Latest Acoustic Guitar Reviews and News

John Mayer’s 13-fret Martin Reveal

Unique 13-fret custom Martin made for John Mayer

Solid Cocobolo and Engelmann spruce with Style 41 appointments

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(click to enlarge)

An eagle-eyed Aaron Short sent me the photo on the left to ask about what this guitar might be. And since it is now out there in the public media, my self-imposed gag order regarding any behind the scenes stuff at C. F. Martin & Co. has now some leeway for replying. This is one very cool guitar.

I feel it is important to make clear that this was a private project that Martin had no intention of publicizing. Mr. Mayer had no part in the project or its design, and it was made entirely as a surprise for him, conceived by his friend Fred Greene, Martin’s VP of Product Management.

When Mayer chose to reveal the guitar on his social media, I asked the powers that be if that meant I could post about it. The response I received from Fred was, “Since it’s no longer secret, feel free to share.” And so I shall.

The revolutionary Martin SC-13 is the basis for this one-of-a-kind custom Martin that was made for John Mayer, with the artist’s name inlaid on the fingerboard in abalone shell, using the font from the cover of his latest album, Sob Rock. It also gets a matching abalone rosette around the sound hole, and abalone trim along the edge of the top, making it similar to Style 41 Martins. And that rosette goes all the way through the fingerboard extension on the top, making a full circle. This is a cosmetic embellishment that John Mayer himself came up with for one of his earlier signature models.

The woods are spectacular! The highly-figured cocobolo and shimmering Engelmann spruce look good enough to eat, and even the neck is made from figured mahogany. And the figured cocobolo face plate on the headstock is so outrageous it looks like tortoise shell! There is an inlaid abalone script logo and three split abalone  diamonds stacked like rectangles down the center; and all of it is set off by pearloid buttons on the six tuning machines.

The asymmetrical SC design (S body shape named for the bass side curves of the silhouette, C for the treble cutaway) incorporates Martin’s first 13-fret neck with a new neck joint that allows for no heel at all, much like an electric guitar. It is a departure in many ways from the traditional designs of this venerable guitar-making powerhouse. Its proven success is expected to give rise to other SC models in the future – a future put off-course by the COVID-19 crisis. Product projections aside, this SC was produced under the radar, expressly for John Mayer.

(click to enlarge photos – click Back Button to return to article)

The SC-13E is part of the Road Series of acoustic-electric guitars made in Martin’s facility in Navajoa, Mexico, and priced for working musicians. Mayer’s guitar was built in Nazareth, PA with primo tonewoods and appointments. That would mean a much higher commercial price, should anything like it appear for sale to the general public.

Mayer has been a big fan of Engelmann spruce since he was introduced to it by Dick Boak when they were designing his original signature model, the OM-28 JM. That limited edition is now a desirable collector’s item with a skyrocketing price, if you can find one at all. But they made a regular production model based on it, the OMJM, which has the same Engelmann spruce for the top that is matched with the same Indian rosewood back and sides, the rosewood species used on the OM-28V he played for many years prior to the signature models based on it.

Since then, Mayer has had multiple Martin signature models, including two made with cocobolo back and sides, the 00-45 Stage Coach and 00-42 Stage Coach editions. Each is a 12-fret 00 with a slotted headstock. The 45 has an Adirondack spruce top and the 42 has Sitka. Engelmann made a reappearance as the top wood on the D-45 JM, made with Guatemalan rosewood back and sides.

Engelmann spruce has a quick and snappy report, but slower velocity to the swell that rises up and out from sustained chords and harmonic overtones. That effect is barely perceptible when new, but after a year or two the tone of an Engelmann soundboard really blossoms into an ever more-colorful pastel glow that enhances the tonal complexity of whatever rosewood species is used to frame the sound chamber.

Cocobolo is a true rosewood. To my ear, it sounds most like Guatemalan rosewood, with a similar inky-dark undertone, although Guatemalan does not have quite as steely a report from the fundamental notes as cocobolo sends out. The cocobolo should put some meat on the precise Engelmann fundamentals, and the Engelmann should ultimately accentuate the lushness of that deep, dark coco cavern down in the bass and low-mids.

With a body size and sound chamber falling somewhere between a Grand Performance and an Orchestra Model, an SC in this combination of cocobolo topped with Engelmann spruce is mouthwatering in its acoustic potential. But it might provide some challenges when plugging in the onboard Fishman electronics, tonal complexity being a bit of a maverick when it comes to the rodeo of a segmented sound system servicing a large auditorium or concert arena. Fortunately, SCs have an internal switch that cuts the bottom end for just such environments.

