was based on the D-28 Shane bought at Bergstrom Music in Honolulu in 1957 and one he bought at Satterlee and Chapin in San Francisco in 1960. Martin made two versions: one with a standard pickguard and one with the large double pickguards. “I got the idea for the large pickguards from Stan Wilson, a San Francisco folksinger, who got the idea from Josh White,” Shane recalls. “I was playing with a pick and scratching up the top and Stan said, ‘Why can’t you put another thing on it so that you don’t see the scratches?’ I had Harmon Satterlee do the work. He did all of the Kingston Trio’s guitar work back then. Martin made 51 of them for the Trio’s 45th anniversary. They sold 19 with small pickguards and 32 with the large pickguards.”


program. At Menlo Shane met Nick Reynolds, a hotel management major from Southern California who grew up in a musical household. According to legend, Reynolds first noticed Shane sleeping during an accounting class and figured that was a guy he had to get to know. They two students quickly discovered that Shane’s baritone and Reynolds’ tenor blended beautifully and, more importantly at the time, that their singing got them invited to the best parties. “And by best parties, I mean the ones with the best booze and the prettiest girls,” Shane clarifies. Shane introduced Reynolds to Guard and they began performing together at frat parties and local beer gardens as Dave Guard and the Calypsonians, sometimes as a trio or occasionally with other friends. At the time, calypso music was extremely popular, and the group played songs like “Jamaica Farwell” and “Come Back, Liza” that Harry Belafonte, the reigning king of calypso, hade made popular. In 1956 Shane graduated and moved back to Hawaii to work in his family’s sporting goods business. During that time, he worked up a solo act and got a regular gig at the Pearl City Tavern in Honolulu. “I did a few different things like singing Harry Belafonte and Hank Williams songs, but what most people don’t know is I was the first Elvis Presley impersonator in the world,” Shane says. “I was billed as Hawaii’s Elvis Presley in 1956, which was the same year he got really popular. It was a great idea because they didn’t have much television in Hawaii yet, so you could do whatever you wanted. I had sideburns and I wore a bright sport coat and stuff like that. And I’ll never forget when I met Elvis in ‘63, just briefly, and I told him that’s how I got my start. And he said, ‘ What did you want to do that for?’ That’s exactly the way he said it. That’s the only thing I ever said to him.” While Shane was in Hawaii, Reynolds and Guard continued to perform in the Bay Area. They joined up with Menlo College student Joe Gannon, who played rudimentary bass, and singer Barbara Bogue. They refashioned themselves as the Kingston Quartet (they maintained their link to calypso music by naming themselves after the capital of Jamaica) and tried to get jobs at various local nightspots, but they had little success. The struggling quartet crossed paths with publicist and talent agent Frank Werber, who liked them but felt that Gannon’s bass playing wasn’t good enough. When he suggested he might sign them on if they got rid of Gannon, Bogue said she would leave the group if Gannon was kicked out—so they did, and then she did. (Gannon later went on to have a successful career as a stage designer for acts like Neil Diamond and Alice Cooper. He and Bogue eventually married.) Guard and Reynolds called Bob Shane in Hawaii, who was finding life in the family sporting goods business uninspiring. And although he was doing pretty


well as a solo performer, he really missed singing in harmony. In March 1957 he came back to California to join the now-renamed Kingston Trio under the management of Frank Werber. On June 25, Werber got them the weeklong gig at the Purple Onion that later stretched to a seven-month residence. After the weeks stretched on, it dawned on Werber and the Trio that they didn’t have enough material, so they began a relentless search for new tunes. Some of the songs they came up with dated back to Shane and Guard’s days in Hawaii. Selections like the Tahitian medley “ Tanga Tika/Toerau” and the Hawaiian tune “Lei Pakalana” made it into their stage act and later appeared on various LPs, while others, such as the Samoan song “Minoi Minoi,” didn’t make the cut. “Run Joe,” which Guard used to sing with the Calypsonions, was in the act for a while, but was never recorded. “ Truly Fair,” a song Shane learned in 1951 and sang during his Hawaiian Elvis days, was tried out, but it was found wanting and dropped from the act. From the beginning, the Kingston Trio decided to avoid protest songs and material with a political bent. The Weavers, who were a major influence on Shane and Guard, had their careers ended because of the entertainment blacklist during the McCarthy Era. The Trio considered themselves entertainers and not activists, and felt that protest songs didn’t fit into their act. Over the years, the more politically oriented part of the folk music community would use this decision as one of their main complaints about the group. Two of the band’s most famous songs showed up under fairly mysterious circumstances. The first, a jazzy barroom ballad called “Scotch and Soda,” was brought in by Dave Guard, and it was perfectly suited to Shane’s slightly raspy baritone. Guard was dating a girl named Katie Seaver (the older sister of baseball great Tom Seaver), and her parents taught him the song. The Seavers first heard it in a hotel lounge when they were on their honeymoon in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1935; they had the piano player write the lyrics and melody down so they would always remember it. Sadly, the piano player neglected to write down his name, and to this day no one knows who actually composed the song. Furthermore, nobody in the Trio could recount how they happened to learn their most famous song, “ Tom Dooley.” It was a failing that had legal repercussions later on (see sidebar). Reynolds once said they first heard the song when a now-forgotten singer sang it during an audition at the Purple Onion. Shane thinks they learned from an LP by the Tarriers, the New York-based group that featured Erik Darling, Bob Carey and soon-to-be actor Alan Arkin. The Tarriers were best known for writing “The Banana Boat Song,” which became a huge hit for Harry Belafonte under the name “Day- O.”)

Shane’s first instrument was the ukulele, which makes sense considering he grew up in Hawaii. “When I started playing guitar, I just adapted the strums I learned on ukulele,” he says. “I got this Style 2 Martin from a guy that need money. He was asking a couple of hundred bucks for it but I gave him five hundred for it. I once had a Martin 5K uke, the one with the abalone trim. I sold that one to a Japanese collector for ten grand!”

In 2010, Shane was cleaning out a closet and found a box of old reel-to-reel tapes that the Trio made in 1957 during their initial stand at the Purple Onion. “ We would record our songs on a Wollensak tape recorder so we could go home and learn our parts,” he explains. “At the time, none of us could read music, and this was the best way of doing that. There was a storeroom above the Purple Onion and we would spend our days up there rehearsing, five and six hours at a time, and then go downstairs in the evening to perform. We really worked our butts off working on our act.” Shane remembers the makeshift rehearsal studio as being particularly grimy. “Have you heard about the huge dust cloud we had here in Phoenix?” he asks. “It was like a mile high and a hundred miles wide. It looked like the Black Death was coming at you. It completely blacked out the airport to the point where they had to cancel all of the flights. And when it finally left, it left a whole lot of dirt around. That’s what it was like upstairs above the Purple Onion. It was really dusty.”

Werber would watch each performance and keep careful track of what songs went over well and which ones flopped, which bits of stage patter received the most laughter and where in the show the energy flagged. As the months dragged on, Werber and the Trio found they were getting a good response from the folk songs the group sang, so they began to add more to the act. “ We weren’t folksingers,” Shane stresses. “ We were an act that did some folk-oriented material. From the beginning we also did stuff like ‘They Call the Wind Maria,’ which was a Lerner and Lowe song from Broadway, but people don’t remember that.” From their inception, the Kingston Trio dressed in matching striped shirts that they bought at a small shop in Sausalito, California. “I think we also got some at Brooks Brothers,” Shane says. “ We wanted to project a certain image. We were collegiate and those striped shirts were the only styles that would fit all three of us. They became so well known that we later had our own line of Kingston Trio brand shirts.” The


“Quit partying after hours: stop being a corny ham; don’t be a clown.”

short-sleeved, striped shirts caused a minor fashion stir in California, and even inspired the Beach Boys to emulate the look. (Truth be told, the Beach Boys did more than just ape the Kingston Trio’s garb; in 1965, at Al Jardine’s insistence, they covered “Sloop John B” from the Trio’s first LP.) The genre problem would bedevil the Kingston Trio throughout their careers. They were always trying to expand their repertoire beyond the folk songs, but the world at large didn’t seem to care. Over time it began to seem like the Kingston Trio would introduce songs only to have them later become hits for other artists. In 1961, they recorded “It Was a Very Good Year,” a song composed for Bob Shane by Ervin Drake, only to have it become a massive hit for Frank Sinatra. They recorded Will Holt’s “Lemon Tree,” but it was Peter, Paul and Mary and later, Trini Lopez, who had the hits with it. The Trio recorded the first version of “Seasons in the Sun” in 1963, but Terry Jacks had the hit version in 1974. After a few months onstage at the Purple Onion, the Trio was still a little rough around the edges, but they had forged a winning performance formula. “The nonmusical stuff, some of it was rehearsed, but a lot of it was off-the-cuff, or started off the cuff and thewn became part of the act,” Shane says. “It was pretty much of a natural thing. We were all pretty natural performers. We didn’t read music and we just would play and sing with tenor guitar, banjo and guitar and just use simple chords, and had good humor and good singing.” The three bandmates developed something of a formula for their stage show, although Werber had to keep reminding Shane to attend to business. “Quit partying after hours: stop being a corny ham; don’t be a clown,” read one of Werber’s many notes to Shane from the early days. After their run at the Purple Onion ended in December 1957, the group prepared to record their first LP. On February 5, 1958, they headed into the


studio in the Capitol Tower in Hollywood, where over the next three days they recorded their self-titled debut record. Capitol producer Voyle Gilmore had previously worked with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. Rather than soak the Trio in strings and grand orchestrations, as was the style at the time, he opted to record Shane, Reynolds and Guard essentially live in the studio. The stark, guitar- and banjo-driven sound was very unusual to hear on a major label. But in some ways, Capitol was good fit for the Trio. “ We would go see folk acts in San Francisco when they were playing,” Shane says. “But that was as much to check out the competition as anything else. If we had the time, we really liked to go to Reno or Vegas and see the lounge acts. I can’t say it enough. We never called ourselves folk singers; somebody else did that. But when somebody calls you a folk singer and says, ‘Here’s a lot of money’ …you say, ‘Oh, sure, I’ll be anything you want.’ Don’t forget, we were all business majors. We loved to sing, we loved to perform, but we also loved to make money. The great thing about the Kingston Trio was that we could do all three things.” At first, the group’s debut LP had only modest sales, but the Kingston Trio didn’t really notice— because by the time the LP came out the band was in the early stages of what would become an insane touring schedule. They would be on the road playing more the 250 shows a year for the next few years. Initially, they were booked into nightclubs like Chicago’s Mr. Kelly’s and New York’s Blue Angel and the Village Vanguard, venues where they shared stages with jazz artists and cabaret performers. That June, they found themselves playing at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu when they got some surprising news. Two deejays, Bill Terry and Paul Colburn at the Salt Lake City radio station KLUB, fell in love with “ Tom Dooley” and started playing the album track. Other deejays across the country followed their lead, forcing Capitol to

Bob Shane, Dave Guard and Nick Reynolds hiking up a hill in San Francisco with Coit Tower in the background. This photo was taken in 1958, before Shane had the large pickguards installed on his D-28 and Reynolds switched from his 2-18T tenor guitar to the larger 0-18T (but after Dave Guard bought his Vega PS-5 banjo).

release the song as a single. “ Tom Dooley” made its way up the charts, and on November 22 the record was at the top, an amazing feat for an obscure ballad about a grisly murder. The Kingston Trio ended 1958 as one of the most popular bands in America. In 1959, they continued to thrive—but things began to get a little weird. On May 4, at the inaugural Grammy Awards ceremony, they won the award for Best Country and Western Performance for “ Tom Dooley,” a fact that didn’t, and still doesn’t, sit well with the Nashville establishment. “The Grammy people wanted to call us folk singers, to give us a Grammy for folk music, but they didn’t have a folk singing category,” Shane recalls. “So they took liberties and they gave the Kingston Trio the first Grammy ever given for Country and Western.” That year they released four LPs—…live from the Hungry i, Stereo Concert (one of the first live albums recorded in stereo), At Large and Here We Go Again!— all of which sold very well, with the last two both hitting the top of the LP charts. By now, the Kingston Trio

were a national phenomenon and folk songs were a national craze, particularly among younger people. The Trio hit on the idea of playing on college campuses, the first band to discover this lucrative market. “In our first two years of touring, we played 275 colleges,” Shane recalls. “Hell, I didn’t know there were that many! The great thing was that as soon as the show was over, we would walk out into the crowd and sign autographs. Nobody ever did that. And people would ask, ‘ Why would you do that?’ And I said, ‘How else are you going to meet the chicks?’” The Trio was traveling so much they decided it would be more efficient to rent their own airplane to get them to gigs. “ We got a 1939 Beechcraft D -18, with a split tail that sat on the ground,” Shane says. “I remember the model number because it was the same as the Martin guitar. We flew in that thing all the hell over. Landed in everything, from gravel fields to grass fields to airfields to whatever. We had our guitars and Dave’s banjo on the plane. Our bass player at the time was David Wheat, but we called him Buckwheat. We


hung his bass from the center of the aisle, so there were two guys at each side who could not even see each other because the bass was hanging there.” Shane says that most of the shows from that period blend together in his memory, but one in particular stands out. On March 15, 1959, their plane developed trouble on the way to a gig at Notre Dame and started to go down. “Buddy Holly had died in plane crash only a couple of weeks before, so the last 15 to 20 minutes we were on that plane, we knew we were dead,” Shane remembers. “So we drank a fifth of booze between the four of us. Our pilot flew B -17s during World War II and he managed to land relatively safely in a field. We stepped off the plane into the snow and some guys were running across the field saying, ‘Are you all right?’ And I said, ‘Parlez-vous Italiano?’ The guy said, ‘No, you are in Indiana.’” They were only a few miles from Notre Dame and managed to make it in time for that night’s show. “ We were backstage and a priest came up to us and said, ‘I understand that you do blue shows,’” Shane says. “I had never heard the word before, and so I asked him, ‘ What do you mean “blues,” sir?’ ‘ Well, you say “damn” and things like that.’ And we said ‘Oh.’ He said, ‘If you do that, we will just turn the lights and the sound off.’ So, we’re performing in a field house with a corrugated steel roof, with 4,000 people in bleachers. We finished the first opening act and nobody is cheering; David said ‘Father such and such said that if we did any blue material here they would turn off the lights and the sound.’ Then there is this silence. And then a sole voice from the top of a bleacher called out ‘Horseshit!’ And the whole place went crazy. The crowd was pounding their feet on the bleachers and making this weird rumbling sound. That was some day. I remember it just like it was yesterday.” A few months later they were invited to perform at the first Newport Folk Festival. They were scheduled to close the event, but an outcry from some of the other performers, who felt that Kingston Trio were just capitalizing on folk music, caused George Wein, the festival’s organizer, to have them go on next to last and have Earl Scruggs close the show. But the audience kept calling for the Trio and after Scruggs finished, Wein sent the group back out for an encore. From the recording made at the festival, it’s clear that audience loved the Trio’s performances, but backstage, a lot of the musicians were incensed. Many perceived the Trio’s encore as an insult to Scruggs. “I lost a lot of friends in the folk world for that slip-up,” Wein later said. Shirley Collins, the English folk singer, succinctly summed up the opinion of most of the traditionalists toward the Trio: “I despised them.” But she did add, “The audience loved them!” The rest of 1959 was a blur of recording sessions, television appearances and concerts. The hits kept on


coming: “M.T. A .,” “A Worried Man” and “The Tijuana Jail” all made the Top 40. “ Tom Dooley” sold more than 3 million units. As 1960 dawned, the Kingston Trio were the most popular vocal group in America, but there were tensions forming in the band. Dave Guard, perhaps stung by the criticism the group received at Newport, wanted to move the band in a more traditional folk direction. He kept insisting that all three members take time out to study the older styles, to try to make their performances more authentic. “Nick and I said, “Gee, Dave, we seemed to go pretty well so far,” Shane recalls. “ We’re the biggest-selling group in the world.” As the year progressed, the group continued to go from success to success. At the 1960 Grammys, they got the award in the new category Best Folk Performance for their LP The Kingston Trio at Large. (No more country music awards for them!) They also continued to release LPs at an almost alarming rate. That year saw the No. 1 Sold Out and String Along, and the Christmas LP, The Last Month of the Year. They played even more concerts and appeared on even more television shows. But as the year came to an end, the tensions in the band continued to worsen. At one point, their accountant made a bookkeeping error. Guard was upset because Shane and Reynolds seemed to be unconcerned about it. It was soon corrected, but that, in combination with the different idea about the band’s musical direction, led Guard to leave the group in May 1961. “ We were smart enough to say when we formed the band that if there ever gets to the point where somebody’s really pissed-off with the whole thing, he has the freedom to go anywhere he wants,” Shane says. “Time magazine quoted Dave as saying, ‘Nick and Bob wouldn’t rehearse or learn to read music better,’ or do this, or do that. As I said, we were so busy that Nick and I didn’t see reason to change.” Guard continued to perform with Shane and Reynolds until they could find a replacement for him. They auditioned dozens of musicians, including a young musician named Jim McGuinn who later changed his first name to Roger and formed the Byrds, before settling on a talented songwriter named John Stewart, which is a story that will be told some other time. Sometime in August 1961, Dave Guard left the band for good. Sadly, the parting was less than amicable. Over the years, the former friends rarely spoke to each other. The new version of the Kingston Trio continued to prosper, until in 1967 the three members decided to call it a day and the band broke up. The original Trio of Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard reunited for a PBS television special recorded in 1981. After that show aired, Shane and Guard reconciled enough to begin talking about a reunion, but Guard tragically contracted lymphoma and died before the plans could come to fruition.

After playing uke for a few years, Bob Shane switched to tenor guitar, which he tuned to DGBE, like the top four strings of a guitar in standard tuning. He bought his first tenor guitar, an inexpensive Silvertone, from George Archer, a composer of Tahitian songs. He later graduated to a Martin 0-17T. “That original Martin tenor is long gone but the 0-17T I have now is identical to it,” Shane says. “Did you know that Josh White taught me to play sixstring guitar? I met him in a bar in Honolulu one night and he showed me how to play the bass notes in chords.”

In the early 1970s, Shane formed a group called the New Kingston Trio to perform different material. He quickly discovered that people really wanted to hear all the old songs. In 1976, he bowed to the inevitable and dropped the “New” from the band’s name and hit the road with various hired musicians to play “ Tom Dooley,” “M.T. A .,” “Scotch and Soda” and all the rest until his heart attack forced him to retire. (He currently oversees a version of the Kingston Trio made up of musicians who played in the band in the past.) Shane is generally happy with the way his career turned out and he’s fiercely proud of everything that he and his bandmates accomplished over the years. For four years, from 1958 to 1961, they were one of the most popular bands in America. They sold millions of

records and played thousands of concerts all over the world. They demonstrated the commercial viability of acoustic guitar-driven music, and the folk boom they inspired paved the way for musicians like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez among countless others. They also helped create a demand for acoustic guitars that continues to this day. But the Kingston Trio did more than just inspire other musicians: they made some damn fine music of their own. And happily, more than 50 years after the group first got together, it looks like the “Are they folk singers?” silliness has finally died down. If it does reignite, perhaps we would all do well to remember these words from Louis Armstrong: “All music is folk music; I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.” fj


