Martinfest 2018 – Thursday and Friday Updates

What a difference a good night sleep can make.

Thursday was whirlwind. We had smooth sailing once we were through the Holland Tunnel, but ran into zero-visibility rain, just a few minutes form the hotel.

 This is our second year at the Best Western Lehigh Valley Conference Center, with some overflow down the lane at the Hampton Inn.

The greeting of old friends began the moment I walked through the door to find Ken Klamert (kens d28) from down Louisiana way, sitting in one of the lobby chairs, happy to be here and happy to have brought along the old 00-18 he knows I am so fond of – which is celebrating its 70th birthday this year.

It would be a birth-year Martin for another favorite southerner who is happily in attendance. But since he don’t look his age I shan’t mention any names. But I hope he will forgive my sporadic reports.

I sent out an APB about my room location and soon heard a knocking.

There was Ed “Sweet Lips” Madonio, David Musselwhite, along with Fred Schrager. And with them was a brand new D-1 Authentic, which Ed claimed to be the best sounding brand new Martin he ever heard. I have yet to experience this instrument myself, but I hope to later this evening. [Didn’t happen. Sigh. Next year!]

And then came the many hellos and reunitings, and delightful meet ups with some various friends who haven’t been able to come to Martinfest for some time, in some cases four or five years! These included Stuart Sharp a Scotsman who lives in Homefirth, England and Mark Stalwick, from the Seattle area, who was clearly having a great time back in the ranks of us long-time Martinfest vets.

The weather had kept many from arriving for the traditional first night. So it was a more intimate event. I was quite tuckered out from the previous two weeks of 14 hour days, so we retired early, without any clue of course of the tragic events that followed soon after. And while Greg’s tragic death is a sad blow for all his Martinfest friends, I know the last thing he would want is ruin the party for everyone else. And we will bond together all the more as a result.

On Friday morning, after the somber breakfast at the hotel, my guest and Bella the wonder pooch headed off to the Martin factory for their first ever tour. We missed the turn off and ended up coming back through the countryside from the east of town, and through the hamlet of Cherry Hill, which is where C. F. Martin Sr. settled his family after they moved from New York City circa 1839.

I used to imagine Cherry Hill being way out in the countryside, from the letters and descriptions from that time. Only in recent years did I realize that it is in fact the gentle rising land directly across the street from Martin Guitar’s current location! Then I realized back in the early 1800s, Nazareth was situated on one hill, and Cherry Hill was basically the next hill over. And all that bottom land between has been swallowed up by the modern town.

I have not taken a tour in some years, so I was surprised to see so many aspects of the guitar-building process has become the work of high-tech robots, like the stamping of the center strip that goes inside the guitar, and other things once done by human hands.

As a reminder or a caution to those who don’t know, Martin starts work at 5 AM so most of the work stations are empty by 2 PM. A word to the wise is, get the earliest tour possible. And these days, you cannot get a tour before 11 AM, unless you reserve it in advance.

I did get a quick handshake from Tim Teel, Director of Instrument Design, and a quick wave to Jeff Allen busy in a meeting, as one can expect the Vice President of Global Manufacturing to be. And there, putting some extra hours in, was Emily of the Custom Shop, who is focusing on the ornate cosmetic appointments these days.

They have moved the Custom Shop to the front door where the tours enter, rather than having it hidden deep inside. A very smart move I feel.

Despite getting there later in the day, we did get to go up to the desk of Michael Dickinson, where he showed us an 0-28 from the early 1890s in immaculate condition, with its original coffin case, and the period shipping crate! It had hand written addresses on it, in flowing script, and there was even a photograph of the guitar’s original owner, sitting on a lawn as a teenager, playing a banjo among older family members. After a little work the old ivory friction peg tuners should allow it to be tuned up and played. Hmmmm. Another Authentic Series model in the works?

Speaking of new guitars in the works, one of lucky members has purchased a very special prototype – of the CEO-7 TWELVE-STRING! I have yet to see this guitar. But it was making the rounds Friday night after I was tucked up under the covers to get a march on the world. (More about this special instrument later.)

That reminds me The first guitar I played at this year’s Martinfest was an AMAZING 1932 00-40H that has been converted to a 00-45 by T J Thompson. He even managed to preserve all the original pearl and binding while inlaying the extra pearl. The guitar was purchased without a fingerboard, so he had to make a new one, as well as a new bridge. But as expected, they were both emasculate reproductions.

But I am getting ahead and behind of myself. After our tour and checking out the Summer NAMM Martins, which I unable to come see in July do to my recording project schedule, we headed off the Nazareth Boro Park for the first official UMGF Martinfest day.

Again the weather and work schedules kept many way on Friday this year. So it was a small but content group listening to the open mic performances, playing some the guitars set out, etc. I most enjoyed a MINT 1902 00-30, with extra light steel strings on it. I remain amazed how the vintage 00s can project so much beautiful tone when played with even a light hand.

And then the rains returned with a vengeance. And I mean biblical proportions as the light struck repeatedly near by, and the downpours when from heavy, to extremely heavy, to this is ridiculous heavy, and the creek running along the Long Pavilion took on the looks of the raging Colorado River.

After it broke we all scattered for the hotel, but another even harder rain hit and the highway came to a halt, so we did a U Turn on the entrance ramp and took the back rounds, which paid off well.

There was a cheese and wine sort of reception at 7 PM and by that time many more regulars and first-timers had arrived and things were getting well under way. Both of the main music rooms were full, but as I was still running on fumes from the past month, I was back to another early bed (by Martinfest standards) and my overworked hands were given another day off, except for the short rehearsal I had with Paul Ukena and Frank Krupit for our Martin on Main performance.

I am happy the good night’s sleep and hand rest have paid off.

The rains have stopped, the sun is supposed to be out by noon, and it looks to be a right fine day ahead, if a swampy one after the week’s monsoon.

to be continued…

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