I had played an early R&D version of an SC made with solid Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce, and cosmetics similar to Standard Style 28. It was also braced a little heavier. The success of the SC design made with Standard Series woods was apparent from the get go. And it is not telling tales out of school to say the reality of production model SCs made in Nazareth with solid tonewoods that are on par with the Standard Series is (hopefully) only a matter of time. But I would not put money on that happening any time soon.

Since I published this account on September 2, C. F. Martin has saw fit to  go public about the guitar on their own social media, with guitar designer Rameen Shayegan posting “I am thrilled to have some glam shots of this custom one-off we built as a surprise gift for John Mayer. I’m ESPECIALLY thrilled that he loves it and is actually playing and enjoying this instrument. Working on projects like this reminds me how much I love my job

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click to enlarge

I imposed upon Rameen’s holiday weekend to ask him about the guitar. “Fred (Greene) walked into the Design Team office one day and said he wanted a one-off SC made from Cocobolo and Engelmann spruce. And then he followed up by saying, ‘I want you you guys to pull out all the stops’ and to ‘really pearl it up!’ And that is when he said, ‘Oh, and it is for John Mayer.’ Whew! I went to work on it immediately.”

Cocobolo can be very difficult to work with. It is oily, which makes it problematic where gluing is involved. And some people have serious allergic reactions to the dust when it is sanded. And it can crack when you are working with it.

“We have no bending presses in Nazareth to make the SC body, or bracing masks for that design, or anything really.” What Rameen did have is experience from making the SC prototypes. “I had to bend the sides of John’s new Martin the old fashioned way, by hand, over a primitive form, minimal iron ‘egg.'” This is a device heated by electricity and used to bend guitar sides that are first soaked in water. It was the main way to bend sides at Martin until the turn of the century. “There was no margin for error, but it turned out beautifully.”

Tim Teel, CFM Director of Instrument Design, came up with the fingerboard design. Rameen said that it was tag team effort. “We wanted to base it on Mayer’s Sob Rock album. Did you know Mayer designs his own fonts? That is a pretty cool hobby to have. So, everything about the design, including the split diamond position markers on the fingerboard were inspired by the design concept on his new record. And we included a 360 degree rosette like the one he came up with for his 00-45 SC model.”

I asked about the pickup and was told it is the Fishman Matrix Infinity, which has onboard tone and volume control. Rameen considered using the Fishman’s Goldline Plus pickup that Mayer often uses on stage, so he can fit a feedback buster into the sound hole. “But the SC design is not prone to the same sort of feedback issues one can have with traditional acoustic guitar bodies.”

Tim Teel  told me that they built the guitar for Mayer partly because they felt he would be a wonderful adjudicator when it came to a Nazareth-made SC made with solid woods and higher-end construction, and that Tim really enjoyed the design process. By all accounts, “he loves it.” Rameen went on to say that “Mayer is such an important artist whose playing has proven him to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time. That he loves this guitar and enjoys playing it means to me more than I can say.”

In an early conversation, Fred Greene stressed that this guitar was “a one off for John. He is a special person and good friend.”

That being said, there have been many one-off guitars made in Martin’s Custom Shop for notable recording artists that were ultimately used as the basis for an artist signature model, the D-35 David Glamour being the most recent example.

Might this be another Mayer model in the making? I am one man who cannot say.

But I can say, I will be appearing on YouTube’s Aaron Short Music channel on Labor Day (Monday, Sep. 6,) answering questions from the live audience about all things Martin related, via the chat bar feature. The show starts promptly 4 PM, Eastern Time, and will remain up for replay viewing on Aaron’s YouTube channel. I have no doubt this guitar will come up as one of the topics for discussion.

Here is the video Mayer posted on his Instagram story outlet, picked up by a Celine Dion fanzine.

Martin Guitar Soundboard Bracing

Brace Yourself for the State of Martin Bracing in 2021

The Scoop on Scallops and Other Revelations

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2021 Martin Bracing Guide CEO Thomas-Ripsam onemanz.comNew CEO Thomas Ripsam scalloping braces at the Martin factory

At long last, I have finally completed my guide to the bracing patterns used at C. F. Martin & Co., at least in the summer of 2021. Who knows when things will change where this rather fluid subject is concerned? “Not I,” said the old gray fox.

The bracing inside an acoustic guitar can have considerable influence on tone. Martin guitars come with a variety of bracing patterns that are by no means created equal.

Several years ago, Martin simplified the public spec sheets of their entire catalog of guitars and ukuleles, removing pertinent information relating to bracing and effectively blurring the details that separate the guitars from different pricing tiers. While this put them in line with other manufacturers like Gibson, it was a major departure for Martin, to take away the means for consumers to get a good understanding of what any given Martin model actually has under the hood, as it were.