The Tale of The Saga of Tom Dooley "Tom Dooley" was a real person, but his story was even more sordid than it appeared in the Kingston Trio’s famous song. Thomas Dula, as his name was originally spelled, was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1844. (In the local dialect, Dula was pronounced Dooley, similar to the way opera became opry.) According to John Foster West’s Lift Up Your Head Tom Dooley, an excellent book about Tom Dula’s life and death that’s based on the transcripts from Dula’s two trials, Tom Dula was a randy teenager who was always getting into trouble with the local girls, particularly one named Ann Foster. In 1861 Tom went off to fight in the Civil War. When he returned home, he restarted his affair with Ann Foster, who had married a farmer named James Melton. Apparently Ann wasn’t enough for Tom, because he started sleeping with Ann’s cousin, Laura Foster, and yet another cousin named Pauline Foster. Tragically, Pauline had syphilis, which she passed on to Tom, who in turn gave it to Laura and Ann. At the time, though, Tom and Ann thought they caught it from Laura. It appears that Tom and Ann hatched a plan to get revenge on Laura. Tom suggested the he and Laura elope, and on May 25, 1866, Laura packed her clothes in a bundle and went off to meet Tom in the forest. She was never seen alive again. Most of the people in the area assumed that Laura had run away, but about a month later rumors started to spread that Tom had murdered her. In late June, Tom panicked and ran for the border. He wound up working in Tennessee on a farm owned by Col. James Grayson. When Tom heard that deputies from Wilkes County were coming to arrest him, he ran away, only to be hunted down and arrested by Grayson. Tom Dula was sent back to North Carolina, where he and Ann Foster Melton were charged with the murder of Laura Foster. While he awaited trial, Laura Foster’s body was discovered in a shallow grave, which caused a sensation and inspired local poet Thomas Land to compose “The Murder of Laura Foster,” a long ballad, to mark the occasion. That was the first of three songs written about the murder. On October 1, 1866, the trial of Tom Dula began. Ann Foster Melton was tried separately. After hearing from numerous witnesses, Tom was found guilty. Tom appealed the verdict and a new trial was held, which also reached a guilty verdict. While in jail, Tom said that he was the sole murderer of Laura Foster, a confession that led to the acquittal of Ann Foster Melton in her trial. While Tom was awaiting the


second trial, a now-unknown composer Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds pay their respects to Tom Dula, circa wrote the second song about the murder, 1990. Because of the popularity of which opened with the “Hang your head Tom Dula” line. This is the lyric that evolved the song, the local residents erected a gravestone to mark into the hit song of the Kingston Trio. Tom Dula’s final resting place. Sadly, Dula himself supposedly composed the the popularity of the song also inthird ballad, although today most folklorspired dozens of souvenir hunters ists doubt that claim. After the second to deface the stone. trial, Tom Dula was hanged on May 1, 1868. After Tom’s death, the three songs remained popular in North Carolina, but over time, the “Hang your head Tom Dula” version won out. In 1929, a duo known as Grayson and Whitter made the first recorded version of the song. (Grayson was the great-nephew of Col. James Grayson, the man who arrested Tom Dula in the first place.) In 1940, a folklorist named Frank Warner made a field recording of Wilkes County native Frank Proffitt singing a version of the song that had the same melody but somewhat different lyrics as the Grayson and Whitter version. (Proffitt’s grandmother had known both Laura Foster and Tom Dula.) Warner himself then created a shorter version of the song based on Proffitt’s that was included in the anthology Folk Song U.S.A., compiled by John and Alan Lomax in 1947. Warner recorded his version in 1952; it was later covered by the Folksay Trio and the Tarriers. The Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” is very similar to Warner’s version, but they took it at a much slower tempo and added a spoken intro that states the song is about the “Eternal Triangle” and the story of Tom Dooley, Mr. Grayson and an unnamed beautiful woman. (As the history shows, the story was really about Tom Dooley and three women, making the situation more of an Eternal Trapezoid…and Mr. Grayson was just an important but minor character.) In the early 1960s, Frank Warner and Alan Lomax sued the Kingston Trio for copyright infringement. In 1962, the Kingston Trio reached an out-of-court settlement, and to this day “Tom Dooley,” a song that dates back to the 1860s and was first recorded by Grayson and Whitter in 1929, 18 years before Folk Song U.S.A. was printed, bears the copyright notice “Frank Warner-John A. Lomax-Alan Lomax.” —MJS


By Richard Johnston

Previous: Have you seen this guitar? No photos exist of Perry Bechtel’s custom guitar, and the guitar hasn’t been seen since the early 1930s, but thanks to his extensive correspondence with C. F. Martin III, we do know that it looked like the instrument in the drawing. Bechtel didn’t actually own the guitar—it was owned by his employer, the Cable Piano Co. of Atlanta—and it may have been destroyed in a 1936 fire. (If, by chance, it did escape the flames, someone out there may have the first OM—without knowing what they have. Check your closets and under your beds.) illustration by mark weakley


lmost everyone famil- tops in the new 14-fret style, and the original OM was renamed the 000. The older style, 12 frets with slotted iar with the history of C.F. Martin & Co. knows the headstock, was still represented by a tiny handful of story of how in 1929 a banjo player and guitarist models and was designated in the catalog as the Stannamed Perry Bechtel convinced the conservative firm dard series. (To this day, the S suffix in current models to build a new guitar model with a longer, narrower like the D -28S stands for Standard and not Slotted, as neck. The new guitar had a 000-size body that was some people believe.) shortened so that the neck would have 14 frets clear of In 1934, Martin introduced the 14-fret dreadthe body; a 25.4” scale-length; a solid (not slotted) nought, and the new guitar’s powerful bass response headstock; and a pickguard glued to the top. Dubbed and impressive volume made it the most sought-after the Orchestra Model, or OM, it was not only Martin’s guitar in the catalog. The dreadnought’s enduring first modern guitar; it was the prototype for the style popularity helped erase the memory of the OM as the that would define the American steel-string flattop original 14-fret guitar. However, the OM was redisguitar for decades to come. covered in the late 1960s by players like Eric SchoenThe OM’s immediate popularity caused Martin to berg and John Miller, who felt the guitar’s balanced redesign most of their 12-fret guitars and give them bass-to-treble response was better-suited to the 14-fret Orchestra Model makeovers. Within a few years complex fingerstyle technique they were pioneering of the OM’s introduction, models that had remained than the booming bass-heavy sound of dreadunchanged in appearance since before the Civil War noughts. The rise in popularity had morphed into modernof various fingerpicking styles day instruments. The traditional ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN since the 1960s has boosted the slotted headstock, wide 12-fret FRETBOARD JOURNAL #6 OM from an almost-forgotten neck and long bodies of Martin’s model to its current place as the original designs became oldseond-mostcopied acoustic fashioned seemingly overnight. steel-string guitar design (first Soon, virtually all Martin guiplace still belongs to the dreadtars were redesigned with 14-fret nought). C. F. Martin today sells necks, and the OM was no longer thousands of OM models annua distinct model. In the compaally, and many other guitar ny’s catalogs, “Orchestra Model” companies, both foreign and became a generic term for flat-


Although he is remembered today for being the catalyst in the creation of Martin’s Orchestra Model, Bechtel was known in his day as a crackerjack plectrum banjo player. Courtesy of the Bechtel family


domestic, use the same shape and OM moniker as well.


ccording to legend, before collaborating with Martin in the creation of the OM, Perry Bechtel played a Gibson L -5, which, when introduced in late 1922, was the world’s first carved-top, f-hole guitar. For decades, the speculation has been that Martin’s first modern flattop was heavily influenced by the first modern archtop guitar, tying the most dynamic period in American guitar design into a neat, easily explained bundle. Under the microscope, however, it seems that history doesn’t offer such tidy conclusions. In 2006, John Woodland was combing through Martin’s files in the attic of the old North Street factory, researching another topic, when he discovered a months-long chain of original correspondence between Perry Bechtel and C. F. Martin III in a folder marked “Cable Piano Co.” These letters make it clear that Martin’s first 14-fret guitar was quite different than the standard OM models that soon followed it, and that Bechtel’s demands resulted in a unique instrument unlike any Martin guitar made before or since. Furthermore, although a Gibson guitar was an important part of the equation, it wasn’t an L -5 after all. Woodland also discovered letters from other dealers around the same time that show that Bechtel wasn’t the only banjo player demanding new ideas from C.F. Martin & Co.—and also that the OM’s creation tale was tied to the introduction of Martin’s tenor guitars. By 1929, the conservative C.F. Martin & Co. was ripe for change. Although the Pennsylvania firm had gradually changed its line from gut strings to steel strings during the 1920s, it had been slow to catch on to changes in how guitars were being played. Heeding requests from its leading retail accounts more than a decade earlier, Frank Henry Martin had been able to catch the Hawaiian music wave well before his competitors, and ukuleles and Hawaiian guitars had proved a boon for Martin. Selling as many ukes as they could build, Martin had expanded several times during the 1920s to keep up with demand. Still, by the time the OM saga began at the end of the decade, the ukulele market had seriously slowed down. Martin had considerable success with Hawaiian guitars, selling to those who played it with a steel bar on the lap as well as the “Spanish-style” strummers who accompanied them. However, with the invention of the National Tricone resonator guitar in 1928, which offered greater volume and sustain than any conventional instrument, Martin was losing its share of that


market also. To make matters worse, a powerful new competitor was in sight. Since its inception, Gibson had been denigrating conventional flattop guitars as “unworthy” and had been marketing expensive carved mandolins and guitars. But in 1926, the company from Kalamazoo, Michigan, reversed themselves and introduced their own flattop line. Martin was aware that these combined changes meant the overall economic health of the company was once again in jeopardy. As Frank Henry Martin, then the head of the company, logged dealer requests into the orders ledger, he would make weekly notes in the margin as to the average wholesale dollar amount booked per day. Several months before the October 29 stock market crash of 1929, Martin’s cash flow was already in serious decline. The once-swelling ranks of employees in Martin’s recently expanded North Street factory were being trimmed, always a painful process in a small town like Nazareth, Pennsylvania. In 1923, Martin did make a half-hearted effort to cash in on the banjo craze, but their Style 1 tenor banjo was poorly received, and after making only 96 of them, they ceased production in 1926. It was just as well: Popular music was about to undergo a major shift that would leave that instrument behind. Smoother sounds were all the rage, and orchestra banjoists came under pressure to “double” on guitar. As recording technology improved, the guitar became more practical as a studio instrument and began to appear on many popular records. Pioneering guitarists like Eddie Lang and Nick Lucas caught the public’s (and other musicians’) fancy, and as dance-band styles evolved, many leaders began to insist that their banjo players were able to provide guitar services as well. Banjoists needing a shortcut to guitar playing (and its completely different tuning and fingering) inspired the invention in the mid 1920s of tenor and plectrum guitars, which simply consisted of a banjo-style neck on a guitar body. Martin responded in 1927 by introducing small guitars with narrow four-string necks. Trying to keep the instrument in proportion to the short 23" scale, Martin’s first choice for a tenor-guitar body was their smallest, the Size 5, designed almost a century earlier as a short-scale terz guitar. These diminutive Size 5 tenors had a delicate, pretty sound but didn’t offer much volume and were practically useless in a danceband context. Martin’s next attempt at a tenor guitar, using a larger Size 2 body, was added to the line in 1928. Tenor players soon complained about limited access to the upper frets, prompting Martin to build some rather awkward Size 2 tenors with 14 frets clear of the body, but as a result, the bridges were nearly in line with the guitar’s waist. In early March 1929, Al Esposito, instrument department manager of the major New York jobber and retailer Carl Fischer, sent Martin a crude drawing

Bechtel, circa 1935, promotes Woco-Pep gasoline with his Gibson plectrum banjo. courtesy of the bechtel family

suggesting how a larger 12-fret guitar body could be altered to produce a model with 14 frets clear, despite the shorter tenor scale. Esposito, who described himself as “a player of plectrum instruments amongst the professional orchestras,” was writing on behalf of two well-known players—Frank Victor and Frank Petrucci—seeking a large, loud, high-quality tenor guitar. In case Martin needed another reason to design its first new guitar shape in decades, Esposito mentioned that he was trying to convince his clients not to buy a Gibson: “…I am holding them back from purchasing one of these, until I hear from you.” Carl Fischer’s 1929 catalog offered tenor guitars from Martin, National, Regal and the Harmony Roy Smeck Vita line, but no Gibsons. Like many salesmen before and since, Esposito was desperately trying not to lose a sale. Martin first sent a standard long-neck Size 2 tenor, which was quickly rejected. The company then attempted to follow Esposito’s drawing, shortening a Size 0 body as he indicated. The “artist” was less than pleased with the result, complaining that the upper

bout was “entirely out of proportion.” This historically important guitar—the first Martin with a shortened upper bout—has never been found. Martin may well have destroyed it after its eventual return, since Fischer complained repeatedly that it was “unsellable.” Martin was finally able to satisfy Esposito’s customers with a newly designed 0-21 tenor guitar, with a shorter but wider upper bout. Esposito was pleased, ordering five at a time after specifying a lower price point, which Martin met by switching to a mahogany body. He was able to quickly sell several, including one for Rudy Valee’s Orchestra, and soon reported, “It is the talk amongst the professional tenor banjo players…and is going to be a big hit in New York.” This “Carl Fischer Model,” as Martin called it for several months, was soon renamed the 0-18T. It went on to become Martin’s best-selling tenor guitar and remained in continuous production for more than 50 years. (It was made famous by, among others, Rabon Delmore of the Delmore Brothers and, later, Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio.) After early signs of


success with this reshaped tenor model, C. F. Martin III was suddenly receptive to new ideas from banjo players, as well as requests for altering the body shape. Al Esposito’s glowing report arrived at Martin’s office while C. F. Martin III and his father Frank Henry were entertaining another hot young banjo player with big ideas, but this one was looking for a six-string guitar, not a tenor.


he instrumentalist who made this timely visit to the Martin factory was Perry Bechtel, who had been discovered a few weeks earlier by Martin’s new salesman on the road, James Markley. Markley’s job was not only to drum up enough orders to cover his commissions, but also to be Martin’s “ear to the ground” in the rapidly changing market. Markley met the 27-year-old Bechtel at Atlanta’s Cable Piano Co. while making a sales call. Cable was one of the largest and most prestigious music stores in the South. Having moved beyond pianos, Cable boasted a comprehensive string-instrument department. Bechtel was the firm’s main fretted-instrument salesman by day; during off hours, however, he was constantly playing on radio and in clubs and ballrooms throughout the Atlanta area. Like Al Esposito, he was a professional orchestra player with lots of clout with his fellow musicians. Bechtel had recently returned to Atlanta after a high-profile stint with the Phil Spitalny Orchestra and was considered the local virtuoso of the frets. He was also a Pennsylvania native, and Markley discovered that Bechtel had plans to bring his Southern wife on a vacation to his home state. Despite humble origins, Perry Bechtel had already flirted with stardom. A decade earlier, he’d lied about his age to join the Navy and, while at sea during the final days of WWI, had been introduced to the mandolin by the ship’s barber. Back in port, a fellow seaman shipping out had tossed Bechtel a pawn ticket, which as luck would have it yielded a tenor banjo. Unable to afford lessons, he contrived an arrangement that allowed him to listen under the window while a better-off friend received instruction. Soon after leaving the Navy, he was already a professional working in dance bands. Within a few years he’d made a name for himself as a hot instrumentalist on both tenor and plectrum banjo: “The Boy with a Thousand Fingers,” they called him, and later, “The Man with 10,000 Fingers.” Hokey sobriquets aside, Perry Bechtel was recognized by any who heard him as having extraordinary musical sense as well as staggering technique. Unlike many banjoists, Bechtel had little interest in tenor or plectrum guitars, being already equally adept at play-


ing both four-string banjo and six-string guitar. Once he was employed by Cable Piano, Bechtel’s public appearances became de facto advertisements for the store’s fretted-instrument department, with one glaring problem: Perry Bechtel was playing shows with a Gibson, and Cable was not a Gibson dealer. After receiving the tip from Markley, C.F. III invited Bechtel to drop by the factory when he was in the area. “As we understand it,” C.F. wrote in a letter, sent care of Cable, “you are planning to motor, leaving Atlanta June 15th.” Directions from Philadelphia were given, “the best route... lies through Doylestown and Easton… and the road is very good.” Bechtel was asked if he would remain in Nazareth at least through June 22, when Markley would return from a sales trip. Although they likely spent time at the factory discussing Bechtel’s guitar needs, there was time for fun as well. Bechtel, Frank Henry Martin and C. F. III went fishing at a nearby lake and enjoyed a picnic together with their wives. The bond between C.F. III and Bechtel was no doubt aided by the fact that they were both Pennsylvania boys who had married ladies from Atlanta. Bechtel took photos of the Martins with his new camera, and Markley also took some photos before Bechtel and his wife left town. For the next few weeks, correspondence between the Martin Guitar Company and Cable Piano was as much about photography as about guitars. On July 10, Bechtel wrote to C.F. expressing his and Mrs. Bechtel’s “appreciation of your genial and general hospitality.... That picnic will linger long in one ‘potato chef ’s’ memory. Enclosed are the pictures of yourself and Mr. Martin Sr. which, as you will probably remember, were snapped against odds of a dark afternoon, but came out fine I thought.” The letters, along with a carbon copy of C.F.’s replies, were kept in Martin’s files, but the photos were sadly not among them. The Martins were not only genuinely interested in Bechtel’s ideas, they were anxious to please both him and Cable Piano. C.F. III had delivered a custom 12-fret 000-45 to “Blue Yodeler” Jimmie Rodgers the year before, but the influence that genial strummer would have on other musicians was not yet known. Before that, Martin had well-known guitarists and teachers like William Foden and Vahdah Olcott Bickford endorsing its instruments, but they were hardly media stars. By 1928, Gibson had debuted a special deluxemodel flattop endorsed by Nick Lucas, whose recordings were showcases for flashy “plectrum” (flatpick) guitar playing. Bechtel’s flatpicking was equally flashy but even more sophisticated. The fact that Bechtel had been playing a Gibson made the challenge of winning him to the Martin side all the more enticing The new guitar that Perry Bechtel and the Martins agreed upon would be based on the “big Martin,” a 000-28 loaned to Bechtel by his employer. The 000

The letter from March 9, 1929, contains Al Esposito’s suggestion for a new 14-fret body shape. Martin refined the silhouette on this crude drawing, and when they introduced the 0-18T in mid-1929, it became the template for the other 14-fret models to follow. courtesy of the c. f. martin guitar co.

was the largest size Martin had in production under their name—the dreadnought shape was still an exclusive item for Ditson. By shortening the long upper bout of the 000 and moving both the bridge and the soundhole up closer to the neck block, the team had drawn up a pleasing guitar shape, one that allowed for a neck with 14 frets clear of the body. Factory foreman John Deichman was almost certainly the primary draftsman of both this and the similar tenor shape redrawn a few months earlier. One of Bechtel’s priorities was a pickguard to avoid scratching the top with his pick. (He’d already damaged the finish on the guitar borrowed from Cable.) Bechtel also wasn’t happy with the neck on the borrowed Martin and wanted his custom guitar to have a neck as close to that of his Gibson as possible, along with extra fingerboard and headstock binding. Since he didn’t have the Gibson with him on the trip, he agreed to make careful measurements of the neck width and fretboard radius when he returned to Atlanta. As soon as the Bechtels left Nazareth, C. F. III wrote to William Schrader, Bechtel’s manager at the Cable Piano Co., to confirm the order, as it was clear that Cable was footing the bill.

It’s clear from Schrader’s reply to Martin that Bechtel’s Gibson was not an L -5, but a Style 0 “Artist’s Model,” probably the 1922 or 1923 example he is pictured holding in the 1928 Gibson catalog. This guitar qualifies as “freak shaped” even by modern standards! Although the Style 0 was an obsolete model (it disappeared from Gibson’s price lists by 1924), the odd cutaway upper bout did allow its player easy access to the 15th fret on the treble side, a distinct advantage for a plectrum banjo player used to full access to 22 frets. Schrader seemed somewhat dismissive of Bechtel’s special demands; no doubt he had plenty of experience dealing with the quirks of his “prima donna” salesman, but he was still determined to have Cable’s “golden boy” play a Martin in public. Martin wasted no time in getting the project started, and by July 15, C.F. reported to Bechtel: “ Your guitar has made good progress and is now awaiting the template for the neck and fingerboard. We need to know the exact width of the fingerboard at the nut and at the twelfth fret, also the exact shape you desire on the surface of the fingerboard at these two points.” Bechtel replied on July 20, saying he would gladly send his Gibson to Martin so the neck could be duplicated—if not for the fact that he was forced to use it: “The big Martin is en route to you for bridge gluing and refinishing.” He also hinted for the first time that the extra binding he’d requested wouldn’t be the only decoration added to Martin’s rather plain Style 28: “Am more than anxious to try this new Martin and if it works out I’m going to have you dress up the peg head a bit.” A few days later, he sent Martin the needed templates, apologizing for his rather crude draftsmanship. C. F. III replied, “There is no need to apologize…. [U]sing them as guides we are going right ahead with your Guitar and will undertake to promise delivery about August first.” He was also pleasantly surprised to learn both the width and fingerboard radius of Bechtel’s Gibson neck: “The width you specify is less by 1/16" at the nut…than our standard fingerboard, which, undoubtedly, is an important factor to you in handling the instrument. The rounding is somewhat greater but not as much as we expected.” As this letter was dated July 22, it’s clear that Martin was capable of rushing important orders through the factory very quickly. On August 9, Bechtel wrote again, with good news: “The guitar arrived—a beautiful job—surpassed my expectation in appearance and grace of lines.” But he complained the action was too low, “so that the E string hasn’t the maximum of tone.” He remarked that


“The Boy with a Thousand Fingers,” they called him, and later, “The Man with 10,000 Fingers.”