The Martin website has only gotten worse in this regard. Several of their spec sheets contain out of date information, or information that even has people at Martin scratching their heads as to who came up with some of the specs listed, which have no basis in reality. And they have no idea why the powers that be do nothing to correct such misinformation.

Even the accurate information can be of little use. While Martin is understandably proud of having invented the X-bracing that has been copied by every steel string guitarmaker on earth, it is meaningless to someone looking at the spec sheet of a Martin guitar to see “Bracing Pattern: X Bracing,” when every Martin guitar made today has an X brace.

Likewise, the majority of Martin guitar spec sheets include “Brace Shape: Scalloped.” This is somewhat misleading (intentionally or not) when some bracing patterns have lots of scalloping involved but others have next to none.

Someone unfamiliar with the technical specifications of Martin guitars could easily assume the HD-35 and the D-10E have very similar construction and bracing. They don’t. But there has not been any public source to turn to where the straight dope is concerned, when it comes to straight braces vs. scalloped braced, and all related topics. Recently, Maury’s Music published a blog post about bracing that is quite helpful. But Martin as a company has been anything but helpful, publicly.

Moreover, there have been considerable changes to various bracing patterns used on Martins today since the last time there has been any real effort to explain such things to consumers. Some of this was news to me when I started probing and prodding the appropriate people about the current state of bracing across the Martin line. So, I have been guilty of imparting out-of-date information during recent interviews or when answering readers’ mail.

So, in the spirit of doing my part to combat the pandemic of misinformation swirling around the internet, I present to you my 2021 Guide to Martin Guitar Bracing, with special thanks to Tim Teel, Director of Instrument Design; Rameen Shayegan, Manager of International Instrument Design; and Michael Dickinson of Wood Procurement and other considerable expertise.

Martin Bracing Forward-Shifted vs Non-forward onemanz.com

 

Style 16 Guitars of the 1980s and Early 1990s?

A reader asks about the Style 16 guitars from the 1980s…

“Where does the 16 Series fit in? I have a 1989 D-16M that is indistinguishable in every way, including spec wise, from a traditional D-18.” — Aden in South Africa

Spoon replies:

Congratulations on your D-16M. It is one of the lesser-known but wonderful Martin models. So too are the 000-16 and 000C-16 from the same era.

But the D-16M at that time was anything but exactly like a traditional D-18, of that era anyway. It is closer to the D-18V from the Vintage Series, minus the V neck.

The D-18 in those days had a black pickguard and black binding, and white domino dots for fret position markers – and non-scalloped bracing. The 1989 D-16M had the tortoise trim and pickguard, Style 17 dots  – and scalloped braces with a smaller maple bridge plate, at a time when most Martins did not get those very excellent construction features.

1989 Martin D-16M onemanz.com

The D-16M also had the Low Profile neck shape years before the standard D-18 got it. But 1989 might have been the first year of that neck shape moving to the D-18. They had been making the D-18P (P for the new neck profile) for three years by that time and 1989 is the first year they did not. But they did make the D-28P, HD-28P and D-35P that year, so the official change from the Full Thickness profile to the Low Profile on what we now call Standard Series instruments may have taken place in 1990.

What makes them desirable to me is the scalloped bracing at a time when the D-18 had non-scalloped bracing. The same goes for the 000-16 and 000C-16. Not only that, the 000s have 1/4″ scalloped bracing, and they have a long-scale neck. So they are really more like an OM-18 than the 000-18 of the day, except for the 1-11/16″ nut width. And the version with the oval cutaway has a 22 fret neck! Clearly meant for electric guitarists. Mine is from 1991.

Martin 000C-16 T Spoon Phillips onemanz.com

But Style 16 was always changing. Some 1980s 16s were made with black binding, others have tortoise; with satin finish or with full gloss; with vintage toner on the top or not; and some were made with the light stain normally used for maple guitars.

When Style 16 first appeared in 1961, it was limited to 12-fret guitars in size 0 that were lightly built to be used with nylon or extra light steel strings, and given the suffix NY in homage to the Martins from the 1800s that were sold with a label reading New York, NY, because that was where Martin’s lone distributor did business. A 00-21NY was made at the same time. In 1962 a size 5 guitar was offered in Style 16 as well.

When Style 16 returned in the mid-1980s as a collection of 14-fret guitars, it was sort of the mahogany version of Style 21 vis-a-vis Style 28. It got slightly lower-grade wood than the 18 (even if the woods are better than what you see on an 18 today.) And they had smaller dots previously used on Style 17 instruments in the 1950s, as well as no inlay around the top or back.

But otherwise, they have the full dovetail neck joint and solid American mahogany neck block, and with all the same construction of what we now call the Standard Series, which make them ridiculously great guitars to have now, after seasoning all those years. This is especially true for mahogany lovers, since there were no mahogany Martins made with scalloped bracing at that time. And of course, it is all tropical American Big Leaf mahogany, not the stuff from Africa used on the 16 Series today.

The 16s did not appear in the Martin catalog at first. They were built for export and sold mainly in Canada. But they were also sold as NAMM Show Specials for American dealers who made the effort to attend the trade shows. They proved so popular that they were eventually added to the official price lists.

They made 660 D-16M guitars in 1989. (A total of 2,120 were made in years 1986, 1987, 1989, and 1990.) They also made the D-16A (ash back and sides, 818 total, 1987, 1988, 1990) D-16W (walnut, 100 total, 1987) and D-16K (koa, 390 total in 1986.)

D-16A ash back and sides onemanz.com

D-16A with ash back and sides

In addition, the D-16 was replaced by the D-16H which had slightly different trim each year (1,692 made between 1991 -1994.) But all have had a herringbone back strip and rosette, like Vintage Style 21. Those features would eventually become the hallmarks of Style 16 of the 1990s and the modern 16 Series instruments that followed.

Although production numbers for the 000-16  and 000C-16 (the M was not always included in the stamp) were not much less than the D models, the non-cutaway 000-16M is far more rare on the used market. I guess that speaks to how much their owners love them.

When they do show up for sale they are still priced between $1K – 1.5K. The Ds go for around the same amount. These are ridiculously good bargains for such excellent guitars.

The chief reason these gems are undervalued is because in late 1995 a certain bean counter did away with these great guitars and replaced them with the Mortise and Tenon neck joint version that had the A-Frame bracing necessary for that design. The change was all about maximizing profits on a relatively more-affordable Martin guitar. Many people assume the 16s always were that way.

For those in the know, the 16s made from 1986 until the switch sometime in 1995 are awesome and ahead of their time when it came to styling and scalloped bracing. There are various time periods when Martin was trying things out on their way to codifying this or that, and sometimes they accidentally invented an excellent if short-lived model. The D-16 built between 1986 to 1994 is definitely one of them, no matter which exact version it is.

In my opinion, today’s 16 Series guitars are greatly improved from the ones made in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and are aimed at electrified performance. They all have built-in pickup systems and the larger bodies have the reduced depth of a 000 for anti-feedback purposes. They are immensely popular with good reason. But I always tell people that if they find a pre-1995 16 in good shape, buy it!

And that is one man’s word on…

Martin Style 16 from the 1980s and early 1990s

C. F. Martin Introduces New CEO, Thomas Ripsam

Corporate growth strategist Thomas Ripsam to head Martin Guitars

The new CEO who is an avid guitarist, but new to the business

Chris Martin remains as Executive Chairman

Thomas_Ripsam_New_Martin_Gutiars_CEOLEHIGH VALLEY, Pa., June 14, 2021 C.F. Martin & Co. announced today that Thomas Ripsam has been appointed the company’s new Chief Executive Officer. Effective today, Mr. Ripsam succeeds longtime Chairman and CEO, Christian Frederick Martin IV, who assumes the role of Executive Chairman.

An experienced growth strategist and leader, Mr. Ripsam has a deep passion for companies with a strong heritage and legacy. He is a trusted advisor and business partner, having guided numerous boards of directors and leadership teams to shape strategies and deliver results. His expertise in strategy development, digital/technology deployment and continuous improvement will ensure the continued growth of the 188-year-old company.

After 35 years as C.F. Martin & Co. CEO, Chris Martin is stepping into his new leadership role of Executive Chairman. During his time as CEO, Mr. Martin has guided the company through booms and crises, leaving a legacy of growth and manufacturing excellence. This transition comes as the company is experiencing unprecedented demand for its products.

“First, I want to thank everyone in the music products business for their support during my 35-year career as CEO of my family’s business. What a ride!” said Mr. Martin. “I complete my term as NAMM Chairman this July at the show in Nashville, and I have been thinking about retiring for several years, so this felt like the right time. I look forward to transitioning to the role of Executive Chairman of Martin Guitar where I will continue to be a cheerleader for the Martin brand. I am excited to work with Thomas as he gets to know all of us and shares the love we all have for the guitar.”

Chris Martin hands the reins to Mr. Ripsam, who, over the course of his 25+ year career, first at Booz Allen & Hamilton, and most recently as a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, took on leadership responsibilities for growing the business, developing service offerings and managing teams. He has worked with consumer goods companies, specialty retailers, technology solutions providers, Fortune 50 companies and family owned businesses, helping to drive profitable growth, enhancing digital capabilities, improving customer experience and engagement, and generating hundreds of millions in incremental value for his clients.