he would not trust the local “violin luthiers” (possibly Cable’s own repair department) with guitar adjustments. This letter also contains the first complaints about the depth of the neck. Perhaps he should have sent Martin the Style 0 after all, as the deep “ V ” profile on those Gibson necks is unlike any Martin from the 1920s. At this point, however, Bechtel still saw great potential in the project, so he made suggestions for decorating the headstock while the guitar was back at the factory to have the action adjusted. C.F. III’s reply encouraged Bechtel to return the guitar for action adjustment, “and while it is here we will supply the special head veneer inlaid as you suggest. This will take a little extra time because we would send a Rosewood head veneer to the firm in New York City that does our special inlay work, but it will probably be possible to return the Guitar within two weeks time.” Bechtel’s need to have the guitar returned as quickly as possible put an end to any further discussion of a custom inlay on the headstock. Instead, Martin agreed to add a stock Style 45 headplate with what is now called the “torch” inlay. Bechtel signed his letter, full of complaints about the neck depth, with “ Yours for the last word in ‘fine guitars for finicky folks’ like yours truly, Perry.” The man had a knack for understatement. As promised, Martin turned Bechtel’s guitar around in barely a week’s time, and that included adding the Style 45 headstock veneer and touching up the finish. Although fulfilling a young hotshot’s many demands had been time-consuming, the resulting guitar was already reaping unexpected dividends. “By good fortune,” wrote Martin, “we were able to have your Guitar tried out by Mr. Roy Smeck who paid us an unexpected visit. He liked the Guitar very much and seemed to think you were farsighted in having it made up. He expressed a desire to have a similar Guitar for his own use at a later date.” On September 13, Perry replied, finally seeming content with his new instrument: “The guitar is now fine, am using it plenty on the air nowadays, and have had several compliments on it. Am glad Roy tried out this model, and am reasonably sure, if you will intro-


duce it to the star plectrum guitarists, that it will meet with approval. My only suggestion—make the neck a little deeper.” Despite the trials of building its second custom guitar shape in less than six months, Martin seemed encouraged by the potential of this new model. On October 5, a prototype “000-28 Special” was begun, with additional notation calling it the “Perry Bechtel Model.” Since there were no dealer requests for the new model yet, this was probably the guitar James Markley took with him on the road to drum up orders. On October 12, the Cincinnati branch of the Wurlitzer music-store chain put in the first order, prompting another “Perry Bechtel Model” 000-28 to be started three days later. This guitar, serial number 39904, has survived; it has a slotted headstock like Perry’s original, but without the extra binding and inlay on the neck (it also has John Deichman’s initials on the underside of the top). Martin had been hearing more complaints from banjo players about wide necks, and so even at this early date, the neck was reduced to just 1 ¾" wide at the nut, a feature repeated on all later 14-fret six-string models. Compared to Bechtel’s custom Martin, these later 000-28 Specials also lacked the heavily arched fretboard radius derived from the Gibson Style 0. By late November, eight more 000-28 Specials were started (a batch of three, a left-handed version and another batch of four), and Bechtel’s name appeared next to the model designation on most of them, sometimes with “Professional Model” added. (These notations are only in Martin’s records, not on the instruments themselves, as Martin was still two years away from stamping model designations inside its instruments.) As far as we can tell from surviving examples, these guitars were all given the solid headstock, with banjo tuners, as seen on the OM-28 that appeared in Martin’s 1930 catalog a few months later. From other letters to Martin from its dealers around this time, it’s clear the company was already feeling pressure from the growing popularity of archtop guitars. Barely a decade after Martin had first embraced the use of steel strings, guitar players began defecting

from traditional flattops to the archtop style. Minneapolis dealer B. A . Rose wrote to Martin in early November of 1929, summarizing the dilemma: “ We are getting inquiries now for regular guitar for orchestra playing. We find that your regular six-string instrument is not proving entirely satisfactory. We believe that it will be necessary for you to build, just as you do the tenor-guitar, a special guitar for pick playing….” Rose was careful to enumerate the changes needed, including having strings “just as close together as they are on the banjo,” geared pegs (as on Martin tenor guitars), better access to the upper frets and a pickguard. Other suggestions included a “tilted neck,” an adjustable bridge and a tailpiece, as found on archtop guitars. C. F. III wasted no time in replying: Martin had already realized “that there is a demand from Banjo players for a Guitar which they can handle easily and which will be responsive and full in tone.” He went on to describe the newly modified 000-28 made first “for Mr. Perry Bechtel, a well known professional player, who pronounced it the best Guitar he ever used…. Since several of this new model are now coming through the factory we wish you would permit us to send you one….” On November 20, Rose was sent one of the new “Professional Models” for a 10-day trial, but he returned it, saying they didn’t feel it was different enough from the standard 000-28. He repeated their request for a Martin guitar made like an archtop.


ven the man who had set Martin on this track of building a long-necked flattop guitar for orchestra wasn’t happy with his new instrument for very long. By December 5, Bechtel wrote to Martin again, this time complaining of the action being too high, and also of a “lack of musical tone” when the G string was fretted. “All this may be due to the extra thinness of the neck (in depth)…,” he stated. C. F. III offered to work on Bechtel’s guitar once again, but it’s clear that his patience was wearing thin. “The neck of this instrument is every bit as thick as our regular Guitar necks and should give you no trouble,” Martin replied. James Markley, ever the diligent salesman, continued to pitch the new model when calling on Martin dealers, but beginning in December it was called a “000-28 Orchestra Model,” later shortened to “000-28 OM”—but with no mention of Perry Bechtel. Bechtel went on to an illustrious career as a bandleader and musician, and the instrument he had first requested and helped design inspired a revolution in Martin’s entire line of steel-string guitars. Yet, they did not travel those roads to fame together.

Period photos in Perry Bechtel’s personal scrapbook clearly show that, like nearly all 1930s band and orchestra guitarists, he used modern f-hole archtop guitars. It’s also apparent that Perry was never content with any one guitar for very long. He is pictured with several different Gibson L -5s, which are all the Advanced 17-inch models that were first introduced in late 1934, an early Gibson Super 400 and a D’Angelico Excel, among others. In 1935, when the Martin Company introduced the F-9, a model with an arched top and flat back, C. F. III tempted fate by sending one to Bechtel for a free trial. Bechtel politely returned it with a note that it lacked “velvet” in the tone. By then he was accustomed to more sophisticated, fully carved archtops like the L -5, which quickly relegated Martin’s F-9 to obscurity. Martin’s OM model had a far happier fate, despite failing to win over the orchestra players it was designed to please. Once the new model was shipped to dealers on the west coast, orders began to stream in. Martin added a mahogany OM-18 to its line, which quickly began to outsell the more expensive OM-28. Most high-profile players who bought OM models didn’t wear tuxedos, however, but instead were more likely to perform wearing colorful Western outfits. “Hillbilly” music, particularly on the radio, was big business by the early 1930s. Jimmy Rodgers had proved to be one of the most influential artists of the era after all. Roy Rogers, who was still using his real name, Leonard Slye, played an OM in the Sons of the Pioneers, as did Hugh Farr, the group’s hot-picking guitarist. Haywire Mac McClintock (who wrote “Big Rock Candy Mountain”) and his Haywire Orchestra had two OMs in the group. Despite their humble railfence and hay-bale backdrops, many of these west coast cowboy bands were financially very successful, and even a pearl-trimmed OM-45 was not out of reach. Roy Rogers, of course, bought an OM-45 Deluxe, the most ornate and expensive flattop Martin ever cataloged during the 1930s. The OM was also popular with a wide range of ordinary pickers who enjoyed the longer, slimmer neck. Once the new OM models were pictured in the 1930 Martin catalog, dealers across the country were soon ordering them, almost to the exclusion of the old Standard Model (12-fret) Martins. Some dealers even wrote to Martin asking if they could exchange unsold 12-fret models for the new, hot-selling OMs their customers now demanded. The result, as mentioned earlier, was that virtually all Martin models were quickly given OM-like features. The ironic footnote to the story is that, by the 1970s, the early OM was widely considered the greatest fingerstyle guitar of all—when, of course, they had been specifically designed for “plectrum” playing. Despite his constant search for the perfect guitar, Perry Bechtel never made a lasting impression


A blonde and two brunettes: Bechtel relaxes in the 1940s with a naturalfinish Gibson L-5P and two admirers. courtesy of the bechtel family

with that instrument. His plectrum banjo work, however, is legendary. Although he was never a household name like his old pal, Eddie Peabody, Bechtel’s fame warranted a full-page photo in Life magazine in 1955, where he was credited with renewing America’s interest in the four-string banjo. In 1958, RCA’s Chet Atkins called Bechtel, saying “I can’t find anyone who plays as much banjo as you do,” and asking him to record an LP with a trio of guitar, bass and drums. The results, an album called The Greatest of Them All, was a best-seller that is still considered by many experts to be a highpoint of the four-string banjo style, with sophisticated arrangements rich in chord melody and moving harmony. Playing a Bacon & Day plectrum banjo equipped with a knee mute—and with some additional aid from Atkins’ engineering skills—Bechtel avoids the usual clanging banjo tones entirely. Around this time, Bechtel ceased playing much guitar, but he remained one of the best-known, and


most gracious, ambassadors of the plectrum banjo for the rest of his life. Even today, banjo players consider it an achievement to master one of his arrangements. Like many musical geniuses, Perry Bechtel was rarely satisfied when it came to tone and was constantly modifying his instruments in vain attempts to get the sound he wanted. His family remembers him as constantly tinkering, trying out new ideas, unfailingly modest but never content to rest on his laurels. Even as late as 1980, Bechtel was still talking about his quest for the tones he heard in his head but could never find in an actual instrument. “But when I hear the sound that I want,” he said in an interview, “I’d go from here to California to get that sound, if I heard the one I wanted…. I’m still looking for that sound…that purple sound…velvet sound. I could go on and on about that. I hear it in my sleep.” Perry Bechtel died on February 21, 1982, and, hopefully, he found an abundance of the purple, velvet sound he’d long been seeking. fj


Photography and text by Jason Verlinde

Joni Mitchell’s “For Free”) and then talked some more about guitars, music and life. Despite the roller coaster ride his body has been on, his voice is, quite simply, spine tingling. I asked him how it’s held up all these years. All he could say was, “I just don’t know, but believe me, I’m grateful.” Fretboard Journal: What kind of background, musically, did you grow up with? David Crosby: My parents played a lot of classical music in the house; I probably heard the Brandenburg concertos, you know, 289 times, by the time I was 6. But the very first 10-inch 33 LPs, we had several of those, and they were the Weavers, Josh White and a South African couple called Marais & Miranda. And soon thereafter, Pete Seeger on his own. And soon thereafter, Odetta. They were folk music. That’s what my mom bought. So that’s what I was raised on. Then my brother turned me on to ’50s jazz. I never went through the Elvis period. My brother turned me on to Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, that kind of thing. There was one radio act that punched through, which was the Everly Brothers. Everly Brothers were a huge influence—huge—they just rang my bell. I loved their stuff. It was just too goddamn good. I loved harmony, right from the get-go. FJ: Because of those Everly Brothers records? avid Crosby is no different from DC: Largely. I loved it. And that affected how I a lot of us. He sports a Cheshire cat grin the minute he heard folk music, when I started hearing folk music talks about guitars. He proudly explains how the Beatand groups, even ones as corny as the Limeliters. I les changed his life and his love for music of all sorts, liked the harmonies that they would do. And Peter, from folk to Steely Dan to the Fleet Foxes. Paul & Mary were good: they weren’t corny, they were But of course, Crosby is no ordinary musician. Over good. And then you start hearing the words that people his long career, he went from being an acoustic folkie were delivering. to honing his electric chops with the Byrds to steering FJ: I know you made your way to Greenwich Village back to acoustics (with the electric sometimes thrown and hooked up with Fred Neil. What influence did he in) in various Crosby, Stills & Nash incarnations. He have on you? released the pivotal If I Could Only Remember My Name DC: First place, he had a very deep voice, very beauin 1971, the star-studded release that still sounds fresh tiful one. Second, he would write songs…good songs. to modern ears. And, obviously, he lived a hard life FJ: Was Fred Neil someone you were aware of filled with drama, drugs and even a prison term. before you moved out to Greenwich Village? Upon seeing him relaxing at his beautiful Southern DC: I got to New York. I was a folk singer, playing in California home, it’s hard to imagine the wild life that little coffee houses. And I ran into three people: Fred David Crosby once lived, not so long ago. Neil, Vince Martin and a woman named Lisa Kindrid. His residence has to be in one of the country’s most They were all singing in the same peaceful places—Santa Barbara coffee houses. And Bob Gibson, a wine country. His home is quiet, ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN really good 12-string player. warm and filled with mementos FRETBOARD JOURNAL #25 Freddy just had more on the of a fascinating life, guitars he’s ball than anybody else; he could picked up along the way and—of really sing and he was a very course—his loving family. soulful cat. And he was mesmerOn the day I interviewed izing: he was extremely good. Crosby, we talked for hours All of us kids that were wanting about the early folk scene he to be folk singers were taken by was a part of, shot some photos, him. I don’t think that anybody filmed a video for fretboardthat I knew that had heard him (a quick take on

D 36

Though it started out life as a typical six-string Martin D-18, in the early1960s Crosby converted this guitar into a 12-string. A new 12-fret, 12-string neck was installed via Jon Lundberg’s shop in the Bay Area and the bridge was moved lower on the body. An oversized pickguard covers up the old bridgepin holes. It’s held up for decades. “I don’t tune it up to pitch,” Crosby says of the guitar’s longevity. “That’s the trick. You just don’t put it through the kind of strain that you put an up-to-pitch guitar.”


wasn’t very, very strongly influenced by him. And then he went down to Florida where Vince was from. They made one record together, the two of them, and they both went back down to Florida. I got a message from either Fred or from Lisa—I think it was Fred—saying, “Hey, there’s work down here. There are coffee houses. If you come down here, you could eat.” And this was, you know, very tough times early on. We were playing basket houses, which were places where you pass the basket afterwards. So I took two cardboard boxes and my Vega 12-string and I went down to Florida and started singing down there, and became very close friends with a guy named Bobby Ingram, who was and still is a musician down there, a good one. We both learned a great deal from hanging out with Freddy. Freddy would do things to your head. We would be in an elevator in New York in an old, crapped-out building in New York, and he would turn off the light. He would say, “Listen. The music’s everywhere.” And you’d hear tang, tang, tang, ding, ding, ding. We’d get stoned and we’d be sitting next to a bamboo thicket, and he’d say, “Listen, that’s music.” It was a bamboo thicket in the wind, but it was beautiful. He was a pretty amazing guy. FJ: How much older than you was he? DC: I was maybe 20, and he was probably 50. He had a very strong influence on me, probably stronger than Gibson, stronger than most people at that time. And when I was in New York, I had run into Dylan. He was a strong influence. Up till that time, the only people who had ever even made a record in folk music were Peter, Paul & Mary. So I went over to Gerde’s Folk City and I’d listen to Dylan. I thought, “ Well, fuck, I can sing better than that.” Then I started listening to him at work and I thought, “Oh, shit.” Then I had to start rethinking what I was going to be able to write. But they made me fall in love with acoustic guitars and they made me fall in love with singing…all of those guys did. Him and Baez. As soon as I ran into Baez, I, of course, like everybody else, fell in love with her. She was a good picker. She still is. And I have been in love with acoustic guitars ever since then. My brother gave me my first one, I don’t even know what it was, it was some kind of nylonstrung thing. I learned E-minor to A-major and sat there playing “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” FJ: You and Travis Edmonson of Bud & Travis played together, right? DC: Played together, no. I used to sit and watch Travis. Endlessly. There was a club in Hollywood called the Unicorn. It was just a dive and he would play there. It was a “coffee house.” I would just sit there and hawk his changes and try to figure out what he was doing. He was more acces-


sible than most of the rest of the guys. He would show you, he was friendly. And gave me my first joint. I learned a bunch from him. FJ: What was that first 12-string you heard? DC: Bob Gibson’s. Freddy had one, too. FJ: You just knew you wanted one, immediately? DC: Yeah. I mean, listen to the damn thing. It’s like a piano. This one [holding his original D -18 that he had converted to a 12-string] in particular. I think this is probably the best acoustic one I’ve ever heard. I tried to copy it a number of times. Santa Cruz made me a copy of it. Martin made me a David Crosby model 12-string that’s a 12-fret like this. I sent Martin this guitar, and they said, “Somebody very amateurishly shaved the braces in here. That wouldn’t have been you, would it?” And I said, “Uh, yeah.” FJ: You did? DC: Yeah. I shaved the braces a little bit with a Coke bottle and some sandpaper. FJ: When was that? DC: That was when I first got it. When I bought it, I was in Chicago. I rode a bus out to the only store in Chicago that had a D -18, which was all I could afford from Martin. I got it and I wanted it to be loud. And even though this was late ’50s or early ’60s, you can make ’em louder. They were building ’em lighter then than they do now. Now they’re building them to try and last 50 years. Which is admirable on their part, on the one hand, and yet, on the other hand, those guitars don’t ring anywhere near. When they made the David Crosby D -18, I said, “Build it light.” I said, “Do not build it to the kind of specs you have been building, where you expect a guitar to last 50 years.” And so those David Crosby D -18s ring like a bell, because they’re built lighter and braced lighter. FJ: How long was it a six-string before it got converted? DC: Several years. I was playing it when we started the Byrds. Dylan offered me a grand for it one time. Stephen [Stills] offered me an old Bentley for it. And this is back when $1,000 was $1,000. A lot of people have wanted it, because it’s a really good-sounding 12-string. FJ: At one point, you joined Les Baxter’s Balladers, right? DC: I was in there and so was my brother. He was playing bass, and myself and Bob Ingram, and another guy named Mike Clough, and it was really pretty pathetic. It was an imitation Christy Minstrels, if you can imagine such a thing. That’s really pretty far down the line. FJ: Straight out of A Mighty Wind? DC: Well, we needed money. We were trying to live. We needed to have some money for food. And they

Crosby’s guitar vault includes an Olson, a few McAlisters, many Martins and slew of 12-strings, including a 12-string converted Gibson Roy Smeck Radio Deluxe (top row, fourth from the left) that was a gift from Jackson Browne. Crosby has some good friends: the Olson with the Florentine cutaway and custom inlay (left) was a gift from a fan.

dressed us up in little pegged pants—black pants— and little red bellboy jackets. It was pathetic. But we were good, we could sing. We were on tour, in Baltimore, when Kennedy got shot. I hated being dressed up like a monkey. They were trying to make us be a lounge act. And that was a horror show for us, because we were folkies and we wanted to be like Bob Dylan. We listened to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and the Weavers. That’s where we came from. And that had nothing to do with bellboy jackets. Josh White and Odetta had given us our standard that we were reaching for. That’s what we were trying to do. We wanted to be as good as those people. FJ: When you returned to California, you were doing that whole Ash Grove and Troubadour circuit. Were you a solo act? What were you singing? DC: Some really cornball stuff, like “They Call the Wind Mariah.” And the occasional good song, a really odd hodge-podge of stuff. Then I started writing my own. Not any good, but

I started writing my own songs. And you’d get up at the Hoot Night at the Troubadour. As much as anything else, we were trying to attract the attention of girls. FJ: This was you solo? DC: Yeah. I worked for a while with my brother. Once I had established myself down in Florida, I told my brother, “Come on down,” and he would play bass with me and sing harmony. And that was fun for a while. We wound up in Omaha someplace and we kind of split up. And then I went to Chicago from there. Chicago was where I encountered the Beatles. That pretty much changed everything. FJ: What was it about them? DC: It changed my outlook on what I wanted to play. You’ve got to remember, there was a big synthesis going on there; up to that point, now, rock ’n’ roll had been pretty much four chords—almost entirely, as a matter of fact. That was the standard thing that came out of the Brill Building, but it all had a backbeat. Well, here were these guys from England, they were playing folk music changes, much more complex chord


“I shaved the braces a little bit with a Coke bottle and some sandpaper.”

changes—much better musically, but with that backbeat. That was a mixing of two streams that created a new thing. And it was irresistible. I went from Chicago to L . A . I walked into the Troubadour and there was Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark singing that kind of stuff. It was Gene Clark who didn’t know any of the rules at all; he just started writing whatever sounded like the Beatles. And Roger’s one of the major talents of our times. He was a more advanced musician; he’d come out of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. And he really knew how to play, in particular a 12-string. He started playing those Gene Clark songs and that just pulled me like a magnet. So I started sitting around with the band and singing harmony. And that worked, that was fun. FJ: When did you really ramp up your songwriting? DC: When there was a venue for it: when the Byrds started to actually be a band; when we got Chris Hillman to come and play bass for us. He was a mandolin player in a little bluegrass group. But he was fascinated by the music and he learned how to play bass to be in the Byrds. He had never played bass before. Michael Clarke had never played trap drums before in his life; he played a conga drum. He was somebody that I met hitchhiking in Big Sur. I said, “Come on down to L . A ., man. You look right. You should be in a band.” FJ: That was all it took, the look? DC: Yeah. And he learned how. And none of us were very good, except Roger. Roger was really good. He could really actually play. Then it turned out he had this other talent, which was to be able to arrange—to translate—from a folk idiom into this early rock ’n’ roll stuff that the Byrds did. He could arrange the song so that it would change it; he took “Mr. Tambourine Man” and made a record out of it—made it completely different than how Bob wrote it, hugely different from the demo that we heard, which was Bob and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott just out of their minds. FJ: What was the demo like? The two of them alternating lines? DC: No, Bob was singing the song and doing some-


thing that he still loves to do, which is to sing the song and get somebody else to sing along who doesn’t know the song. And it was pretty terrible, but you could hear the song if you listened to Bob. FJ: How did you end up releasing that before Dylan did? DC: I introduced those guys to a record producer who was around Hollywood at the time named Jim Dickson. Jim knew enough people to get us into a jazz recording studio down on Third Street [World Pacific Studios]. He would get us in there after they finished their sessions for the day. So some nights we started at 11:00, and some nights we started at 7:30, and some nights we started at 1:00, but we would get in there and it was a place to play. He could also record us. The trick about that was that we had to listen to it back, and that was brutal. FJ: That’ll get your harmonies in line! DC: Yeah, it was brutal. It short-circuited the garage band phase of the Byrds by years, because if you’re just playing in a garage band, you think you sound terrific. There’s nobody there to tell you that you don’t. Your girlfriend says, “ Wow, that was really cool, man.” And there’s nobody there to say, “ Yeah, it was really cool, except it was all completely out of tune, and you turned the one around to the backbeat, and that’s not the root of that chord, and…” We were confronted with that right after we had just played it. FJ: Did the studio owners ever know that this was going on at night? Did they care? DC: I assume they did, and I don’t think they gave a shit. As long as we locked the place up when we left. It started, after a while, to sound better, and then Dickson knew the guy who was managing Bob. Bob came, listened to “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and said, “Oh, man.” You could see it click in his head: he knew right then what he was going to do. He knew what was going to happen. He went out and found the Band and started playing electric music, because he knew at that moment that his stuff could be played that way. And he liked it. I wish I could take credit for it—I could take credit for some of the harmonies—but the credit goes to

Crosby with his 1927 Martin 00-45. “It’s as light as a feather,” Crosby says about this guitar.