An avid guitar player, Mr. Ripsam collects fretted instruments and even took a sabbatical in 2019 to work with a luthier to learn about the process of building acoustic guitars – in the style of Martin. He holds an MBA in Strategy & Finance from Columbia Business School and a BA in Business Administration and Management from Reutlingen University in Germany and Middlesex University in London.

“I have admired Martin guitars since I was a teenager,” said Ripsam. “My first real acoustic was a Martin guitar and it has been a close companion to me since.  Martin has always been an iconic fretted instrument builder and I have a deep appreciation for the company’s continued focus on quality, craftsmanship and innovation, as well as its unique culture and history. I am honored and humbled to join the Martin family and to carry on the legacy of Chris Martin and his predecessors.”

Martin Renames New Models

Custom Authentic D-28 1937 Now Called Custom Shop D-28 1937

The new 000-28 1937 model likewise renamed

As reported here last month, C. F. Martin & Co. announced two new and very special guitars that are available only from dealers in Martin’s new Custom Shop Experts program. Essentially, these new models made by the specially-trained Custom Shop employees use specifications previously only available on Authentic Series models, but also have some features of less-expensive Martins to make them accessible to players with more-modest budgets, even if they are priced above the Standard Series and Modern Deluxe Series instruments.

Martin_Custom_Shop_D-28_1937_Ambertone_glam1_Custom_Authentic_onemanz

This notice is posted in an effort to avoid any confusion that might be caused by this change to the official model names.

Martin Custom Shop Models Officially Released

Custom Shop D-28 1937 and 000-28 1937

Available only from dealers with the Custom Shop Expert designation

As originally reported on One Man’s Guitar, the new Custom Shop models have now been officially released, three months ahead of the Summer NAMM trade show. Lady’s and Gentlemen, start your credit cards!

Made with construction techniques similar to priceless pre-war Martins, but with just enough differences from the Authentic Series instruments to reduce the sticker price by more than $1,500, the Custom Shop D-28 1937 is an Indian rosewood version of the D-28 Authentic 1937.

Martin_D-28_Custom_Authentic_1937_Natural_glam_small_onemanz

The Custom Shop 000-28 1937 has the same tonewoods and many of the same Authentic Series specifications. But since Martin had never offered the 14-fret 000-28 in the Authentic Series (or the Vintage, Golden Era, Marquis Series for that matter,) the neck shape and bracing are “inspired” by pre-war 000-28s rather than being an exact copy of an actual pre-war 000-28.

Martin_000-28_Custom_Authentic_Stage_1_Aging_onemanz

The Custom Shop Expert program also goes live today, with a special designation that will permit select Martin dealers in 11 nations to have access to special models like these new Custom Authentics and other exclusive offerings. These dealers now have a unique badge they may display on their websites to signify their participation in the program.

Here are the official spec sheets for these news models.

D-28 Custom Shop 1937

000-28 Custom Shop 1937

Martins on Parade: Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges

Cleveland, Ohio, March 4, 1988

Leo on an MC-28 Sunburst model with the old oval sound hole, Michael on a vintage 5-18

For my birthday, my younger sister wanted to buy me tickets to this concert. But I already had my plane tickets to fly back from my internship in New York City, a day or two too late. I had been a Kottke fan since my early teens and had discovered Hedges about a year before this show. So I was seriously bummed. But thanks to modern marvels like YouTube, at least I get to see the encores, when Hedges came out to join Kotte for some impromptu jamming.

The First Cutting, by Michael Hedges, followed by Eight Miles High, by David Crosby

 

New Martins from the New Custom Shop Experts

Authentic Series Specs at a Lower Price

Available only from a Martin “Custom Shop Expert” dealer

Martin_Custom_Shop_D-28_1937_Naturalaka_Custom Authentic_onemanz

Spring Surprise Sprung

Martin Guitars has introduced their Custom Shop Experts designation, granting certain dealers a special badge to signify that they do a high-volume business in one-of-a-kind instruments built in the Martin Custom Shop. They are also being granted the privilege of selling some exciting new Martin models that feature construction techniques from the lofty Authentic Series, at a lower price than any previous thoroughbred from that stable.

Some seven years ago, I sat in the office of Tim Teel, Martin’s Director of Instrument Design, along with Fred Green, Vice President of Product Management, discussing the neck shapes of the 1930s Orchestra Models about to be recreated for the Authentic Series. I asked if they might eventually sell guitars based on the Authentics, but with Standard Series woods, while pricing them in between the two. The answer was an emphatic “No way!”

Well, Garth… way.

Wayyyyyyyyy!

Made by the craftsmen and craftswomen of the Custom Shop, the guitars in the Authentic Series are painstaking recreations of specific, priceless instruments built in Martin’s Golden Era, centered on the 1930s. But these new Custom Authentic models have certain changes to the specifications that make them more affordable, if no less exclusive. Pricing starts just over $5,200.00, compared to $6,888.00 for an authentic Authentic.

The eight new models are actually two models, offered with four different finishing options, including the basic Vintage Gloss finish exclusive the Authentic Series, an Amberburst top not previous used in the series, and for an additional up-charge, a less-dramatic version of the “relic” processing found on their Aged Authentic models, as well as both the Amerburst top and the new Stage 1 Aging, as it is being called.

The D-28 Custom Shop 1937 is based closely on the fabulous D-28 Authentic 1937, which debuted in 2014. The all-new Custom Shop 1937 000-28 has the styling of a 1937 000-28 with a neck and bracing similar to the CEO-7 model that first appeared in 2013.

The lower sticker price is being achieved by using East Indian rosewood for the back and sides and by not using Martin’s Vintage Tone System of wood torrefaction. They also have a modern adjustable truss rod in the neck, rather than the rigid steel T-bar used in Martins from the pre-war era.

UPDATE: These Custom Shop models have been renamed from the original “Custom Authentic” models used to describe them prior to their official release. And that release date was moves up from the Summer NAMM Show to April 26 of this. Given how long it takes to build and age each of these exquisite guitars by hand, dealers with the Custom Shop Expert badge were granted permission to accept pre-orders for them. But that “pre” was quickly removed. So now it is just a matter of waiting for the first ones to reach the first dealers who received the first customer orders.

See the list below to contact the Custom Shop Expert dealer nearest you to place your (pre)order.

The full story of these new Custom Shop 1937 models and the Custom Shop Experts program will appear in the upcoming issue of Martin: The Journal of Acoustic Guitars, based on my interviews with Fred Greene and other Martin insiders.

The Future is Bright

One year ago, the global pandemic compelled C. F. Martin & Co. to suspend operations. They had just managed a nimble navigation to remain afloat in the wake of the most recent economic downturn, only to face the greatest challenge in their 188 years in business – the complete shutdown of production due to COVID-19.

Senior management had to restructure the entire company and invest considerable time and treasure before any of their guitar builders could safely return to work, and all other employees could be supplied with the means to work remotely. Anticipated product launches were postponed and some models already in production were suspended, in some cases indefinitely. So, I was very happy to see these new Custom Shop models appear, basically on schedule.

Orders for regular catalog models are now being filled, but with a backlog larger than at any time since they opened the modern factory in 1961. And yet, they are appearing at long last in the shops and showrooms and on the websites of Martin dealers around the globe.

The consumer appetite for portable and affordable musical instruments grew steadily across the months of the pandemic lock down. Music soothes the soul, and the playing of live music is a delight for all who get to experience it. It also provides hours of satisfaction for free, after the initial investment in a quality instrument like a guitar or a ukulele.

But these modern times have also inspired musicians to step up and buy the sort of world-class instruments only available from builders like C. F. Martin & Co., with an “if not now, when?” attitude and a sense that life is too short not to play a Martin, as one of their old sales slogans put it. And so too has increased the interest in ordering a one-of-a-kind instrument from Martin’s Custom Shop, which is busier than ever.

I have designed multiple custom Martins over the years, with the help of multiple dealers, and I now own more customized Martins than stock catalog models. Each of these special guitars has been wonderful and worth the time and effort and cost it took to have it built. None of those dealers is even part of this new Custom Shop Experts program. The point being, there are many Martin dealers with many years of expertise when it comes to shepherding a customer through designing their dream guitar. But these official experts are different from the rest.

The new Custom Shop Experts have been selected because of their long-time practice of ordering large numbers of custom Martins, not just for individual customers, but for the dealer, so they can offer a unique guitar only available from their store. They put careful and considerable thought into each guitar before finalizing the specs, so that their websites are often glittering with mouthwatering Martins, made from stunning woods, both traditional and unusual, and inlays and cutaways and combinations of features not available anywhere else but on that one guitar in that one showroom.

Reaping What They Sow

Martin_000-28_Custom_Authentic_1937_Ambertone_Stage_1_Aging_glam_smallonemanzThis list appears to primarily include dealers in large cities or who otherwise have large showrooms and who also sell guitars from many other leading brands and independent luthiers. They attract customers on-line and as walk-ins who might not have considered ordering a Martin, let alone an out of the ordinary Martin, until that one-of-a-kind guitar is put in their hands and they can’t let it go and end up taking it home.

For their continued efforts to order and offer guitars from the Custom Shop in such quantities, these select dealers have been rewarded with the exclusive right to sell these new Custom Shope models. And boy, are they gonna sell!