McGuinn. He really saw how to do it, and we went out and bought the exact same axes that the Beatles had. I had a Gretsch Tennessean and McGuinn had a Rickenbacker 12-string. The only difference was we used a Fender bass…better. FJ: Where was guitar shopping in those days in Los Angeles? DC: Wallich’s Music City, right at the corner of Sunset and Vine. I still have a Gibson 335 that I bought at Wallich’s Music City brand new. I went through two Gretsches. I had a Gretsch Tennessean that I started off with. You would have died laughing if you could have seen me in front of a mirror… I had no idea how to play an electric guitar. Didn’t know how to hold it, how short should the strap be. It was hysterically funny, now that I think back. I was doing really silly things like that. I would play electric guitar while wearing this cape. FJ: When you moved away from the Gretsch, were you just seeking a different tone? DC: I started out with that Tennessean because

that’s what George [Harrison] was playing. And then I saw a Country Gentleman. I thought that looked so cool. And I had to have a Country Gentleman. I played that for quite a while. The thing that Gretsches have got is that if you roll the volume all the way on and then control the volume during the set from the amp, there’s a certain crunch that they’ve got on the bottom that’s really wonderful. So I did that for a long time, but then I saw that 335 hanging on the wall at Wallich’s Music City and I thought, gee, that’s a pretty fancy-looking guitar. I confess to being somewhat taken with guitars. FJ: Guitars, planes and boats, right? DC: Well, particularly guitars and boats. Guitars and boats have remarkable similarities. They’re both made out of wood. They’re both under tension from wire. They’re both evolved shapes, not invented shapes. they’re both exquisitely beautiful. They both faintly resemble women. And they both transcend the state in the universe of a thing, normally, because they do something. A thing, an object that you make, has


an innate value built into it, depending on what it was made to do. A fencepost doesn’t have a lot of innate value. But a guitar, a guitar can take over your whole life. It can make people cry. It can make people laugh. It can make people feel elevated. It’s a thing that—and it goes way beyond thingness. And a sailboat does that, too. FJ: You’ve really embraced modern guitar makers like Roy McAlister and Kevin Ryan. Do you have the same appreciation for modern sailboats? DC: No. Modern sailboats are made of fiberglass. And fiberglass sucks! FJ: You’re known for playing in alternate tunings. When did that come about? DC: The alternative tunings thing…how that happens is you’re sitting there with a regular guitar and you play a D chord. But that E is on the bottom, right? And that is always in your way. And the A is not the root, so you’re really limited to that, until somebody shows you that you can take that bottom E down to D, and then all of a sudden you got that great-sounding chord. Well, that’s the beginning of a long, slippery slope. I started messing around with tunings somewhere towards the end of the Byrds. And if you sit there long enough, you eventually start playing stuff that doesn’t come out of regular tunings. FJ: Are you writing your lyrics like poetry first, and then writing the music for them? Or does it go both ways? DC: I think with “Guinevere,” I think it happened pretty much the same time. FJ: So was “Guinevere” a byproduct of you stumbling upon the tuning and then it just coming out? That’s amazing. DC: Yeah, well, years later, one of the guys in the Grateful Dead pounded this for me and said, “ You know what you’re doing?” He said, “ Two, three, five, six, seven—one, two, three, five, six, seven—two, three, five, six, seven.” And I thought, “Uh-oh, really?” Nobody owns any of ’em: they aren’t mine, they’re— Joni’s aren’t Joni’s. Anybody can tune a guitar in any way they want and you make up new chords. Probably the greatest person at doing that of all was Michael Hedges. Although I’d say Joni wasn’t far behind. Joni was far ahead of me. FJ: So, there’s a rumor about the end of your stint in the Byrds…did it have anything to do with you trying to get them to play “ Triad”? DC: I don’t know how much that had to do with it at all, truthfully. I think at the time we were young guys who had been butting heads with each other. I was growing very fast. I wanted a bigger piece of the pie. I was writing good songs. In those original groups, you were expected to stay in the role—the rhythm guitar player or harmony singer—and stay there. And that didn’t work really well for Chris, either. He


was supposed to be the bass player—the young-looking, really nice bass player. He wasn’t supposed to sing and play and write songs and stuff. And all of the sudden here comes Chris, and he’s a real talent, and he can write and he can play and he can sing. And if you’ve heard him with Herb Pedersen, you know damn well he can really sing and really write and really play. Well, we didn’t fit into the roles anymore. We all had egos and we had other people stirring the pot from outside—bad managers and stuff. And, you know, I was certainly not an easy case to get along with. And they threw me out of the band and said they would do better without me, which didn’t work out for them, because about six months later, we had Crosby, Stills & Nash at No. 1. FJ: Was that really the amount of time between groups? DC: Pretty much. Maybe a year. It certainly wasn’t longer than a year. And, since then, you know, I have gone back to Roger many times. Now Chris and I are friends. FJ: So, with CS&N, was the process similar to the Byrds? Going into a studio to work on tunes and listening back the whole time? DC: Completely different process. You’ve got to remember, by the time we’d got to CS&N, we’d already done the Byrds, the Hollies and the Buffalo Springfield. We knew. We were now veterans and we knew how to make a record. We knew quite well how to make a record; we had already made hit records. Nash had made more than Stephen and I put together, but we all knew how and we had songs. We could sing you the entire first album, the couch album, anytime, anywhere…just sit down and sing it to you, the whole record. We wanted to be on Apple records, so we went to London for a while. And finally, one day, we got George and Peter Asher to come over, and we sang them the record. And they said, “ Well that’s nice. That’s nice. It’s very good.” We left and we got a phone call a little bit later saying, “I don’t think it’s quite what we want.” And I am willing to bet that they regretted that decision more than any other one they made. I’m friends with Peter now. I still haven’t asked him. But I think they probably regretted that, because we went back and Ahmet Ertegun was totally thrilled with it, very eager to put it out. And in the year of the guitar player, when everybody else was Clapton and Hendrix, we just came out and killed it. FJ: The chemistry between the three of you must have taken a little bit of time for it to jell, or was it just natural from the get-go? DC: I had dug Steven’s playing and singing when he was in Springfield. I thought, “Geez, that kid is really talented.” He had a really great sense of time and a lot of ego, but it was kind of justifiable. He really could do

Crosby still uses his Martin 12-string all of the time; it was also the guitar that his signature model Martin 12-string was based upon. Since there are no extra bridgepin holes to cover up on modern versions, the company obviously decided not to use the oversized pickguard. Of the original guitar, Crosby says, “Dylan offered me a grand for it one time. Stephen offered me an old Bentley for it. And this is back when $1,000 was $1,000. A lot of people have wanted it, because it’s a really goodsounding 12-string.�


“Chicago was where I encountered the Beatles. That pretty much changed everything.”

it. When Springfield came apart, he and I were hanging out together singing songs and goofing off. Cass Elliot was a dear friend. She’s the one who introduced me to Graham. She put him in my path and I brought him to Stephen. We were at Joni Mitchell’s house, whom I had been going with and had brought out and produced her first record. And then she started going with Graham, which I really didn’t blame her for. Graham was certainly the most polished one of the bunch! Stephen and I had just met him and we sang one of Stephen’s songs to him. He said, “ Would you do that again?” And we said, “Sure.” And we did it again. It was “In the Morning When You Rise.” He said, “One more time.” And Stills and I said, “ Why should we sing it three times?” And he said, “Please. Just for me. Sing it three times.” And the third time we sang it, he put the harmony on the top and both of us looked at each other and went, “Oh, shit!” And that was pretty much that. The only thing we wanted to do was get into a recording studio and do that, because we all had songs. I had written “Guinevere” by that time. Nash had “Marrakesh Express” and another song called “Right Between the Eyes”—good songs—and “Lady of the Island,” stuff that really didn’t fit the Hollies. He’d outgrown the Hollies. And Stills was in the process of writing “Judy Blue Eyes” and had “Helplessly Hoping” and “In the Morning When You Rise,” and things like that. It was just as natural as a thing could be. We got some money from Ahmet and went into the studio and made that record. It didn’t even take long. FJ: Were you playing much on that first record or mostly singing? DC: I played on the things that I could play. Nobody else but me could have played “Guinevere.” And I played on “Long Time Gone” and “ Wooden Ships”— the other things that I wrote. FJ: What instrument did you use for all those? DC: D -45s, a D -18, D -28s and that Martin 12-string. FJ: Your solo record, If I Could Only Remember My Name, was groundbreaking. If that was released last week it would be played on college radio stations alongside indie rock bands. DC: I think it was a little too far ahead of its time.


You probably don’t know this, but Rolling Stone, when they reviewed it, they said it was “mediocre.” That’s the word they used. And I think it’s ’cause they didn’t understand it and because it wasn’t like anything else that had come out. But still, to this day, a lot of people like it. FJ: Do you like it? DC: I love it. FJ: And there are all these additional clips floating around on the Internet of the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra. DC: That’s something [Jefferson Airplane’s Paul] Kantner came up with. Here’s how it actually happened. There never really was a Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra. What happened was in the middle of us making Deja Vu in San Francisco, the girl that I was in love with got killed in a car wreck, and it pretty much destroyed me. I did not have anywhere near the equipment to deal with that. I had no experience, nothing, didn’t know how to cope with that at all. So I did two things, one good, one bad. The good thing was I kept going to the studio because it was the only place I felt safe. It’s the only place I knew what to do with myself. And the other thing is I started doing a lot of hard drugs, which was very bad, and, as you know, nearly destroyed me. But at that point, the studio thing was still working really well. So I made If I Could Only Remember My Name. In doing so, I just told my friends, “Come on down. I’m going to be there every night. It’s where I go. It’s what I do.” I had the money to just keep the room. Deja Vu was selling faster than they could print it. Some of those guys [at the session] were truly my friends: Nash still is truly my friend. And [Jerry] Garcia used to come almost every night. And we would fool around. Phil Lesh. Jack Cassidy came a lot. Jorma Kaukonen came a lot. These were all guys that I’d been friends with for a long time—Kantner, Grace [Slick]— these were all good friends and good people and they knew that I was lonely and they knew also that I was slightly nuts at the time, and they would come and we would play music. I had songs. I’d only used two or three of my songs on Deja Vu, so I had a lot. I would sit

The Russian Cossack hat is long gone, but, yes, Crosby still owns the suede fringe vest that was a staple of his more rebellious days.

down with whoever did show up—most often Jerry— and start playing a song. Music was honey to flies to him. If you started playing music, he wanted to play. And we had two-track tape running constantly the entire night. And the minute that something started to happen, the 24-track would start to roll—or maybe it was 12-track back then. I don’t know. It was rolling. And then I would start layering harmonies onto it, and that was a lot of fun and I’m good at it and I just had a blast with it. I’d sing a lot of nonparallel things. And it wound up being really a delight. Now there are a couple moments in there that are transcendent. I’d obviously listened to too much Bach. But the thing at the end—“I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here”—I really don’t know what you call that. It’s certainly not something anybody else has ever done. And it’s just me fooling around with that echo chamber. “ What Are Their Names”…that one was a jam. FJ: Given that it was like that and that you had the tape rolling all the time, how did you know

when to stop? How did you know when the album was done? DC: I didn’t. And that’s when the P.E.R.R.O. part came in, because we were continuing to fool around with “The Mountain Song” and there were a number of other pieces of music that we were hoping to develop into something. And it’s not like Jerry didn’t have a lot of music, too. But once we had that album, once it started to take form, then I finally just checked out of the room, and that was the end of that. But in the meantime, there were a lot of tapes that were attempts at this and attempts at that and almosts of this and almosts of that. Paul was getting unhappy with Jefferson Airplane, so he started calling it Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra. And I think he hoped that there actually would be a Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra. But it lived in his mind. And once I had that record put together, I had just put it out. Then the next thing that I did was start working with Nash on the first of now many Crosby & Nash albums. FJ: The year that the solo album came out, Four Way


Street came out too, right? It was a crazy year. Was that right? DC: Four Way Street was a hair later. Roughly around the same… I didn’t have a lot to do with Four Way Street. I just sang some stuff on it and let them put it together. FJ: You and Nash go so far back. Do you guys talk every day? DC: Mostly. He’s a good man and he’s sort of a renaissance man. He’s a guy who came out of one of the toughest, grittiest industrial cities in all of northern Europe, Manchester, who said to himself, “ You know, I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not going to wind up working in that factory. That’s not it. I’m going to play my way out of here.” And he did. Now look at what he’s made of himself. He’s a world-class authority on photography and art. He knows more about the early stages of photography than almost anyone I know. He broke into digital printing of photography so early and so far and so deeply that his printer is now in the Smithsonian. This is a guy who seriously affected how you make photographs. And he’s a good human being. FJ: And you’re about to go to Europe together? DC: Going to Europe with Nash. Big, big fun. Of all the different entities— CSN&Y, CS&N, Crosby Nash— I think Crosby Nash is probably the most fun. We look at things very similarly. And he’s a generous man. He gives to the music pretty wholeheartedly and he’s not competitive. There’s two kinds of ways to approach music and one is to give to it and try and create something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts…where magic happens. And the other is to try to impress and also particularly aggrandize yourself. And Nash is the first guy. He’s a joy. FJ: Do you talk to Neil Young much? DC: I talk to Neil fairly often actually. I call him up and talk to him. We go back and forth about, “ Well, you shouldn’t have done this,” or, “ You shouldn’t have done that.” All of us do. The four of us do. There’s never been a time when some of us haven’t been happy about someone else’s choice about one thing or another. FJ: And you still talk to Stills regularly? DC: All the time. I like Stephen. I’ve got to tell you, two nights ago at the Beacon [Theater in New York], Stills was just terrific. Everything you could ask of him, he delivered. He was really good. FJ: Who do you talk about guitars with the most? DC: I talk guitars with Jackson [Browne]. I talk guitars a lot with a young guitar player named Marcus Eaton. He’s a guitar nut and an incredible player. I talk guitars with James [Taylor]. I talk guitars with a lot of people, truthfully. Nash, of course, was much smarter than I was about buying guitars. I bought guitars that sound great. I would hear a guitar and think, “Oh my God, that thing


sounds like a bell,” and buy it. Nash would go out and, well, last night on stage he was playing Duane Allman’s guitar! FJ: He took the collectability into account? DC: Yeah, he’s got Johnny Cash’s guitar, he’s got Duane’s guitar. He’s got guitars, with a capital G. FJ: I see that you own guitars by luthiers Roy McAlister and James Olson. Are there any other builders you admire? DC: Martin. When it all comes back down to it, you have to go back to Martin and look at them and say what a phenomenon they are. Because to this day, Martin guitars will build you, can build you and does build you, every day, a guitar that you just can’t believe. Admittedly, it comes off an assembly line. But the guys on that assembly line are the best guys in the world. There are only a handful of guys who can equal them. FJ: What guitar are you most bummed you sold? DC: A 1939 Herringbone that I had that I traded for drugs. I’ll regret that the rest of my life. FJ: Do you know where it ended up? DC: No. These things happen, man. You make mistakes in life. fj

58957 T O N Y R I C E A N D H I S H O LY G RA I L M A R T I N D -28

By Art Dudley

bers. (It was a point of some pride that C.F. Martin & Co. had been making fretted instruments for just more than a century—and their total production now numbered in the tens of thousands.) Within the hour, the neck block for the last guitar of the batch was completed: D -28 58957 Later that day, the neck block was glued and clamped to a pair of bent rosewood sides, which had been selected from the many such pieces drying in the attic of Martin’s North Street factory. The rosewood sides had been shaped on a hot bending iron, using one of the cleanest templates in the shop as a reference. The 14-fret dreadnoughts were among the newest additions to the standard Martin line, having been added to the catalog the year before. Strips of kerfed lining were glued to the inner edges of the rims. Meanwhile, a tree-size pinwheel of clamping jigs—which, according to company lore, began life as a railroad switch before Frank Henry Martin spotted it 30 years earlier and adapted it to a higher calling— held the two-piece top and back that would be trimmed, braced and voiced with painstaking care, then glued to the rims. The body was bound and decoineteen thirty-five was rated with imported herringbone purfling, which was only three weeks old but it already looked to be one of the snowiest years on record. A winter storm had come carefully taped to hold it in place, and set aside for the glue to dry. down from Canada, dumping a foot of snow on the Elsewhere in the two-story factory, work was started Northeast before moving out to sea a few days later. By on other components. Necks were machined accordJanuary 23, some businesses in eastern Pennsylvania ing to model—style 28 necks had diamond-shaped remained closed—but not the C.F. Martin Guitar Comdarts or volutes, style 18 necks didn’t, and so forth— pany, where a workforce of just more than 30 men and stacked on carts accordingly. Eventually, a Martin arrived for their normal shift. It was business as usual employee who was trained as a fitter selected one of for the mostly rural folk of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. those roughed-out style 28 dreadnought necks and New sales orders had arrived, and while the heating mated its dovetail precisely to the body that was built system creaked back to life and the sounds of power around the 58957 neck block, after which he penciled tools began to fill the otherwise quiet workspace, Martin’s shop foreman, John Deichman, directed his atten- the same serial number underneath its heel. The fitter pressed a steel T-bar—actually a length of sled-blade tion toward a new assignment: initiating work on a stock that might otherwise have become part of an batch of 12 rosewood-bodied dreadnought guitars. American Flyer—into the portion of the neck that was The first step was at once the simplest and the most slotted to accept it, then glued on the slotted momentous. Mahogany neck blocks had already been fingerboard. cut on the table saw and doveNext, a shaper clamped the tailed on the shaper table, and ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN neck, fingerboard side down, now they were brought to a FRETBOARD JOURNAL #5 onto a wooden fixture and carved workstation where a set of metal it: first with a drawknife, then hand stamps was kept: individwith rough and fine rasps and ual tools for the numerals 0 finally with files and sandpaper. through 9, plus a dash and a few A whittling knife and a very sharp uppercase letters. Working freeparing knife were used to cut the hand, the stamp man devoted diamond. The shaping was all one line to the model designadone using small metal temtions and then moved down to plates. The first, rough template the next line for the serial num-

N 48

had the width of the neck at the first and 10th frets; after arriving at those dimensions, the shaper blended the neck profile carefully between the two points. Then he used other templates to create the proper heel-cap shape, the inside curvature of the neck heel, the final shape and thickness of the headstock and so forth. In all, it took about a half an hour to shape the neck and another 15 minutes to whittle the diamond. The neck was sanded, and the fingerboard was fretted. The mahogany was filled and stained, as were the body’s Brazilian rosewood back and sides, followed by a sealer coat. Lacquering followed, along with still more fine sanding, then more lacquering and some light sanding. The neck was glued to the body, and the ebony bridge was glued down after that. Finally, a little more than two months after the shop order was written and the neck block was stamped, 58957 was strung, packed in a case and shipped out. From there, its story is lost to us—for a while.


ntrigue, discord, rumor and even a bit of fallacy seem intertwined in the history of any great musical instrument, and so it goes with 58957, a guitar whose place in the history of American music is now, quite literally, the stuff of legend. Ask a hundred people about this one Martin guitar and you’ll get a hundred stories. One luthier claims he replaced its top and neck about 40 years ago. A merchant whose wellknown shop has often been associated with the guitar now denies having sold it—or even having seen it. A musician who claims to have played 58957 says it’s an unusually quiet guitar, while another calls it a “hoss.” Here’s what we know for sure: In 1959, the guitar was purchased from a Los Angeles music store by the young bluegrass musicians Roland and Clarence White, who were out shopping for instruments with their bandmate, Billy Ray Lathum. The boys’ father, Eric White Sr., had taken them along on earlier such trips, during which he’d bought other prewar her-


ringbones, usually for no more than $70 each, always with the intention of fixing them up and selling them for a modest profit. (The Whites sold one such Martin to John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, who kept it for a number of years.) But this time out, 15-year-old Clarence wanted a D -28 he could call his own. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at these things—Roland and Clarence didn’t have much money that day and didn’t find a single D -28 they could afford at any of the dozen or so pawn shops they frequented. But there in the music store, propped in a corner alongside other pending repair jobs, was 58957. For the princely sum of $25, they bought the 1935 Martin herringbone as is. The White brothers took the unstrung guitar home, hoping their father could bring it back to life, but the minute he cast an eye on the ratty-looking D -28, the elder White declared it a hopeless cause. Some anonymous whittler had carved the poor thing’s soundhole away to the centermost rosette rings, leaving an opening almost 4 5/8" in diameter. Its original fingerboard was missing entirely, temporarily replaced with an ebony board that was held to the neck with tape. The pickguard was peeling away from the top, and it took the boys only a short time to coax it the rest of the way off. The next day, Roland and Clarence brought their Martin to luthier Milt Owen, who would eventually gain fame as Hollywood’s “guru of guitar repair” for his work at Barney Kessel’s shop. Owen’s prognosis was more encouraging than that of the boys’ father. Nothing could be done about the soundhole, of course, but he rooted through his parts bin and came up with a fingerboard that fit well enough: a white, plastic-bound Gretsch blank with 22 frets, the spacing of which was based on a scale almost the same as that of a Martin dreadnought. The boys were dismayed to hear that the repair would cost as much as they’d paid for the guitar itself, but they’d come too far to turn back. A week later, they retrieved their D -28, now sporting a set of light-gauge strings and sounding very much as it should. Before they left, Owen cautioned the young pickers against using heavy-gauge strings, lest they “belly it up” and render the guitar unplayable—which is what they did anyway, of course. Here’s something else we know for sure: During the years when he owned and used the now-modified Martin D -28, Clarence White changed the course of bluegrass guitar. There were other guitars in the White family’s arsenal of instruments, such as the 1952 Martin D -18 that dad bought new from a Los Angeles piano store, where it had languished for almost three years. But in spite of its motley appearance—and in spite of its steadily rising string height—the herringbone was Clarence’s and, as such, it became linked in the minds of many


with a caliber of playing that comes around only once in a generation, if that. It was in 1960 when a 9-year-old bluegrass performer named Tony Rice—a recent transplant to Southern California and a guitarist in a family band, just like Clarence White—spotted the guitar backstage at a music show that was being broadcast over a local radio station. “It was the first time I’d appeared anywhere,” Rice recalls. “I saw that old D -28, and it didn’t have a name on the headstock, so I asked, ‘ What kind of a guitar is that?’ and Clarence said, ‘It’s a Martin.’ I’d never seen one like that. I thought all dreadnoughts were D -18s! So I asked, ‘Is that a D -18?’ He said, ‘No, that’s a D -28.’ I’d never heard of a D -28. The only thing I knew was that it looked like hell but it sounded like a million bucks to a 9-year-old kid!” Clarence White let the younger boy play the herringbone for as long as he wished. “The action was so high it was almost impossible,” Rice says. There were no obvious portents, but some connection may have been forged on that day. The White brothers and their colleagues carried on with their musical endeavors, first as the Country Boys, later as the Kentucky Colonels. Clarence’s playing with these bands was revolutionary and it set his herringbone on its way to becoming the Holy Grail of bluegrass guitars. Ironically, as Clarence White’s reputation grew, he used the D -28 less and less often because of his growing frustration with its declining playability. The D -28’s sad condition may have led to the dumbest of all dumb-kid stunts: the day Clarence leaned the guitar against a tree outside his home and shot it with a pellet gun. The guitar bears the scar to this day. In fact, the herringbone was rarely out of danger. After a Kentucky Colonels gig in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Clarence accidentally ran over both of his Martins while at the wheel of the group’s van. The D -18 was much worse off than the D -28—which suffered only a side crack or two—and since the Colonels were on their way to Ann Arbor, Michigan, they brought both guitars to repairman extraordinaire Herb David, who worked day and night to put them back into service. (According to Roland White, Clarence liked the sound of the D -18 better after the mishap: “He said it had more sustain!”) Finally, in 1965, guitarist and guitar parted company. There weren’t enough paying gigs for bluegrass bands in Southern California, and Clarence didn’t want to move, partly because he’d just gotten married and partly because of new opportunities for session players—at least session players who had electric guitars. In order to raise enough cash for a Fender Telecaster (and, hopefully, a honeymoon), Clarence used the herringbone as collateral for a loan from an

acquaintance named Joe Miller. He and the guitar would never be reunited.


y the time of Clarence White’s death in 1973, Tony Rice had begun to find his own voice as a guitarist. He worked for three years as Dan Crary’s replacement in the Bluegrass Alliance, then joined J.D. Crowe’s influential New South. It was while playing in Crowe’s band that Rice had his first chance to work alongside a former member of the Kentucky Colonels, fiddler (and bassist) Bobby Slone. One day in 1975, Rice and Slone got to talking about Clarence White. “Bobby told me the story of why Clarence had given the herringbone up to Joe Miller,” Rice remembers. “And he started telling me more and more about Joe Miller and who he was. He used to play football for UCLA . His family owned a chain of liquor stores in Pasadena….

“And I began to think: I’d never met the guy, but Joe Miller just might be willing to let this thing go. Here’s where it gets really, really weird: I’m living in Kentucky at the time and I get on the phone and I call information for Pasadena, California, for a listing for Miller’s Liquor. And they go, ‘ Yeah, we got about 20 of ‘em. Which one you want?’” Rice rolls his eyes and laughs ruefully at the memory. “I said, ‘Give me the first one on there.’ So I called that first number and I said, ‘I’m looking for Joe Miller.’ The guy said, ‘No, Joe ain’t here now—but he’ll be back in about two hours.’ I called back and I talked to him. I said, ‘Joe, this is Tony Rice… Do you know who I am?’ He said that he did. I asked him if he had Clarence’s guitar, and he said, ‘ Yes, I sure do. It’s been under my bed for nine years. Hasn’t been touched.’ I said, ‘ Would you consider getting rid of it?’ He said, ‘ Yeah—to you, I would.’ “This was in ’75,” Rice continues. “So here I’m thinking, Joe Miller knows what he’s got. I’m going to have to go down to a bank and talk a banker into loan-


ing me some enormous amount of money, thousands and thousands, to get this guitar.” Sure enough, its owner insisted on having the Martin appraised by a professional before he’d name his price. Rice agreed to the plan, and the two men arranged to speak on the phone the next day. That afternoon, Miller brought the Martin to a nearby violin shop, which, as it turned out, was also the last place Clarence had it worked on. The man at the violin shop suggested that it was worth less than one might have expected, given its present state. According to Rice, “Joe Miller called back and said, ‘I’ll take five or six hundred bucks for it.’ I said, ‘ Tell you what: I’ll split the difference. I’ll give you 550.’ He said, ‘ You’ve got it.’ The next day I was on a plane bound for L . A .” A luthier friend let Rice borrow his new Mark Leaf case to carry the guitar back, and the transaction took place at LAX airport. “I kept waiting to wake up,” Rice says with a smile. “For days I was thinking, ‘It couldn’t possibly have been this easy.’” Buying the legendary herringbone proved easier than playing it, at least at first. “It had action like a Dobro,” Rice laughs. “Although, I did a session the day I got it. It was just a coincidence. [David] Grisman was in L . A . doing a session, playing on James Taylor’s Gorilla album, on the day when I got the guitar. So Grisman came to the airport and got me and took me over to the studio. I had just picked the guitar up an hour ago! “I opened the case and started fooling around with it, even though the action was like that,” Rice says, spreading his thumb and forefinger a half an inch apart. “And Kate and Anna McGarrigle were there, doing this album for Warner Bros. I was out in the hall of the studio, tinkering around, just diggin’ on the tone. But Grisman and the producer came out to hear me tinkerin’ around with it, and said, ‘Hey, man, we’ve got to have you on this stuff! We’ve got to have you play on a couple of these tracks!’ And I thought, ‘ Well, OK, but this is the only instrument I’ve got.’ Then Grisman chimed in, ‘Hey, man, it worked for Clarence. Get in there and do it!’” As far as anyone knows, 58957’s neck has been removed only once: by luthier Randy Wood, who did a reset soon after Tony Rice bought the guitar. As sometimes happens, the action began to creep back up within a year or two of the reset—by which time Rice was living in California and working with David Grisman. Another member of the Quintet, violinist Darol Anger, introduced Rice to Richard Hoover, Anger’s erstwhile partner (along with David Morse) in a mandolin-building venture. When he was still working as a luthier, Anger had reinforced the worn-out maple bridge plate on Rice’s herringbone with a thin ebony overlay that remains in place to this day. Among other things, Hoover performed what Rice refers to as a “tweak reset.”


“ Today, I wouldn’t dream of doing that without removing the neck,” Hoover says. “But at the time I did it, the body of knowledge was much more limited. In fact, at that time, there were very few people who even understood the problem, let alone how to fix it. Back then, Martin was still taking the frets out, planing the fingerboard, shaving the bridge… trying to create the geometry to get proper playability. And what I did was something I learned from violin building. The technique was called slipping the back, wherein the binding was pulled back a bit, the back was separated from the neck block and then, with a harness, you pulled the neck into the proper angle—then reglued the back onto the block, trimmed the excess and put the binding back on. “It’s horrifying to think about this now, on such a priceless guitar,” Hoover adds with a laugh. “But at the time, it wasn’t a priceless guitar: It was a really stinky, modified old Martin! It hadn’t gained its fame-osity yet!” In 1976, Richard Hoover co-founded the Santa Cruz Guitar Company and went on to create various incarnations of Tony Rice’s other famous guitar. (A brand new custom dreadnought is in the works, using wood from the same reserve that was tapped for the SCGC guitar Rice has used for the past seven years.) Prior to that, Hoover performed a few other repairs on 58957. “ We replaced the nut, which I think is still there,” he recalls, “and there was a crack in the lower bout, on the right-hand side as you face the guitar, that I fixed for him. And we did a partial refret—which also is rarely done nowadays—and refretted, probably, the first five to seven frets.” Hoover adds that they installed the frets using the traditional hammer-in method. “A lot of my approach to repair work, even at that time, came from my training in art and museum restoration: Don’t do anything that can’t be redone later with better technology. So it’s unlikely that we would use any glue.”


n all, some of the best names in lutherie and acoustic music have been associated with the famous D -28. The bridge pins, modeled after Clarence White’s own, were made by builder Ervin Somogyi. When a new bridge was needed, the late Mike Longworth of C.F. Martin hand-selected a new old-stock blank, and the famed luthier and author Hideo Kamimoto installed it—and did a literally seamless job of filling the existing saddle slot with ebony, then cutting a new one that allowed more precise intonation. Friend and fellow musician Todd Phillips added black position markers to the white binding on the bass side of the fretboard. (Interestingly, he followed the old-time

convention of putting a dot at the 10th fret, rather than the ninth.) Harry Sparks of Cincinnati made one of the most important contributions of all, howsoever quietly. In March of 1993, Tony and Pam Rice were living in Crystal River, Florida—not just near the water but right at the water’s edge—when a tropical storm slammed into the Gulf Coast. They were awakened in the middle of the night by emergency personnel who insisted they evacuate immediately, without so much as a moment to gather up personal belongings. When the sun rose a few hours later, Rice begged a neighbor to retrieve the Martin from his flooded home. That memory is enough to change the tone of the conversation: “ Yeah. Crystal River, Florida. It was under water for at least an hour and a half, totally submerged. More like two hours. In the case. But the case wasn’t waterproof. So it was totally saturated. And it was really f ***ed up. And it didn’t sound like itself for five years, at least.

“Harry Sparks came down from Cincinnati and took it under his wing. Slowly dried it out. You couldn’t just, like, stick it in an oven; you had to slowly dry it out or you’d run the risk of cracks—which did happen anyway. It cracked in several places on the back. Most of the bracing in it came loose—the back bracing.” Rice’s mood brightens, however, when he recalls the services of luthier and friend Snuffy Smith, who lives about 45 minutes away from him in King, North Carolina. “I knew there wasn’t a damn thing that was happening to the D -28 that couldn’t be fixed,” Rice says. “And then, a few years ago, Snuffy reglued all the internal back bracing and a couple of top braces.” Snuffy Smith, for his part, remembers how grateful Rice was to have the herringbone restored to its former glory. “He called me up after the fact,” Smith says, “and said he couldn’t play it in the basement any more: He was afraid it would crack the foundation down there! Regluing the braces really helped the volume of it.”


Clarence leaned the guitar against a tree outside his home and shot it with a pellet gun.

In the 10 years or so that Snuffy Smith has looked after the D -28, he’s completed a variety of jobs on it. He’s done a couple of fret jobs, which he glues in for stability. He leaves the fret slots sufficiently narrow so that the use of oversize fret tangs in select portions of the neck can still compress the wood enough to add back bow where desired. Smith has also reshaped Kamimoto’s original bone saddle. The most nerve-wracking job of all came fairly recently, when Smith had to replace one of the original top braces. “There was a brace that had been cut almost in two,” he says, “at the very front of the soundhole, right under the fingerboard there. Long ago, someone put a pickup there or something, and the brace had caved in. And Tony said, ‘I’ve looked at this for 25 years and always griped about it....’ “Dick Boak at Martin sent me three braces that I could choose from. They were all old, and Tony and I picked out one that was originally going to go into a ’41 D -18. I took and chipped one little piece of the ribbon out on one side and I was able to get the old brace out that way. I lowered it on that side and I actually pulled it out of the other side where the ribbon is. “I did it that way and got the old one out, trimmed the duplicate and left just a little bit extra in it for the bow. And when I put it back in, I was able to slide one end into the hole that it came out of and I was able to slide it up to where I’d taken that chip out.” At this, Smith laughs and sighs, more or less at the same time. “I glued it there, then I glued the chip back in, and… well, I lucked out and got the chip back in just exactly like it came out! You can’t tell it! Tony sat here for an hour with a mirror and said, ‘ You could never get that out! How’d you do it?’ “Once in a while you do something like that that comes out real nice.” Rice himself enjoys pointing out another of Snuffy Smith’s recent triumphs. If you look carefully, the tuning machine for the sixth string looks different from the others, suggesting that it was replaced at one point. Also, the finish surrounding the third string tuner indicates that it was replaced as well. “The oddball one, Snuffy and I put together as a quick fix,


about four or five months ago,” Rice says. “The story with the machines is that they’re original, except for one that was on there when Clarence had it, which was a Kluson—he had a closed-back Kluson as the third string gear. “After I got the guitar, it was still on there, and Frank Ford, out in Palo Alto, provided me a third string tuner he found as a replacement that was identical to the original. So Frank Ford put the third on. Then, about four or five months ago, the sixth string tuner—the low E—finally gave out. The worm gear and the pinion were just stripped out. Snuffy found an old Grover handle and worm gear assembly, so he constructed a new tuning gear out of parts. It kinda works!” For his part, Snuffy Smith says that the work is never really done on a guitar such as this one: “ We’re eternally doing something; it’s almost a never-ending thing…. Fortunately, Tony has had some good people work on it. That makes it a lot easier for me.” The next project? Rice points to the tortoiseshell-colored pickguard that a fan gave him during a 1985 tour of Japan. It’s remarkably beautiful; its lines suggest movement, even when the guitar is perfectly still. “I’m going to have it taken off and re-put on,” he says. “The guy that put it on used to work for Martin. I was in Florida at the time. He did a fairly good job, but it could be better. That pickguard needs to be taken off, thinned down and put back on.” Then Rice uses the thumb and middle finger of one hand to span the nut: “The peghead nut width, the width of the neck right here, is probably going to be changed, and reasonably soon. I’m going to have Snuffy take the binding off the next time it’s refretted, widen it with a couple of microstrips of ebony—probably about a 32nd of an inch—and put the binding back on before he puts the frets in.” After that, Rice hands the guitar to me: “ Why don’t you pick on this for a while?” My first response to actually holding 58957 is one of surprise: How could a rosewood-bodied guitar weigh so little? My second is a brief flash of alarm—something’s come loose!—until I remember an article I’d read somewhere.

The back of the headstock shows the mismatched and reassembled tuning machines.

“ Tony, is that the rattlesnake rattle I’m hearing?” “ Yeah,” he replies. “There should be two of ‘em in there.” Imagine a car where the connection between the pedal under your foot and the motor under the hood is a short, straight piece of steel. It’s not that the thing goes fast all of the time—although there’s no mistaking that it has tremendous power in reserve—but rather that it responds instantly to your imagination’s every extreme. Ever the motoring enthusiast, Rice echoes my unspoken thoughts from the next room: “It’s probably like playin’ with a Ferrari, right after driving a few Volkswagens!” he offers with a chuckle. “It’s almost like it plays itself.” Hell, yeah! A number of people who’ve heard it up close have described the herringbone’s unusually good balance— every note in its range has equal prominence and projection. That’s true, but there’s more to it than that. With every chord or string of notes, you’re not thinking about bass or treble. It’s simply impossible to keep

from being impressed, almost overwhelmed, by the rich, complex and altogether stunning tone that comes from the depths of that box.


or the most part, every Martin dreadnought is impressive in some way. But 58957 is on another plane. It’s not the loudest D -28 around—although it does have a wider dynamic range than most—nor does it have the deepest of lows or the highest of highs, but it is the most expressive. It sings with a voice that simply can’t be ignored. It’s also very playable in its present state. To satisfy my inner dweeb, and with Rice’s approval, I took a few measurements—noting a string height of just a shade over 6/64" for the low E, measured at the 12th fret, and just over 4/64" on the high E. The neck width at the nut is only 1 5/8", with the string slots cut surprisingly low, especially on the treble side. (It’s a testament to


Snuffy Smith’s setup work that the guitar simply does not buzz—unless you really go nuts on it.) Measured from the center of the sixth-string bridge pin to that of the first, the string spread is exactly 2 1/8"—perfect for a player like Tony Rice, whose hands aren’t the least bit oversized. Hideo Kamimoto’s bridge is sized precisely to Martin specs, although its front-edge height is just a shade lower than some, at 19/64". Another myth has it that the herringbone’s body has slightly less depth than average, but that’s not so; if anything, it’s a tad deeper than average, at both the neck block and the end block. I ask Tony Rice, “Have you ever heard a flattop guitar that comes close to this one?” He takes a moment to reflect. “ Yes,” he says, “there’s a guitar that comes very close: [Norman] Blake’s ’34. He sold it years ago to [well-known Japanese instrument collector] Mac Yasuda.” Another long pause: “ Yeah, to answer the question, there’s a couple of them. The second-favorite D -28 I’ve ever played was Blake’s ’34. And probably the third was Eric Thompson’s herringbone. It’s either a ’40 or a ’41. Those are the two that come to mind.” Rice takes the herringbone back and says, rather softly, “It’s still here.” “I can’t play it now,” he says. “I ain’t even warmed up yet!” But he plays anyway—with the fluidity of technique and imagination that other pickers have tried to duplicate for 30 years. He plays a phrase that spans the seventh through 12th frets: “Up here is where this guitar really sings,” he offers, before launching a series of chords and lines that morph into “Summertime.” Ten minutes later, 58957 is back in its pretty new carbon-fiber case, the plain leather strap still attached to the pegs and laid out over the strings. Rice sighs deeply before closing the lid: “It’s a beautiful instrument. I never pick it up but that I don’t think that. It’s got to be the Holy Grail.” fj



By Steve Krieger



The first guitar made with Brazilian I acquired was a 1964 Martin D -28, which I got at auction in 2005. I was struck by the visual beauty of the old wood but confounded by the guitar’s less-than-stellar sound. I learned that my D -28 had fairly heavy bracing when compared to the guitars made in the 1930s, during the so-called “Golden Age” of American acoustic-guitar building, and that was why it didn’t have the resonant, ringing tone I wanted. The top of my D -28 was already damaged when I got it, and it dawned on me that I could have a luthier re-top the guitar—but using the Golden Age building techniques that now fascinated me. At this point, I turned to Martin; other than a phone contact with John Greven and a brief meeting with Greven and Kim Walker at the Newport Guitar Show, I’d had little direct contact with specialized guitar makers and restoration experts who I might otherwise have considered for the project. I also felt, candidly, that a restoration by Martin could result in a more valuable guitar when and if my heirs decide to sell it (since I never will). Initial phone interaction with Martin headquarters was pleasant and informative, but I was concerned that I might be destroying a vintage classic. As luck would have it, I put that worry to rest when Kim Walker was kind enough to invite me—guitar in hand—to his home and shop in North Stonington, Connecticut. His opinion was that it had already been fter playing guitar for refinished some years ago, and it showed signs of a great many years, a fair chunk of that professionally, some damage as well. Kim said that no luthier worth I shoved my Fender Stratocaster and Martin D -35 his salt would consider re-topping an original, undamunder the bed in the late 1970s. However, about five aged Martin from the ‘50s or earlier; however, in this years ago, several factors combined to rekindle my case, especially given the earlier refinish and the interest in guitars—particularly the realization that mediocre sound quality, he felt that my plan was reamy old Strat was made in 1954 and was now a very sonable and ethically acceptable. valuable instrument. Martin re-topped my D -28 with the scalloped bracIt got me thinking about the possibility of converting and herringbone trim of a circa-1937 model. When ing a portion of my retirement fund into the kind of it was completed, I thought the guitar looked and appreciating assets that I could hold and admire and sounded great. But, in the interim, I discovered that I play. (That’s right, my guitars are investments; that’s preferred the sound and feel of the smaller 000 over my story, and I’m sticking to it.) I decided to accumuthat of the dreadnought. late only acoustic guitars in the hope that, with a I had enjoyed the process of working with Martin so narrow focus, I would stand a chance of learning much that I began to search for a late-‘60s 000-28 that enough to know what I was doing. they could re-top. Although comparatively few 000This germ of an idea led to my not-so-gradual trans28s were constructed in the midformation into a vintage-guitar dle-to-late 1960s, those guitars junkie. As I descended the depths ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN would have likely been built at of vintage-guitar lore, I quickly FRETBOARD JOURNAL #15 the very end of the original Brabecame aware that Brazilian zilian rosewood supply. Eventurosewood was the wood of choice ally, a scruffy-looking 000-28 for fine acoustics; these days, it’s with an extra-large pickguard not only in short supply, but turned up on eBay. Although the dramatically inferior to the wood serial number dated it to 1970, used by Martin and other buildthe photos sure made it look like ers until the end of the 1960s. It old-growth Brazilian. Of course, seemed to me that I should own this flew in the face of the presome guitars made with this stuff.