Besides the modern neck rod, the D-size design has all the important pre-war specs of the version made with the pricey Madagascar rosewood and VTS spruce. The new 000 is the first guitar in the modern Authentic Series that isn’t based on a specific vintage Martin. It will have 1/4″ bracing similar to the old 000-18 Authentic 1937, and a neck shape that is being officially listed as a Modified V that has a 1930’s Style heel, and the standard 1-3/4″ fretboard taper matched with 2-5/16″ string spacing. That basically says it has the neck currently available on the CEO-7. But the actual designer referred to it as being based on the OM-28 Authentic 1931. I will have to get my mitts on it before I can make further comment.

The usual questions concerning whether or not there will be more models included in this new concept, or other woods like mahogany back and sides, get the same answer they always do. If these sell as well as Martin hopes, then yes, there might be other models, eventually.

The only thing I am permitted to say for certain is that these current Custom Shop models will eventually go away, as they do have an End Date.

The following Martin dealers are currently members of the new Custom Shop Experts program in 11 different nations. The sooner you reach out to one about ordering your amazing new Custom Shop D-28 1937 or Custom Shop 000-28 1937 guitar, the sooner you will be cradling it in your lap.

And that is one man’s word on…

The New Martin Custom Shop Models

Available only from a Custom Shop Expert dealer

United States

Arizona

Acoustic Vibes
2070 E Southern Ave
Tempe, AZ 85282
(480) 656-7749

California

Lightning Joes Guitar Heaven
100 E Branch Street
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
(805) 481-2226
Website

Tall Toad Music
43 Petaluma Blvd. N
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 765-6807
Website

Instrumental Music
1501 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
(805) 496-3774

Colorado

Wildwood
500 S Arthur Ave, STE 700
Louisville, CO 80027
(303) 665-7733

Georgia

Ken Stanton Music
6010 North Point Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30022
(770) 670-4424
Website

Illinois

Chicago Music Exchange
3316 N Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 525-7773

Tobias Music
5013 Fairview Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515
(630) 960-2455
Website

Music Gallery
2558 Green Bay Road
Highland Park, IL 60035
(847) 432-6350
Website

Kentucky

Willcutt Guitars
406 Rosemont Garden
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 276-0675

Massachusetts

Music Emporium
165 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, MA 02420
(781) 860-0049
Website

Michigan
Elderly Instruments
1100 N Washington Avenue
Lansing, MI 48906
(517) 473-5810
Website

Montana

Music Villa
539 E Main Street
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 587-4761

New Hampshire

Manchester Music Mill
329 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101
(603) 623-8022
Website

New Jersey

Russo Music
619 Lake Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 455-8397
Website

New York

Music Zoo
123 Smith Street
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(844) 687-4296
Website

Rudy’s Music
461 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 625-2557

Pennsylvania

Northeast Music
713 Scranton Carbondale Hwy.
Dickson City, PA 18519
(570) 909-9216
Website

Empire Music
719 Washington Road
Mt Lebanon, PA 15228
(412) 343-5299
Website

Tennessee

Gruhn Guitars
2120 8th Avenue S
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 256-2033

Music Outlet
1050 Winfield Dunn Parkway
Sevierville, TN 37862
(865) 453-1031

Texas

Tone Shop
15317 Midway Road
Addison, TX 75001
(972) 661-8663
Website

Strait Music
2428 W. Ben White Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 476-6927

Fuller’s Vintage
116 North Loop
Houston, TX 77008
(713) 880-2188

Canada

Quebec

Centre de Musique Diplomate
311 Rue Beaubien E
Montréal, QC H2S 1R9, Canada
+1 (514) 274-5413

International

Australia

Acoustic Centre
206 Park St
South Melbourne VIC 3205, Australia
+61 3 9699 5691
info@acousticcentre.com.au

Denmark

Akustikken
Bagerstræde 7DK-1617
Copenhagen, Denmark
+45 86 1260 34
info@akustikken.dk
Website

Germany

Musikhaus Hermann
Gymnasiumstraße 2
88400 Biberach an der Riß, Germany
+49 7351 9789
info@musikhaus-hermann.de
Website

Italy

Centro Chitarre
Via S. Sebastiano, 14
80134 Napoli NA, Italy
+39 081 446705
info@centrochitarre.com

Netherlands

Fellowship of Acoustics BV (TFOA)
Moerheimstraat 144
7701 CJ Dedemsvaart, Netherlands
+31 (0) 523-232205
info@tfoa.eu
Website

South Korea

Sam-Kwang Music Instrument
173, Beomil-ro Busanjin-gu, Busan
Busan, South Korea
+82 51-632-3003
30samkwang@naver.com