vailing wisdom, which says that Martin stopped using Brazilian rosewood in 1969. I decided to take a chance on the 000. When it arrived, I showed it to TJ Thompson, who had worked on another guitar of mine and knows more about vintage Martins than anyone I know. He said my new 000 was certainly made of Brazilian and guessed that the guitar must have been built with remaining stock. The incipient knots seen in each bookmatched half of the lower bout might have made the set marginally less desirable in earlier days, he said, but in 1970 it didn’t seem as bad. By today’s standards, it’s a wonderful set of wood. So I was with a 000-28. It had a damaged top, a replaced bridge and a weird pickguard, along with the big, fat bridge plate and massive bracing typical of late-‘60s and early-‘70s Martins; it sounded bland, at best. But it was made with a great set of old-growth Brazilian rosewood, and I had a perfect candidate for another visit to Martin’s repair shop.


artin was and remains a family business– not simply in that the Martin family owns and operates the company, but also because a high percentage of the employees are local residents and have multiple family members working at the factory. Moreover, in the tradition of the European guild craftsmen, many Martin employees in key construction and repair positions have had techniques and traditions passed down from father to son. (Ironically, it has been written that a spat with the German guilds was a significant factor in Christian Frederick Martin’s decision to move the company to the U.S. in 1833.) The Martin repair department has changed in character several times during the last 40 or 50 years. For a long time, repairs were simply redirected to the appropriate spot in the assembly line. Periodically, a separate division would emerge, but the company would often revert to assembly-staff interface. One downside of this practice was that it disrupted the orderly flow of guitar building. It also forced Martin to push most of



its warranty work and customer-request repair to local authorized warranty repairmen, leaving the company only to deal with repairs of manufacturing errors before the guitars left the factory. The current iteration of the repair department has been in place since the early 1990s. One of several subsets in the factory, the repair department built the first run of the Authentic line, a D -18 with all specs and construction techniques modeled after an actual 1937 dreadnought. (Following the lead of repair, the Custom Shop continues to produce the D -18A , and the more recent D -28A and 000-18A models, to rave reviews.) Recently, under Carmen Cortez Jr., head of Martin’s customer service, the repair department has dramatically expanded the volume of warranty and customer work performed in house and has also begun restoring a limited number of vintage Martins—good news for my “customer request” projects. Cortez’s arrival at Martin in 1993 coincided with the now-famous Clapton Unplugged MTV performance, when almost immediately the demand for Martin gui-

tars increased exponentially. He lived in the Nazareth area and was working as a “coiler” in the string department while pursuing a degree in architecture, and he suddenly identified a far greater growth potential with Martin. Cortez’s upward trajectory took him from coiling strings to winding them, then to finish, lacquer and sanding, and finally to finish inspection before he landed in his current position. (Carmen’s wife, Tracey, is now manager of stringing and final inspection.) Cortez and Lon Werner, manager of the repair department, were my contacts from the inception of the project. Werner’s badge reads, “BUZZ,” a nickname given to him by Dick Boak for his ability to find and eliminate buzzing frets. Werner has spent more than 41 years at Martin; after high school, he worked for a printing company for a year or so and then came to Martin in 1967—taking a pay cut from $2 to $1.80. He started out shaping and fine-tuning bridge saddles, and in the ‘80s, he moved through fretting


Gilded Splinters Remembering the tricks of the “Golden Age"

What constitutes the Golden Age of guitar building is the subject of great debate among devotees, but it is generally agreed that the seeds were planted when acoustic guitars began to be braced for steel strings in the early 1920s. During this time, guitar builders still had virtually unfettered access to the finest wood in the world, and the creation of a guitar remained largely a hands-on job, despite the ramp up in production numbers. This debate is nuanced by a slew of other factors: bracing design (scalloped, tapered or heavy), bridge-plate size and material (ranging from small, tucked maple to massive rosewood) and limitations on materials created by wartime shortages (tuners with plastic buttons and without bushings, ebony truss rods and the like). While almost everyone agrees that the Golden Age began in the mid-1920s, the end of the era is a matter of contention. For some, it was the middle of 1939, when Martin’s 14-fret guitar necks went from 1 ¾” at the nut to 1 11/16” (thus the importance of the “prewar” designation). Others say it ended in early 1945, when Martin’s braces were no longer scalloped, and still others contend it was 1946, when Martin began using Sitka spruce instead of Adirondack spruce for the tops. Certain elements of Golden Age building became important factors in the rebirth of my 000-28. In particular, we were drawn to the use of Adirondack (or red) spruce for the top and scalloped bracing with a small, tucked maple bridge plate. This combination of wood and bracing style was ended in late 1944, but, thanks to my request, it was revived by the repair department for this special project.


and inlays to quality control. (He was also one of 21 who crossed the lines of the Cement Workers Union strike of 1978-1979.) Werner was pegged to manage the string division, which moved to Mexico nearly 20 years ago with very few workers, and now boasts more than 300 employees. (He was also once let go by a Martin manager who’s no longer with the company, before Boak brought him back to artist relations.) Lon, Carmen and I had already established a fine working relationship on the D -28. The two of them reviewed my “game plan” and consulted with Milt Hess Jr. and Dave Strunk early in the planning process. Hess has worked at Martin since 1965 and moved to repair in 1983. His father started at the company in 1952 and stayed 40 years; both of his sons, a brother and a daughter-in-law have also found employment at Martin. Strunk, known as the “utility infielder” of the repair department, is the son of two Martin employees. He came to Martin out of high school in 1990. Add in Dave Doll, who does setup and final inspection for the repair department, and you have a rather formidable team. Together, they helped make all the critical decisions. Cortez went above and beyond, even photographing the whole process, but in truth, everyone in the repair department was actively involved in turning our “lump of clay” into a beautiful, reborn guitar. The game plan called for the top to be removed and replaced with an Adirondack spruce top, using 1/4" Adirondack scalloped braces (without a “popsicle” brace) and hide glue throughout. The peghead would be plugged and re-drilled to take classic butterbean tuners, and Hess volunteered to delicately re-sculpt the peghead into a more rectangular shape. When the neck was removed, we discovered that the fingerboard had already been cut at the 14th fret, so a new fingerboard was added to the plan. With the top and back opened up, it made sense to clean and prep everything and refinish the entire guitar. One struggle was deciding whether to leave the fabulous new top clean or fulfill a dream of mine by creating a one-of-a-kind sunburst. The latter notion won out, and I solicited examples of vintage sunbursts from collectors on the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum. Ultimately, I sent about 20 examples to share with Bryan Repsher, the Martin “spraymaster,” who created a unique and beautiful sunburst. When I eventually picked up the completed guitar, it was bittersweet. I’ll miss the regular back and forth with the group (until the next project), but, well, just look at it! And it sounds better than it looks! Just wait until it opens up…fj


By Bob Douglas •Photography by Matt Miles


followed as a fan. I await new records and an annual show with gleeful anticipation. Has any singer-songwriter ever dug so deep in his own experience and laid bear in such forthright fashion? Is there another writer who taps the seam of family dysfunction with such honesty? Dylan, John Prine and Townes van Zandt may be the great poet-songwriters of modern popular music but none is a straight shooter like Loudo. Great artists though they are, there is always opacity in their lyrics. None has held a mirror to our own weaknesses and failings like Loudon Wainwright III. He has grown old with us and spared us few of the details of how messy a life can be, and let us laugh and cry along with him. The vagaries of a travel schedule and an impromptu venue did nothing to impact his charm and willingness to participate when he passed through the Fretboard Journal’s hometown of Seattle recently on a tour in support of his latest album. We talked about guitars, of course, and the new record, Older Than My Old Man Now, and much about a principle character in the songs on the record, Loudon Wainwright Jr., his father.

Cheaper Than a Car

ell them I play medium gauge strings.” “It has to be said that I’ve been playing the guitar for So ended my conversation with Loudon Wainwright a long time, but I don’t think of myself as a guitarist, III. After a brief chat on a number of weighty topics we per se; not in the way that Richard Thompson or John both recognized that we’d skimped on the detail of LouScofield or Bill Frisell or Greg Leisz are—those guys do’s relationship with his guitars. It was typical of the are guitar players,” he says. He is modest about his rest of the conversation—witty, knowing and empathic technical ability but he is a confident and skilled and as professional as any touring musician of nearly accompanist, strumming chords that allow his lyrics 45 years and 25 album releases—but all too brief. full expression or, occasionally to great effect on a The meeting was not what I had feared or been led song like “ White Winos,” fingerpicking a melody. to expect. “He’s a prickly character,” went my sternest His first guitar came by an odd route and met a warning… “doesn’t suffer fools gladly,” came another: tragic end. His father gave him a nylon-string Mexican myths grown legend by the artist’s candor about his guitar he’d acquired from Terry Gilkyson. “He was in shortcomings. Serial cheater, child-beater, baby The Easy Riders and they had a couple of big hit taunter, drunk, hopeless family man. Doesn’t mean records, ‘All Day All Night’ and ‘Marianne,’” Wainhe’s a bad guy to hang out with, of course, and it turns wright recalls. And beyond that, Gilkyson was a fasciout as funny in person as he is on stage. nating character who wrote many of Frankie Laine’s My own relationship with Loudon Wainwright III hits, co-wrote Dean Martin’s “Memories Are Made of began in the early ‘70s. As a teenager, I listened late This” and was nominated for an Oscar for The Jungle into the night to the John Peel Show on my MarconiBook’s ‘The Bare Necessities’; he was also the father phone transistor radio. The of X guitarist, Tony, and singersparse and quirky songs from songwriter, Eliza. ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN Wainwright’s first two albums, “ We had moved to LA—my FRETBOARD JOURNAL #27 often recorded in session for the father was running the Life magBBC, were peppered in among azine bureau in 1952. They were regular portions of Captain Beefdrinking buddies, you know? heart, Stackwaddy and The My father listened to Terry play Faces. From those early days as the guitar and said, ‘that looks one of “the new Dylans” through like fun’ and Terry gave him chronicles of birth, marriage and the guitar. death, across all those albums “My father loved music,” he and innumerable live shows, I’ve says. “He had an eclectic record



collection. Everything ranging from Leadbelly to Louis Prima to Kid Ory. He had Frank Loesser records, Guys and Dolls, Sinatra, Louis Armstrong. He could play a few chords on the piano and he wrote a few songs. I covered one called “A Handful of Dust” on the History record.” But the elder Wainwright failed to make much progress on the Mexican nylon-string guitar and soon passed it on to his son and namesake. Loudon III took a few lessons and eventually figured out how to play the “Third Man Theme.” He graduated to a Martin when he moved on to St. Andrew’s School in Delaware. With the encouragement of his Spanish teacher, he developed into a folk singer. Eventually, a couple of pals from the boarding school and he went up to New York and they bought their first D -28’s at Terminal Music on 48th Street. “ We were all folk music nuts and we knew all about Martin guitars,” he says. “[It was] the first really good guitar I had. It cost $300 for the D -28 with inlay on it.” This first dreadnought and, it is assumed, the nylon string guitar, were lost in dramatic circumstances. “They burned up in a fire in my parents’ house in Westchester, New York. Their house burned to the ground in February 1969. It took twenty minutes. I was in college at the time; for some reason I didn’t have my guitar with me.” The Martin would soon be replaced with a black Gibson Everly Brothers model. As with every almost aspect of Loudon’s life, we need look no further than his lyrics to understand his relationship with the guitar. He’s written on at least a handful of occasions inspired by one or other of his instruments. A famous early confessional, “Red Guitar,” tells the tale of a drunken marital row during which a guitar was smashed “in the classic form, as Pete Townsend might” and tossed onto the fire. This, he advises, was the Gibson Hummingbird. The ‘blonde’ he replaced it with was an Epiphone. Although poetic license or time have rendered some of the specifics unreliable, “So Far So Good”—only available on the rarities disc in the box set Forty Odd Years—answers many of the questions that we might need answered. “Cheaper than a car, cleaner than a dog, easier than a kid.” The song refers to his classic D’Angelico archtop guitar. “I went to Matt Umanov’s,” he remembers. “Now on Bleecker, it used to be on Bedford Street in New York. They sold me it.” Contrary to the songs lyrics, it turns out not to be a ‘46 but a ‘48. “I refer to it as a being a ‘46, which is the year of my birth,” Wainwright says. “I lied because I wanted to say in the song that the instrument is as old and is going to outlive me. Maybe we shouldn’t tell people... ”


Later, the song alludes to “All the Martins I’ve had,” and contains an admission that the singer had not made “that pilgrimage to Nazareth, PA .” Another inaccuracy. “In fact I was there just recently,” he says. “My friend Dick Boak came down to help me out with a Martin that I was having problems with. I got a D -21 probably around 1975. I bought it from Fred Walecki at Westwood Music and he set it up for me in a really interesting way. I can’t describe what it is. But that guitar is still my main guitar inasmuch as I don’t travel with it any more, because I want to save it for the recording studio. So, it’s stored away. I’ve had many road guitars, which have invariably been D -28’s.” There is no huge collection. “I own three Martin dreadnoughts—the D -21 and two D -28’s—the D’Angelico and a Fender Stratocaster that I never play.” Another crowd-pleasing guitar song—brought out for his Seattle audience in honor of a flight delay which postponed our interview and had him arrive at the venue shortly before show time, is “The Unfriendly Skies.” Also known as “Susie,” it retells the tale of a Martin with its neck broken in transit and an unsympathetic airline clerk. “I travel on my own; I have no roadie,” he says. “For years I traveled with a leather case. It was easier to carry it on your shoulder, better than a hard case. But after the ‘Susie’ events, I’m traveling with a hard case now.” On that occasion when he and his guitar were separated in Durango en route to a show in Austin, Loudon called Jody Denberg, a friend in radio, who hooked him up with a loaner Martin from Eric Johnson. As modest as he is about his guitar prowess, Loudon is only disparaging of his banjo playing. He has been dabbling with the instrument since the early days. “I love Earl Scruggs and Wade Ward… Tony Trishka, he’s a friend of mine. That guy in the Punch Brothers, Noam Pikelny, he’s just nutty. I just look at those people and... I couldn’t do that.” He had a banjo before he met Kate McGarrigle but it was his ex-wife who showed him how to frail. “She could really play,” he says. “She was one of those musicians who could pick up anything and play it. She played in that old clawhammer style. Walecki most recently sold me an incredible A . A . Farland banjo that was built in 1908 and that’s the one I play on High Wide and Lonesome. I also have a Bart Reiter; they make Vega copies. From Michigan, they’re very good. I’ve had that for a long time.” Loudon is a huge evangelist for the ukulele, as summed up in his song, “Got a Ukulele.” “...a ukulele’s like a little baby You cradle it in your arms and you sing A lullaby or ditty When you’re feeling shitty It will cheer you up It’s just the thing…”

“I love the ukulele,” he affirms. “I have a couple of them: an old Stetson—thought they made hats!—and a couple years ago I was in Perth, Australia doing a folk festival and I bought one from a luthier named Scott Wise. That’s a great instrument. But again, I play four chords.” On the sleeve of Songs For the New Depression, he says, “in terms of improving one’s mood and general outlook, I consider the ukulele to be the big gun.”

The Days That We Die On the Grammy award winning set, High Wide and Handsome—The Charlie Poole Project, Wainwright and producer Dick Connette collaborated on a concept album using Poole’s material interspersed with a few of Loudon’s songs that echoed their shared character traits. I asked him if the new record, also produced by Connette, had been imagined as a concept on the subject of mortality. “I had a bunch of songs and I gave them to Dick and I said ‘these are my songs’ and he said, ‘Gee, they’re all about death and decay, I don’t know.’ And I said, ‘These are the songs...’ “So he listened more and more and we decided to do it. We leavened the proceedings with guest singers—Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Chris Smither, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Suzzy Roche—and some out and out novelty songs.” The humor in “My Meds” and “I Remember Sex,” the latter a duet with Dame Edna Everage, build on the pathos and are wittily on topic. Inspired by long time collaborator Chaim Tannenbaum, the team dug out a song which Loudon wrote with Kate McGarrigle. “Over The Hill” is from 1975, the only song they wrote together, but an early reflection on growing up and the futility of trying to hold back time. McGarrigle, his first wife and mother of two of Wainwright’s children, passed away in 2010. As well as the broader issues of aging and decline, the album dwells on Loudon’s relationship with his father. “My father died in 1988. I would say I had a feeling of release, initially, when he died. From a purely selfish point of view, it felt like a load had been taken off me. You know, this pitiful struggle was over. Now, 25 years later, I feel closer to him—and by that I mean literally, like I’m the same person, because quite frankly, I’ve outlived him and am now more forgiving of his shortcomings. He used to torture himself about his shortcomings. You know, the older I get, the closer I feel to him. And that’s nice. Imagine how horrible it would be if I hated him more and more and more. But I miss him more and more and more.” The title track and “The Days That We Die” both have preludes of Loudon narrating passages from his father’s writing. “The last couple of years I’ve been rereading all his things, his columns and letters, as part of a research project. I wasn’t sure why. And then I realized that

some of the things he wrote could be connected to some of the songs on this record. So I was quite happy to do that. And I’m doing these shows and reading the recitation between the songs too. It has an interesting theatrical quality to it.” Of his own death and when it might occur, he says, “ Well, genetically it’s not looking good.” As well as now being older than his father when he died he notes, “my mother’s parents died young also. But some of my favorite artists, nonmusical artists, died young. Checkov was in his forties; Ozu, he died on his 60th birthday. I like that. It’s okay. We do have premonitions about this stuff. I’m reading these Joan Didion books. She talks about her husband’s unconsciously realizing that he was going to die soon.” I ask him about whether he has a spiritual angle on death. “ Well, you could call it wishful thinking. I’m not a religious person. There’s no particular system I adhere to. I don’t know what the heck’s going to happen but it’s going to be interesting. If there’s absolutely nothing, that sounds all right, too. I’m at the age where I have these procedures. They give you these great drugs when you have a colonoscopy, or when I had my hip replaced, and when you go way out, like dead out... it is okay. It is okay. So maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s something else.” As for an epitaph, he says, “I’ll be dead so it won’t matter.” Later, as we consider what song a radio producer might play on an obituary piece, we note the passing earlier in the week of Bee Gee Robin Gibb and disco diva Donna Summer, and he is quick to jump in “both younger than I am.” He fears that it will be “Dead Skunk” but the first song that occurs to him is “Harry’s Wall,” a song about the fleeting nature of celebrity, written for his weekly slot on the Jasper Carrot show on the BBC. “There he goes, there’s whatshisname, we saw him on TV.” It will be a monstrous travesty if, when he goes, Loudon is not hailed, at least by NPR, as a national treasure. In “Home Stretch,” he wrote about the unique dreariness of his life’s work, couching it in images of bad food, negative reviews, loneliness and self-abuse. “I was in Innsbruck in Austria. It was 1985 so I must have been 38 or 39. Still going out and doing ten week tours. Long stretches in clubs, by myself, probably drinking too much and getting into all kinds of silly nonsense and not sleeping. So, I was tired,” he says by way of explanation. Again on the sleeve notes to 2002’s So Damn Happy he attests to having “grown somewhat weary of life as a wandering troubadour.” That weariness had him attempt to expand his sideline as a jobbing actor—he studied acting at CarnegieMellon in Pittsburgh—but the show in which he had a prominent role as a dysfunctional dad, Undeclared, was canceled after one season. There are still odd cameos in movies by friends like Judd Apatow and


Christopher Guest but insufficient to replace his day job. So, here he is in his mid sixties still traveling solo, still playing shows to a few hundred passionate souls a night, still bringing them his sad, funny songs about real life as it is lived. “The good thing about this job is I’m in control of it. It’s a very hard job and it gets harder and harder physically. But it’s a good one and I imagine I’ll hold on to it as long as I can.” In a Dutch TV documentary from 1993, One Man Guy (included on the Forty Odd Years box), Wainwright tells an interviewer, “I’ve always written about where I am in my life.” He later reflects, “Life doesn’t work the way you think it’s going to go. The world is a terrible place, haven’t you noticed? I think that’s the truth.” Nearly twenty years later, he may have mellowed a bit, but he is still touching us in those places where we are least willing to look at ourselves. It is a shame that at this stage of his career he is not filling enormadomes like Leonard Cohen but it is hardly surprising that popularity on that scale eludes him in a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness and blinkered on death and much of the other tough stuff of life. Omphaloskepsis (navel-gazing) has never been a recipe for popularity. But for those of us who are enriched by art as raw and painful as Loudon’s, by three minute snapshots like “ Your Mother And I,” “A Father and A Son” and “Hitting You,” it is difficult to overstate the comfort to be found in having someone say so plainly, this is how it is for me. “The Days That We Die” You’ll never change, neither will I We’ll stay the same ‘til the days that we die. I’ll never win, neither will you So what in the world are we gonna do People hate change, they make a fuss. They stay the same, people like us. Folks wanna win, when they can choose More important than that, folks don’t want to lose. When did it start? How did it go wrong? Why in this world can’t we get along? Each victory should be good news, But when I have to win, You’re the one that I lose. I want to change, I don’t know how. We need to change, though - I know that now. It’s sad but it’s true, and I have to say That the days that we die aren’t that far away. You’ll never change, neither will I We’ll stay the same ‘til the days that we die. I’ll never win, neither will you So what in the world are we gonna do? fj


Loudon on Dead Skunks “I came to town with my songs and was playing the Greenwich Village coffee house scene. A guy called Milton Kramer who worked at Frank Loesser’s publishing company, Frank Music (since acquired by Paul McCartney) saw me playing in a little club, which John Hammond mentioned in his piece with you (in FJ #24), the Gaslight. I was opening for John in those days and a lot of other folk singers. Milton signed me to a publishing deal and then proceeded to help me get a record deal. First person he called was John Hammond Jr., John’s father, who’d heard my songs and was interested in signing me to Columbia Records. At the same time he was talking to Nesuhi Ertegun at Atlantic, so there was a kind of bidding war, and Atlantic won. “The first two records for Atlantic, rave reviews. Then the ‘Dead Skunk’ thing happened, and the critics turned. A lot of my records got bad reviews in publications like Rolling Stone and the traditional music press. By 1978, I’d been signed and dropped by three major labels. I’d made probably seven records, none of which—with the exception of the one with ‘Dead Skunk’ on it—had sold anything. So I went back to the minor leagues, so to speak, the independent labels—Rounder Records, Demon in the UK—out of necessity. But in the end it was good because the budgets were small and I went back to making simpler records. “The reviews started to pick up again when I started working with Richard [Thompson] in the mid-‘80s. History was an important record for me. Again, informed by the death of my father. I think some critics thought, ‘Wow, this guy ain’t over yet.’ Recently, again, they’ve been kind. “I’ve had some good luck in the last ten years. I’ve worked with producers who are really sensitive to my needs. Stewart Lerman made So Damn Happy and Last Man on Earth with me. Lee Townsend is a really good producer. We did Here Come the Choppers together. And then Joe Henry. And more recently, this guy Dick Connette, who not only produced the records, but paid for them, and is very artistically involved.”