Acoustic Jun
#203 21, Dongtangiheung-reo257beonga-gil, Hwaseong-si, Geyonggi-do
Seoul, South Korea
+82 31-376-7670
acousticjun@naver.com

United Kingdom – England

Peach Guitars
3 Crown Gate, Wyncolls Road, Severalls Industrial Park
Colchester CO4 9HZ, United Kingdom
+44 1206 765777
experience-martin-custom-shop@peachguitars.com

United Kingdom – Scotland

GuitarGuitar
36 Trongate
Glasgow G1 5ES, United Kingdom
0800 456 1959
orders@guitarguitar.co.uk
Website

 

(click on photos to enlarge)

Martin D-28 Custom Authentic top onemanz

Martin D-28 Custom Authentic Aged top onemanz

Martin D-28 Custom Authentic Ambertone top onemanz

Martin D-28 Custom Authentic Ambertone Aged top onemanz

Martin 000-28 Custom Authentic top oenmanz

Martin 000-28 Custom Authentic Aged top onemanz

Martin 000-28 Custom Authentic Ambertone top oenmanz

Martin 000-28 Custom Authentic Ambertone Aged top onemanz

 

David Lindley

Singular American musician David Lindley turns 77

“Mr. Dave” laid down licks across popular music while earning his own cult following that endures to this day. I believe I have seen him more in concert than any other artist.

David Lindley is likely heard most often on the classic rock radio hit “Running on Empty.”

An American Original

As a teen, David Lindley won the Topanga Canyon Fiddle and Banjo Contest. After winning five years in a row, they made him a judge. It was only up from there.

He was a founding member of the psychedelic band Kaleidoscope across the late 1960s, when he started to get session work that put his unique sound on albums by rising stars like Leonard Cohen, the Youngbloods, Graham Nash, and America, before joining the band of English singer/guitarist Terry Reid. In 1972, he began a collaboration with fellow-Californian Jackson Browne, with whom he toured for the next eight years as a duo act and with the larger commercial bands tried to Browne’s career as a recording artist.

David Lindley first entered my stream of consciousness through Jackson Browne’s second album, For Everyman, where his melodic lead guitar work, beefy violin accompaniment, and transcendent steel guitar playing, and out-shown Elton John’s piano, and the big name voices joining in on harmony vocals that helped launch Browne to international stardom. I have remained his enthusiastic admirer every since, quickly losing interest in Browne’s music once Lindley moved on to tour and record for Rod Stewart, Crosby & Nash, Dolly Parton, and many, many others.

I knew nothing about him in those days, just that, should I ever become proficient enough to perform with other people, I wanted my lead guitar playing to be as pretty or as searing, and always tastefully supportive of the songs and singers rather than upstaging them, just David Lindley.

While the rest of this birthday homage features videos, here is the studio recording of the song that made me want to become a “sideman” guitarist:

As a solo artist and front man, Mr. Dave, as he is affectionately known by his friends and fans, has chosen to play what he likes, both in terms of his music and his instruments. Famous for his clashing polyester, and his choice of unusual cover tunes and original compositions often laced with a Zappa-esque sense of humor and altruistic love for the little guy in the big bad world, be it with his Reggae-inspired band El Rayo-X…

From a later version of the band

… another high-octane steel guitar performance from their original 1980s days…

… and across his more eclectic collaborations with Ry Cooder and his duo touring with percussionists like Wally Ingram, where Lindley features his lap steel playing on instruments derived from the hollow-neck Weissenborn guitars made for Hawaiian-style music in the 1920s…

A true story of bad backstage food, “Cat Food Sandwiches”…

… as well as instruments from the cittern family like the mandolin, charango, and Irish bouzouki; and from the lute family, like the Turkish oud, bağlama, and gumbus; and the fiddle family, like the Norwegian hardingfele, and the list goes on and on…

“New Minglewood Blues” on an oud.

Performing Lindley & Browne’s composition “Call it a Loan” during their acoustic reunion tour, which played to much larger audiences than they drew in 1973, before For Everyman had hit the radio waves…

And here is a full set from, after their duets were expanded into a full band featuring others from the heyday of what became known as the California Sound.

Happy Birthday Mr. Dave. Thanks for the music!

2021 Issue of The Journal of Acoustic Guitar is out and I’m in it

Martin: The Journal of Acoustic Guitar 2021 is Out and Available

Focusing on Environmental Sustainability

And featuring an in-depth article on the SC-13E by T. S. Phillips

There was some minor editing going on after my official proofreading and approval. But they paid me well enough that I can live with an awkward sentence here or there.

Martin Journal Cover and SC-13E page onemanz
https://www.martinguitar.com/martin-journal.html

My article starts on page 36.

 

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