Loudon on Good Songs “I jot things down in a notebook and if I don’t write a song for a month or two I get panicked and kick my ass and get something done. When I can’t write the songs that I like, I write bad songs, just to kind of keep working at it, you know? And then there is the whole element of mystery. Where do these things come from? I played last night in Victoria and there was a guy I’ve known for about forty years, a great, great songwriter, Don Freed. He got up on stage at the club and sang a song, just so good. And we were talking about it later and he said, ‘It’s like the thing when you are on a football field or rugby field and you just catch something. The ball just hits you in the chest. It comes to you.’ That’s what it feels like. You can see it in your vision and you get it. It sounds kind of corny. It’s a gift. You’re not exactly sure why or how it works but you know that it’s good. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. I knew “Dead Man” was a good song. I didn’t need to go out and play it for anyone. Other songs, you go out and try it out and tinker and change things and rewrite in performance.”


By Jason Verlinde

“Piano strings,” loft manager Jason Tobias shouts matter-of-factly from his desk across the room. Such is life at the Wilco loft, the acclaimed indierock band’s filled-to-the-brim rehearsal, storage and sometime recording space where eccentric vintage instruments sit side by side with near classics, where a spotless Studer 24-track tape deck is always on standby for a new tune and where gear talk can get pretty geeky. I try to imagine what Tobias’ typical workday must be like: make sure amps and guitars are serviced; keep a running inventory of the dozens of boutique pedals floating around the place; order new flight cases for the Mellotron’s tapes; and, at least now and then, procure a batch of piano strings and figure out which will work in a pinch on a six-string classical bass. Nice work, if you can get it. That wouldn’t be the last Hopf guitar I’d see during my visit to the loft, nor would it be the only time I am left a little speechless. If Wilco wanted to start a musicbased commune, they’d be off to a pretty good start. Four bunk beds are scattered about so that the Los Angeles-based Cline and other band members have a place to crash. Personal effects—Devo helmets, Nudie suits, autographed head shots from comedy legends— adorn every free space, and there’s, of course, a stocked kitchen. The loft doesn’t feel like a rehearsal space so much as Wilco’s version of the Batcave. walk up a flight of stairs and enter the The band occupies the entire floor of the building. huge room, still cold from Chicago’s February air. Drum booth aside, they don’t use walls to divide up the Before I can take off my coat and get my recorder running, Nels Cline—avant-garde hero, Wilco powerhouse space, just heavy-duty industrial-grade shelves filled to the ceiling with guitar cases and amps. Everywhere guitarist and Jazzmaster icon—already wants to show me something. It’s not the beat-to-heck ’59 Fender he’s you look, there are instruments. The aforementioned Mellotron Mk VIII sits near the middle of the space, a known for playing; it’s not the Barney Kessel model fresh take on the classic, complicated keyboard from that Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy favors or Cline’s new Sweden’s Markus Resch. I get a quick demonstration signature-model Tim Schroeder amp. In all honestly, from the band’s keyboardist (and occasional guitarist), I’m not quite sure what it is. Pat Sansone. As he removes one bank of tapes from the “I want to direct your attention to one of the most bowels of the console, I find myself at a loss once incredible guitars ever in the history of mankind,” he again. And here I thought harp guitars were compliexclaims as we stand amid what must be at least 100 cated affairs! guitars. Cline, one of the fiercest electric players Though Cline has been crashing here for weeks, he’s around, proceeds to pick up a classical guitar made by cheerfully running around and showing me stuff like Hopf, the oddball European guitar manufacturer. But he’s a first-time visitor. He picks up a near-mint Vox this isn’t your typical nylon-stringed classical guitar— Guitar Organ, shows me the wall lined with several it’s a six-string classical bass guitar. I’m a tad speechcolor-coordinated Jerry Jonesless, having seen most everybuilt Danelectro reissues and thing of the fretted-instrument ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN points to the original Supro variety. Cline, who has also seen FRETBOARD JOURNAL #15 practice amp, now semi-retired, his fair share of guitars, says, that Tweedy used on so many “It’s one of the most amazing Wilco recordings. Every piece of things I’ve ever seen in my life— gear or memento, it seems, has a and it plays completely in tune!” story. I can’t think of too many I’m left muttering the obvious bands that so equally covet so question. many kinds of gear; at Wilco’s “Does someone actually make loft, vintage Martin and Gibson strings for six-string classical flattops sit alongside Carr amps bass guitars?”

I 70


and rare, small-shop distortion boxes. Beyond his stellar playing and his love of Jazzmasters, Cline is best known for his exotic effects pedals. As we examine his cluttered pedal board, my eyes are drawn to a stomp box covered in fake purple fur. “Henry Kaiser turned me on to that,” he says, referring to the pedal that looks a bit like a flattened Furby. “The Ugly Face. It’s made by an art professor in San Francisco. It’s one of the most extreme, bizarre, wonderful fuzz boxes ever. Henry’s turned me on to some good pedals in his day; he’s the guy who first showed me the [Klon] Centaur Overdrive, which is one of my main things, and he was the first guy to show me the [Z.Vex] Fuzz Factory, which is another one that I use.” Cline still remembers his first visit to the loft, back in 2000 or 2001, when he came by to—what else?—borrow some gear. “I first met Jeff Tweedy when the Geraldine Fibbers, the band I used to play in, was opening for Golden Smog. And then Carla Bozulich, from the Fibbers, and I were doing our duo called Scarnella, and Greg Bandy and I were doing Interstellar Space Revisited the same night at [Chicago club] the Empty Bottle. I needed an amp and a baritone guitar. Jeff, through Carla, loaned me what, at that time, turned out to be a huge, twin-reverb-sized Matchless and a Danelectro baritone guitar. I came here in a cab; I just remember coming in and screaming, ‘ Whoa.’”


he giant collection of gear at the loft is a testament both to Wilco’s success as a band and to Jeff Tweedy’s success as a guitar and gear hound. With each new record, Wilco becomes tougher to pigeonhole; they meticulously craft dense layers of pop, rock, country and noise, and once you witness all the gear they’ve accumulated, you start to understand why— and how. This is a band that has instruments of every variety at their disposal at all times, and it seems they all get used at least once in a while. The day I visit, a new addition arrives. The band had been recording tracks for their new album, Wilco (the album), with a skeleton crew in New Zealand at Neil Finn’s studio, and while down there Tweedy became infatuated with Finn’s Gibson J-185. It’s the acoustic guitar heard all over the new recording, so Tweedy set out to purchase one for himself. When someone arrives with Tweedy’s newly acquired ’52 Gibson—fresh from the shop of luthier Frank Montuoro, where it received some needed TLC—it quickly becomes the office water cooler. It had loose braces, among other issues, pre-repair, but everyone agrees that the guitar has turned out great. Still, the murmur is that Tweedy isn’t going to be too happy when he gets it.


“Those strings are way too lively for Jeff,” Sansone states. In comes Tweedy, running late and suffering from a cold. When he finally enters, the first words out of his mouth are, “ You know I’m sick when I don’t show up two hours early for an opportunity to talk about my guitars!” Then, sure enough, he grabs the J-185, inspects the repairs, fingerpicks a Fahey-style tune (quite well, I should add) and, almost on cue, says, “I like it, but I won’t like it completely until these strings are completely dead. I hate new strings.” You hate new strings, I ask? “It doesn’t sound like a record,” he says. “I must have never had a record player that had any high end, I’m thinking. What I want to hear is never that crispy.” Tweedy hands the guitar to Cline for further break-in and takes over as tour guide. The band has been renting the loft for almost a decade; Tweedy stumbled on it when his wife’s friend was looking for rehearsal space. “He just had like a bar band,” Tweedy remembers, “and he came up and he saw this place and he really, really loved it, but he couldn’t afford it. He told my wife about it and said, ‘ You should have Jeff go look at it, because somebody should have it.’ So we did, and we’ve been here longer than I think anybody else in this building.” Tweedy will be the first to admit that his loft stash is all over the musical map. “There’s no real focus to my collection, other than things that make me happy and things that feel inspiring to me,” he says. “And, I guess, in some cases, it’s stuff where I have some sort of hero emulation; I just have to have a guitar because I saw so-and-so play it. I have a thing for Dylan guitars—a [Gibson] Nick Lucas would have been one I bought for that reason, and the Martin 00-21NY I think I bought for that same reason.” Soon, we stop at a Gibson J-45 that appears to have the band’s name inlayed into the fretboard. “This is the first nice acoustic guitar that I ever owned,” Tweedy interjects. He’s had it since the early ‘90s. “ When we made AM, the guy that was doing the photography for the record was like, ‘I really want to get a guitar that has the country-style inlays, where it says W-I-L C- O.’” Tweedy agreed and the next day found his beloved guitar covered with a bunch of vinyl adhesive stickers, spelling out “ Wilco.” “I was like, ‘ Whoa, I wouldn’t have put stickers on my guitar, but OK.’” The stickers have endured, and the J-45 guitar has even graced the cover of No Depression magazine. Nearby, past the autographed photos of Bob Newhart and Don Rickles, there’s yet another Hopf, this one an Art Deco-inspired archtop. Tweedy points to a picture high up on the far wall featuring Elvis, in the Army, toting pretty much the same model Hopf.

Since this article originally appeared in 2009, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy has become a Martin signature artist. His 00-DB Jeff Tweedy model guitar is the first Custom Artist model that is FSC Certified.

“It’s on ‘How to Fight Loneliness’ and ‘In a Future Age,’” Tweedy says. “It’s a really good guitar to bow because the neck radius has a little bit of an arch to it—you can hit individual strings with the bow. “For some odd reason I keep finding Hopfs,” Tweedy laughs. “I keep showing them to Nels, and lately he keeps buying them. It saves me a lot of money.” (Later that day, Cline indeed shows me an electric Hopf on Gbase that was pointed out by Tweedy.) Onstage, Tweedy is often seen playing a slightly more coveted guitar, one of his Gibson Barney Kessels. “I had gone into a guitar store with my wife,” he remembers of his first Kessel model, “which is a very rare occurrence. She thought that it was a really beautiful guitar, and I told her that I always wanted one. A couple of months later, just out of the blue, she had bought it for me. And that one is completely mint, perfect, with hang tags still on it. So I hardly ever play that one.

“Coincidentally, I found one that was more of a player, and that’s the main one I use. Since then, I found another one that’s pretty beat that I’ve had work done on and I can make that one work onstage. And then I have a black one that I think has got to be pretty rare—it’s a factory-finish black one.” Tweedy is also not immune to buying amps. The low-watt Supro amp was a favorite for many years, but has since been retired. “ Tim Schroeder took it apart and measured everything that there is to measure and built an exact reproduction of it,” Tweedy says. “And it’s really great. That’s what I’m using now, and it’s really comparable.” He’s often spotted playing through one or two Vox AC30s at shows as well. “My collection has a mind of its own,” he adds. “It continues to grow. I’m compelled to buy guitars and luckily I’m in a position where I can afford to buy guitars periodically. But to be honest, I don’t have a real strict philosophy to my collecting.”


I ask Tweedy if it’s ever overwhelming being at the loft, with all of the gear choices. “I can’t help but think,” he says, “that maybe not having all of this stuff in New Zealand—only being able to borrow guitars from people and having a couple of my own guitars there—might have contributed to being a little bit more focused. “I hate to admit that,” he laughs, “because that would imply that I should get rid of all of this.” In a sense, each Wilco album for the last decade has been graced by another instrument—beyond the Schroeder amps, the strange pedals and the vintage Fenders: the loft itself. As it happens, Wilco, just like a lot of us, has loud neighbors. “There’s a lot of noise coming from the other floors, and there always has been,” Tweedy says. “There are a lot of extraneous performances on our records that we’ve recorded here, including the one we just finished. There’s a lot of drill-press sounds on this record; we always tend to keep them. There are also nearby cell-phone towers, so there’s a lot of RF inter-


ference all over the last records. This record we finished is the first where we turned it up and made it a part of the record. “ We’re hoping for a Drill Press Grammy,” Tweedy concludes. “And the best performance in a baroque pop song by a drill press goes to… whoever the guy is who works upstairs.” fj


PG. 5






PG. 11


VOLUME 2 | 2014

2 | MARTIN ™


TAKE IT FROM THE TOP A Word from Chris





Letters from the Community

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins.

By Jonathan R. Walsh

PG. 11 Martin Ambassador Jason Isbell reveals his journey through life and music.






THE 1833 SHOP ®



PG. 21 Anniversary models to Limited Editions, Martin unveils 2014 Summer Releases.

Paul Ash

PG. 18 North Street Archive is back with legendary bluegrass guitarist Jimmy Martin.


| 3

Discover vintage tone with strings made to harmonize with your guitar’s wood. Visit for details.

4 | MARTIN ™


Please take a look at the hang tag that we used then to communicate this decision to our customers. Now, 40 years later, the demand for ivory is soaring. Unfortunately and tragically, this is having a devastating effect on an already dwindling elephant population. The elephant is a majestic, social animal that has no defenses against a poacher with a high power weapon. What can you do? There are many organizations who are mobilizing to attempt to stop this poaching and diminish the demand. We are working with the Global Program of Dear Martin enthusiast, Why are elephants still being slaughtered? Isn’t there enough antique ivory around to satisfy the demand? Apparently not. My family used ivory in the

the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of International Conservation and The Nature Conservancy. I want to encourage you to get involved in this timely opportunity

construction of many of our guitars

to help save the elephant.  

for over 140 years. By the 1970s,


my father and grandfather made a decision to stop. By that time, we were only using ivory for nuts and saddles. While the tonal properties

C. F. Martin IV

of ivory were ideal, an acceptable

Chairman & CEO

synthetic substitute was found.

C. F. Martin & Co., Inc.



Circa 1970s hang tag promoting use of synthetic materials as an alternative to ivory.

6 | MARTIN ™


VOLUME 2 | 2014


PUBLISHER C. F. Martin & Co., Inc. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Amani Duncan EDITOR Dick Boak DESIGN & PRODUCTION Spark ( ART DIRECTOR Denis Aumiller DESIGNER Laura Dubbs ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Joe Iacovella COPYWRITER Scott Byers CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Dick Boak, Jonathan R. Walsh PHOTOGRAPHY John Ruth, Michael Wilson, Dick Waterman, Stefan Grossman, Joshua Black Wilkins, Eric England ™

MARTIN THE JOURNAL OF ACOUSTIC GUITARS Business Office C. F. Martin & Co., Inc. P.O. Box 329, Nazareth, PA 18064 P. 610.759.2837 F. 610.759.5757 © 2014 C. F. Martin & Co., Inc., Nazareth, Pa. All rights reserved.

7 | MARTIN ™


| 7

Unplugged since 1833.

This 1939 000-42 (EC) was built during a time when everything was unplugged. And it still sounded sweet during its legendary 1992 performance. 8 | MARTIN ™



THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON Drew Barrymore posted this great photo of herself and “best onscreen husband” Adam Sandler with Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon playing his Martin D-28.


Dear friends at Martin, It occurred to me that my 2004 Martin D-45 might make a great cover for the Martin ™ Journal; so while working on the computer a couple of years ago, I noticed that a trick of the sunlight through the window had made a light effect next to the head of my guitar. I have used it as a business card since then; but at 74 years of age, I cannot claim to be in the “business” any more. Having said that, I do play folk and bluegrass locally at least once a week. Sincerely, Barry C. Lane Sutton-in-Craven, England


Martin’s Dick Boak (right, with the 000-45 Jimmie Rodgers “THANKS” guitar from the Martin Museum collection) caught up with his longtime friend John Sebastian, accompanied by John’s dog Shuggie, at the Woodstock Luthiers Invitational. John is holding the prototype of his Martin DSS Custom Artist Edition.





parks, by definition, live for just a

moment. Incandescent, hot enough to make the leap from matter toward energy, but too small to stay that way for long, they burn out quickly; blink and you’ll miss them. Picture one as it arcs across a room. If this room were in the Martin Guitar factory, stacked high with musky rosewood, sweet spruce, and tough koa, aged and dry enough to burn, we could have a problem on our hands. But this room, as musician Jason Isbell tells it, is in the Southeastern Tool & Die Company, where his father worked when Isbell was growing up. “My dad told stories about working at this place, and it was a difficult job. He always worked really hard, and when I was a kid I would hear stories—one in particular,” he says. Little sparks, bits of metal would throw out of the machines, and one of my dad’s coworkers got this little piece of metal stuck in his eyeball. Well, it happened pretty regularly. So rather than take the guy to the emergency room, the foreman would sit him down in a chair and hold his eye open with one hand, then take a credit card and scrape it across his eye till the piece of metal came out. So when I was a kid, this place just sounded like a torture room, and that really isn’t far from the truth, I don’t think.” Photo by Michael Wilson.

"B E F O R E T H I S P O I N T I N M Y L I F E, I WA S P R O BA B LY I N A P L A C E T H AT W A S A L I T T L E B I T T O R T U R O U S. B U T I T W A S O F M Y O W N D E S I G N .”

Photo by Michael Wilson.

Since then, spark by spark, song

spark himself, destined to burn

perhaps second only to Nashville

by song, Isbell has been pulling

out early. By the time he was 22,

in the pantheon of Southern music.

out bits of life’s shrapnel and

he’d been signed to a songwriting

It is where country met rhythm

working them into the music he

contract with one of the South’s

and blues, where thump crossed

plays onstage night after night.

most renowned studios, and a

twang, and the birthplace of

It is fitting, then, that his latest

week later was asked to go on

iconic FAME Studios (where a

album, Southeastern, should share

tour with alt-country superstars

young Duane Allman camped

a name with the shop where his

Drive-By Truckers. By the time he

outside in makeshift vigil before

father worked. “I wanted to reclaim

turned 30, however, Isbell would

he went on to form the Allman

that,” he says. “I wanted to do

find himself removed from the

Brothers Band). Th e stu dio was

something that was a little bit

band, divorced, and battling an

also home to the legendary

metaphorical. My dad didn’t always

addiction to alcohol. But a closer

Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section

work there—he eventually went

look reveals an artist whose

(or "the Swampers,” as Ronnie

into business with his father, and

discipline, determination, and

Van Zant put it in “Sweet Home

he’s got a job now that’s a whole

read iness to be inspired have

Alabama”), the fathers of the

lot easier, physically—but I guess it

taken him far beyond where

“Muscle Shoals Sound” and

sort of became kind of a metaphor

talent alone could not.

heard on countless tracks from

for me. Before this point in my

Isbell grew up in Green Hill,

Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a

life, I was probably in a place

Alabama, taken from the hospital

Man” to Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got

that was a little bit torturous.

to the trailer his parents were

Tonight.” In a town known for the

But it was of my own design.”

living in when he was born. Green

quality of its musicians, Isbell’s

Hill is just across the river from

talent seemed destined to make

Muscle Shoals, a town that is

him one of its finest.

Looking at his early career, Jason Isbell may have seemed like a



“I started off when I was a kid,”

In those early years, Isbell

Isbell says about his introduction

spent his days working on his

(whose father, David Hood, h ad

to playing music. “My granddad

acoustic playing and his nights

been a bass player with the

taught me a lot about how to

perfecting his lead work. “I had

Swampers), which Isbell joined in

play guitar. He was a Pentecostal

electric guitars at home and I

2001. Though t he band had just

preacher and, rather than leave me

would go back to the house and

released the album that would

in any kind of daycare or anything,

put on Lynyrd Skynyrd records,

be considered their masterpiece,

my parents would leave me at my

Queen records, Free records,… or

Southern Rock Opera, earlier

grandparents’ house during the

something like that, and I’d play

that year and already had two

day, and he always had these good

guitar along with them through

major songwriting talents in

dreadnought guitars,” he says.

my little amp,” he says. “So I

Hood and Mike Cooley, who had

“He could never afford a Martin,

would spend eight or nine hours

formed the band together in

but he had one of those lawsuit

a day playing guitar when I was

1996, I s b e l l ’ s tight playing and

Takamines from the early ’80s [the

a kid, pretty much every day.

nuanced songwriting quickly

Takamine F-340 was designed to

The first half of it would be just

began to rise to the surface of

look exactly like a Martin D-18,

playing all these bluegrass songs

the Truckers’ work. Their follow-

and though no lawsuit was ever

as fast as I could keep up with,

up album, Decoration Day, was

actually filed, a letter was sent and

and then go home and work on

named af ter an Isbell-penned

the company eventually stopped

my lead guitar playing.”

epic that, as one reviewer put it,

using the design]. He would make

Pair that much guitar practice

Hood of the Drive-By Truckers

“easily stands out as the album’s

me play rhythm on this guitar;

with the heart of a poet, and

and I was really small—I could

you’ve got a recipe for an

hardly reach around the thing—

incredible songwriter. After a

more albums with the Truckers,

and it was exhausting. I spent

stint studying creative writing at

2004’s The Dirty South and

hours at a time playing rhythm for

the University of Memphis on an

2006’s A Blessing and a Curse,

these gospel songs and bluegrass

academic scholarship (leaving

playing alongside his wife at the

songs, so it was just a whole

exactly one credit short of

time, bassist Shonna Tucker.

lot of really fast rhythm guitar.

graduating), Jason’s talent landed

But, as the pressures of success

He’d play the banjo, or mandolin,

him a $250 a week songwriting

mounted and his marriage began

or fiddle, and when I started to

contract with FAME Music

to dissolve, Isbell’s alcohol use

wear out, he’d get after me and

Publishing in Muscle Shoals. It

became more of a problem, and

say, “You’re getting lazy, you’re

was around then he began to travel

by 2007 he was privately asked

getting lazy there, pick it up!”

in the same circles as Patterson

to leave the band.

emotional core.” (Pitchfork) Isbell would go on to record two




“It used to take a whole lot of alcohol, I’ll tell you that,” says Isbell of dealing with his early success. “Some people are terrible at being rich and famous, you know. People are just really, really unprepared for it. That was a big reason, I think, for my drinking. I think I was very uncomfortable with the fact that all these people were into what I was doing, and there’s some guilt that goes along with that. Because you have a whole lot of friends who are great musicians who aren’t getting any more money, or gaining any more popularity, and you start thinking, ‘Well, why am I the one that they’re latching onto?’ But over time you come to terms with that. If you’re making music and you’re trying to get it to a broad audience, which is what I’m doing—that’s why I keep riding around and doing all the traveling and stuff because I do want a lot of people to hear the music—I think you have to have a bit of a system in place that supports any kind of celebrity you might attain along the way. I probably wasn’t prepared for success until I started to have it.”

Photo by Eric England.


“Anything in-between, if you’re

because they don’t have to. And

successful solo career, it seems

able to make a good living—and

I feel like it’s a good thing for us

as though Isbell has discovered

I’m just speaking of the type of

that we’re in that kind of a town,

just what it takes to come to terms

people who make the kind of

where that kind of money is there,

with that success. With the help of

music I do, the people I think are

and that system is there. But other

his second wife, musician Amanda

probably more concerned with

than that, I think it’s just two

Shires, he went into rehabilitation

making good music than being a

completely different jobs, to tell

and kicked his alcohol addiction,

businessperson—you’ll be okay.”

you the truth. I think most people

and seems more poised than ever

And while being in Nashville can

are trying to be entertainers or

to capitalize on his talent. Since

have its own pressures, Isbell

trying to be celebrities. I think

his time in the Truckers, Isbell

says, it also offers plenty of

that’s very different from trying to

moved with Shires to Nashville,

advantages. “There’s certainly a

make a piece of art.”

another city with music as the

difference in Nashville between

lifeblood in its veins. Unlike

the pop country world and the

it for the long haul. “If you’re

Muscle Shoals, however, Nashville

world that we’re in, which a lot

trying to make music that sells

is more closely associated with

of people refer to as Americana

as much as possible, to me that’s

the big business of mainstream

music,” he says. “But I think

the mainstream,” he says. “And

pop country, and stories about the

one sort of feeds off the other,

I’m not necessarily saying there’s

music industry there rarely fail to

for better or worse. In Nashville,

anything wrong with that, I just

describe the pressures of using

for example, a lot of the studios

think that’s a different goal, a

big budgets to create even bigger

and people we work with have

different job—it’s more of a lottery

stars, dramatized in television

made a good amount of money

ticket than what it is that we do.

shows like ABC’s Nashville. It

reco rding p o p u l a r c o u n t r y

It’s all or nothing for those folks:

would be easy to worry if Isbell’s

m u s i c o v e r t h e ye a r s a n d , fo r

either you get signed to a major

newfound stability was tested in

w h a te v e r re a s o n — either they’re

label and you have a big single and

a city so focused on something

tired of people not remembering

you become a star, or you don’t.

as tu m u l t u o u s a s t h e m u s i c

their name or they got tired of

But for us it’s a long-term process,

i n d u s t r y, b u t i n s p e a k i n g to

putting up with that kind of

where you just continue to do the

him, it becomes clear that the

pressure—they star ted working

work whether anybody’s listening

ex p e r i e n c e s o f h i s p a s t h a v e

with independent ar tists.

to it or not. I do believe it’s possible

made him better equipped

Some people make their money

for the kind of thing that we do

t h a n a ro o k i e m u s i c i a n to

during the day making those

to merge with the mainstream, to

handle those pressures.

kinds of [pop] country records,

get closer to the mainstream, and

and then after hours they’ll bring

I think that’s happening now more

or having no success at all

in people who are making our type

than it has in the last 20 years or

can change you,” Isbell says.

of music, and not charge as much

so, and that’s real nice to see.”

And, four albums into a

“I think having a lot of success


Isbell, on the other hand, is in


“There’s a man who walks beside me, he is who I used to be, and I wonder if she sees him and confuses him with me,” Isbell sings on one of Southeastern’s standout tracks, “Live Oak.” He burned too hot in his younger years, and, in lyrics like these, Isbell seems to wonder whether it wasn’t that heat that made his songwriting so strong, what drew people to him. But his rise and fall in the music industry has given him the unlucky wisdom of experience. “I think if your problems are the same every ten years, then you’re gonna have a real hard time with it,” he says. “You’re going to get bitter; you’re going to start writing bitter, and you’re going to lose your perspective. If, ten years from now, I have a completely different set of problems—because it’s always going to be something—I’ll p robably be satisfied. But, on the other hand, some people have a lot of success and forget why they had the success in the first place. Because they become obsessed with maintaining what they have, and that’s never enough—that wasn’t enough to get them there in the first place.”


Part of being in it for the long haul, Isbell says, is keeping the furnace of your creativity fueled. “You have to find ways to keep yourself hungry, whether that’s a lot of input—a lot of reading, a lot of listening to other artists, current artists—I think that’s pretty important. I’m not talking about trends; I’m just talking about any people that come up that are really brilliant—if you miss out on all that, your influences don’t ever change, so your music doesn’t either, and people will eventually stop listening to you if you make the same record over and over.” For Isbell, his input, the artists that excite him, runs the range from cutting edge to classic. His favorite album of 2014, so far, he says, is Rosanne Cash’s latest, The River & The Thread. “I think that record’s really great. Some of it is about the time she spent in Muscle Shoals.” His favorite from last year is from the other side of the charts, by Brooklyn indie darlings The National. “I definitely think that record [Trouble Will Find Me], that’s my favorite record of last year. I think it’s just melodically great, and the production is interesting but not overwhelming.

Photo by Michael Wilson. JASON ISBELL: SPARK TO FIRE |


Available everywhere. Photo by Michael Wilson.

There are a lot of moments on

resonate really well.” To break in

Shires and Isbell seem to give

that record—for example, where he

his new guitar, Isbell explains that,

each other is an artist’s secret

says, on [the song] “Pink Rabbits,”

“Whenever I wasn’t playing it, I

weapon against the pitfalls of the

‘I was a television version of

would just set it next to the big

music industry, and really all of

a person with a broken heart.’

tower speakers in my living room,

life’s challenges: inspiration.

There’s a lot of times where you

and I’d put on Outkast, and just

On “Stay,” the closing track of

hear a line on that record and you

let the bass resonate that thing.

Down Fell the Doves, Shires sings,

just sit up, and you sort of stop

I know they’ve got machines that

“It’s snowing outside, and you’re

listening for a second as if you

do it, but that works about as well

still asleep,” and we know it is to

were reading, and you set the

as anything. Plus then, when you

Isbell. “It’s cold in this house, and

book down, and say, ‘Wow, that’s

come home, you’ve already got

I ain’t going out to chop wood,” he

really insightful.’ I love that, as a

Outkast playing, so it’s perfect.”

seems to sing back in “Cover Me

lyricist—I love to hear those kind

Jason Isbell’s music bears

Up,” the opener on Southeastern—

of lines, where you just have

scars from life’s flying sparks,

the words of a man who knows

to stop and think about it for a

hot splinters, ragged shrapnel.

that what keeps a spark burning

second, rather than just go on

Even in the winters of his life,

brightly can’t be found outside,

with what you’re doing with the

he has managed to find warmth:

but within. “So cover me up,” he

m u s i c in the background.”

in his friends, in his outlook, in

sings, “and know you’re enough

the music that he loves. But in

to use me for good.”

Even Isbell’s guitars have great taste in music. Last year he

interviews about the period leading

received a new D-35 Custom from

up to the release of Southeastern,

Martin, built with an Adirondack

it becomes clear that a big part

spruce top, Madagascar rosewood

of coming to terms with success

back and sides, and a koa wedge

lies in his wife, an award-winning

in the back. The braces, Isbell

musician in her own right. She is

says, “are scalloped and forward-

the one who was finally able to

shifted, to let it move around in

hold Isbell to his word and enlist

the bass a little bit. I didn’t need

his friends and family to get

a whole lot of midrange; I don’t

him into rehabilitation for his

do really a lot of bluegrass-style

alcohol addiction. And listening

flatpicking, so I wanted something

to her music (her latest record,

where the chords would sort of

2013’s Down Fell the Doves,

stay together but the bass would

is excellent) reveals that what





The Royal Hawaiian Band Glee Club, Honolulu, Hawaii, circa 1935-40, sporting not one but four Martin 00-40H Hawaiian guitars, plus two Martin ukuleles! Photo courtesy of Stefan Grossman.

The legendary bluegrass guitarist Jimmy Martin with one of his many Mar tins; this one a D-28 with an odd, oversized pickguard to fend off heavy strumming wear. Jimmy loved that his last name matched the Mar tin brand on the headstock.

C. F. Martin Archives



During their friendship (and relationship), Bob Dylan and Joan Baez often toured together, and we presume that Bob took quite a fancy to Joan’s guitar as well. This great photo by Dick Waterman, circa 1964, shows Bob playing the 12-fret 0-45 that Joan still owns. This guitar was the basis for the 0-45 Joan Baez Signature Edition issued in 1998.

Photo courtesy of Dick Waterman.

Tintypes like this one, circa 1848, are among the earliest historic photographs. Here a guitarist holds what is surely a small-bodied Martin guitar with an unusual headstock ordered with “three side screw” tuners (left and right). An example of such a headstock is displayed in the Martin Museum.

C. F. Martin Archives


20 | MARTIN ™


NEW RELEASES CS-GP-14 Limited to no more than 50 premium i n s t r u m e n t s , t h i s 1 4 - f re t G ra n d Per for mance m o d e l ( t h e first n o n c u t a wa y i n t h e Grand Performance Series) is a carefully craf ted work of musical art with hide glue construction at every seam. Both the rosette and fingerboard are inlaid with a custom concave diamond design made up of orange/red spiny reconstituted stone, bordered and center filled with solid mother of pearl. With vintage-style beauty matched only by its great tone, the torrefied and certified European spruce top includes delicately handscalloped Golden Era ® Style X-bracing. Rare Guatemalan rosewood sides are matched to a three-piece back with a boldly contoured and contrasting Central American cocobolo center wedge. A side sound port, inlaid with i t s o w n c i rc u l a r ro s e t te, p ro v i d e s e n h a n c e d p re s e n c e fo r t h e p l a ye r. The Fishman Aura VT ® state-of-the-art sound reinforcement system offers easy volume and tone adjustment through the lip of the soundhole. For lightness and strength, the genuine mahogany neck is reinforced with carbon fiber and contoured with the Performing Artist profile for fast action and playability. This fine example of Mar tin’s capabilities is perfectly suited for onstage performance and professional studio recording. Mar

D-28 LOUVIN BROTHERS SIGNATURE EDITION Charlie and Ira Louvin, better known


as The Louvin Brothers, rank among the top duos in country and gospel music history. Immensely popular throughout the 1940s, '50s and '60s, their high harmonies helped set the stage for The Everly Brothers; Simon and Garfunkel; The Byrds; Crosby, S t i l l s a n d N a s h ; a n d m a ny o t h e r impor tant v o c a l h a r m o ny g ro u p s o f o u r era. Though both brothers played a variety of Martin instruments over the years, the inspiration for this unique Louvin Brothers edition combines the specifications of Charlie Louvin’s 1950s D-28 with Chris Martin’s D-28 CFM 1955 model (issued in 2010). Through groundbreaking technology, the solid Sitka spruce top is imprinted in high resolution color and clarity with the unprecedented artwork from the Louvin Brothers' Satan Is Real album cover and biography of the same title. This full-bodied 14-fret Dreadnought is craf ted with solid East Indian rosewood and a modified low oval genuine mahogany neck. In keeping with the period, the tuning machines are Kluson ® nickel-plated “wafflebacks” with oval knobs. Limited to no more than 50 completely u n iqu e instruments, each guitar bears a n interior label personally signed by C. F. Martin IV and Ken Louvin (Charlie Louvin’s son) and numbered in sequence with the edition total. Mar

22 | MARTIN ™


SS-OM42-14 This summer’s Nashville NAMM Show Special—the SS-OM42-14—takes its i n s p i ra t i o n from the popular D-42 Sinker M a h o g a ny m o d e l i n t ro d u c e d d u r i n g t h e 2012 Nashville NAMM Show. Reclaimed from i m m e r s e d r i v e r l o g s f ro m B e l i z e, s i n k e r mahogany back and sides combine with a solid Adirondack spruce top—lacquered and polished to a high gloss with an oak toner burst. Golden Era ® scalloped top bracing yields a complex and balanced tone, further enhanced by the use of genuine hide glue in the careful construction of the varied Custom Shop components. The pe rimete r of the top is accented in Style 42 top inlay of lustrous paua shell, and select abalone bordered in mother of pearl adorns the alternate torch inlaid h e a d p l a te. A Golden E ra ® S ty l e 4 5 abalone snowflake pattern, also bordered in mother-of-pearl, adorns the fingerboard, and matching 6-point snowflakes are inlaid into the wings of the bridge. Restricte d to orders placed by Martin dealers in attendance at the show, this model is limited to no more than 25 premium instruments, with interior labels numbered sequentially with edition total and bearing the signature of C. F. Mar tin IV. Mar

23 | MARTIN ™


D-18 SYCAMORE C. F. Mar tin & Co. celebrates 50 years of fine guitar manufacturing at our Sycamore Street location with this D-18 Sycamore Limited Edition. This unique 14-fret Dreadnought is crafted with solid quartersawn American sycamo re b a c k a n d s i d e s blended with a torrefied Sitka spruce top. Torrefaction accelerates the natural aging process, which in turn gives the guitar the appearance and tonal openness of an aged vintage guitar. The modified l o w o va l n e c k w i t h i t s Performing Artist taper is also carved from solid sycamore. Pro d u c t i o n o f t h e D - 18 Sycamore will be limited to no more than 50 special guitars, each individually numbered in sequence and personally signed by C. F. Martin IV.

24 | MARTIN ™


000RS25 NAVOJOA 25 TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Commemorating the 25 th anniversary of C. F. Martin & Co.’s Navojoa facility, this 14-fret 000-sized Road Series model celebrates the great pride and workmanship of our Mexican coworkers. This instrument features a solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped X Series bracing and solid sapele back and sides. The modified low oval neck of solid sipo is combined with a solid East Indian rosewood fingerboard and headplate that displays Navojoa’s 25 th Anniversary “wheat” logo. A satin finished top features aging toner and a rosette design with red-white-blue and red-wh ite -g re e n inlay lines representing the colors of the American and Mexican flags. The model will be limited to no more than 250 special commemorative guitars.

25 | MARTIN ™


DXAE BLACK Mar tin is pleased to introduce this non-cutaway acoustic-electric Dreadnought model to the affordable and popular line of X Series guitars. The DXAE Black features a striking Jett black top, back and sides of high pressure laminate. The matching black Stratabond ® neck is contoured with a sleek Performing Artist profile and Martin’s High Performance fingerboard that tapers from 1ƒ" at the nut to 2∆" a t t h e 1 2 t h f re t fo r fast, e a sy p l a y. Equipped with Fishman Sonitone USB ™ electronics, t h i s i n s t r u m e n t i s re a d y fo r t h e s t a ge, t h e s t u d i o, a n d e v e n instantaneous USB connection to your home computer! A c o u s t i c a l l y, t h e DXAE Black has the big, full sound expected of the Dreadnought. M a r t i n G u i t a r. c o m / N e w

26 | MARTIN ™


OMXAE BLACK Martin is pleased to introduce this non-

from 1ƒ" at the nut to 2∆" at the 12 th fret

cutaway acoustic-electric “OM” Orchestra

for fast, easy play. Equipped with F i s h m a n

Model to the affordable and popular line of

Sonitone USB ™ electronics, this in stru me nt

X Series guitars. The OMXAE Black features

is ready for t h e s t a g e , t h e s t u d i o, a n d e v e n

a striking Jett black top, back and sides

i n s t a n t a n e o u s U S B c o n n e c t i o n to yo u r

of high pressure laminate. The matching

home computer! Acoustically, the OMXAE

black Stratabond neck is contoured with a

Black has the smooth warmth and balance

sleek Performing Artist profile and Martin’s

i n d i c a t i v e o f t ra d i t i o n a l Mar tin O M s .

High Performance fingerboard that tapers

M a r t i n G u i t a r. c o m / N e w


27 | MARTIN ™


$54.99 (US) Edited by Robert Shaw & Peter Szego Available for purchase in The 1833 Shop 速 and at

INVENTING THE AMERICAN GUITAR The Pre-Civil War Innovations of C. F. Martin and His Contemporaries. Edited by Robert Shaw & Peter Szego Inventing the American Guitar is the first book to describe this remarkable transformation in detail and tell the story of the evolution of early American guitar design. The figure who dominates this history is C. F. Martin Sr., America's first major guitar maker and the founder of C. F. Martin & Co., which continues to produce outstanding flat-top guitars today. (Hardcover)

28 | THE 1833 SHOP 速

EXHIBIT OPEN UNTIL DECEMBER 7, 2014 Thirty-five rare guitars that

The exhibition highlights the

illustrate the early history of the

largest collection of instruments

instrument in America went on

by this renowned maker ever to be

view at The Metropolitan Museum

displayed publicly, including the

of Art, beginning January 14. Drawn

earliest known guitar signed by

from the Museum’s own holdings

Martin, the earliest established

as well as from the Martin Guitar

guitar with his famed X-braced

Museum in Nazareth, Pennsylvania,

construction, and several

and several private collections,

extraordinary decorated examples

Early American Guitars: The

of his work. Also on view is a 1939


Instruments of C. F. Martin traces

guitar made by Martin Guitar

the birth of the American guitar by

that was played by Eric Clapton

shedding light on the contributions

on MTV’s Unplugged series in

of Christian Frederick Martin, a

1992, representing the long

German immigrant who invented a

trajectory of guitar building by

uniquely American form of the guitar

the company founded by Christian

in the first half of the 19 century.

Frederick Martin.


THE 1833 ® SHOP |


It left the factory perfect 46 years ago. Then it got better.

Willie Nelson’s beloved Martin N-20. To find a guitar you‘ll love to pieces, visit


PAUL ASH 1929-2014 We are saddened by the passing

Photo courtesy of the Ash family.

and loyal Martin dealership.

of Paul Ash, who died on February

Like C. F. Martin & Co., Sam Ash

5, 2014, at the age of 84. He and

Music is a longstanding family

his brother, Jerome — both sons

owned and operated business; in

of Sam Ash Sr.—expanded their

fact, they are the nation’s largest

father’s Brooklyn musical legacy

family-owned chain of music

by opening a branch store in

stores. Control of the company

Hempstead, N.Y., in 1961. That

has passed to a third generation

was the star t of many branch

of Ash family members, while a

Sam Ash Music store locations,

fourth generation is increasingly

46 of which are now scattered

involved. We are thankful for the

across the United States, making

great support Paul showed for

the company one of the largest

Martin guitars throughout h is

music retailers and a longtime

long and prosperous life.



C. F. Martin & Co., Inc. 510 Sycamore St., Nazareth, PA 18064

VOLUME 2 | 2 01 4

Martin Strings. Period.

Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers |

Learn more about the most durable strings you’ll ever play at

Fretboard Journal: Martin Guitar eBook  
Fretboard Journal: Martin Guitar eBook  

A glimpse at some of our favorite Martin Guitar (and Martin artist) tales from the Fretboard Journal.