GUEST POST: A Brief History Of Martin Guitars by Joe Matera

Throughout its long and colorful history, and under the tutelage of successive generations of the Martin family, C.F Martin Guitars have been continuously producing acoustic instruments that are acknowledged to be the finest in the world.

The birth of the Martin Company goes back to the late 1700’s Germany where Christian Frederick Martin, Sr. was born and after having taken up the craft from an early age, emigrated to the United States in 1833. During the 1850s, and now based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, one of C. F. Martin’s major design innovations, the “X” bracing system for the guitar top came to fruition. Still in use in all steel-string Martin guitars today, the bracing system is largely responsible for the distinctive Martin tone, characterized by brilliant treble and powerful bass response.

The 20th century ushered in a period of tremendous growth for Martin that eventually peaked in 1928 before the Great Depression of 1929 brought about a reversal in fortune. It was during these darkest years that the company emerged with two major developments that would have lasting effects: the creation of the now famous “Dreadnought” guitar, and the invention of the 14-fret neck.

Though an early version of the Dreadnought – so named after a large class of World War I British battleships – appeared in 1916, it was exclusively made for the Oliver Ditson Company, a retail and wholesale distributor. At first these instruments were not very well received simply because there were not many singers using guitars, and solo players felt that the bass on the Dreadnought was overbearing. However, as folk singing became increasingly popular, interest in the Dreadnought increased. The deep bass response of a Dreadnaught was a very unusual feature to musicians used to the clear treble and overall balance of smaller “standard size” instruments.

And when the Dreadnought made its way into the hands of country music performers, it also found an appreciative audience. So when the Ditson Company closed shop in the late 1920s, Martin began producing Dreadnought guitars under its own name. The first models were designated the D-1 and D-2. The D-1, like the earlier Ditsons, was a mahogany bodied instrument while the D-2 introduced what may still be the most popular style of steel string guitar; the rosewood bodied Dreadnought.

Though all of the early Dreadnoughts featured a 12-fret neck, Martin decided to introduce the 14-fret neck version in 1929 in an effort to increase the guitar’s range and make it a more versatile instrument. Dubbed the “Orchestra Model”, it was so well received that Martin extended the feature to all models in its line. Later renamed the OM-28, it was the first regular Martin guitar specifically designed for steel strings, and it proved so popular that other guitar makers copied it, becoming an industry standard.

In 1933 the first D-45 (left) appeared as a custom order for Gene Autry. Autry had wanted a guitar similar in appearance to his idol Jimmie Rodgers’ 000-45, but in the new large body style. The 1930s and 1940s continued to be an active time of development for the company that would lead the company through a period of prosperity in the post-war years due to the rising popularity of country music. With country stars the likes of Hank Williams and Lester Flatt all playing Martins, interest in the guitars soared to new heights. This was further boosted by the explosion of folk music in the 1950s. Many folkie artists of the day such as Judy Collins, The Kingston Trio, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, (it’s often acknowledged that Peter Yarrow popularized the D-28S) and Woody Guthrie all appeared on stage, TV and their album covers playing Martins.

In 1954, the Martin Company again started building Dreadnoughts with the elongated body and 12-fret neck, but on a very limited basis. The resulting D-28S model proved to be popular enough that, in 1968, Martin added it (and the D-18S and D-35S) to its regular line. Versions of all three models are now featured in the Martin “Vintage Series.”

In the late 1960s Paul McCartney and John Lennon both took their D-28 Martin guitars to India during their visit with the Maharishi where they co-wrote many of the songs that appeared on the now legendary Beatles’ White Album. Those D-28s also showed up many times back at Abbey Road Studios and were used for several of the White Album’s acoustic tracks like Mother Nature’s Son, I Will, It’s Been A Long Time, Blackbird, and Rocky Raccoon. In the 1968 Martin re-introduced the famed D-45, as they had not made any D-45s since 1942. And a totally new model the D-41, was introduced in 1969 to fill the gap between the D-35 and the new D-45. This instrument featured pearl borders around the top only, as opposed to the all encompassing borders on the more expensive D-45.

Also beginning in the early ’60s, Martin launched a short foray into the world of electric guitar manufacture. Martin had first wet its feet with the electric guitar in 1959 when it started slapping DeArmond pickups onto some of its acoustic guitars; OO-18E, D-18E and the D-28E were laptop guitars with DeArmond pick-ups. But it’s first truly electric guitars didn’t appear until 1962. Consisting of three main models, the “F” series comprised F-50, F-55 and F-65, all hollow bodied electrics with F holes and again fitted with DeArmond pick-ups. The F series Martin electric body shape was closer to the 1930’s Martin F series arch tops. In 1966 Martin replaced the “F” series with the “GT” series that consisted basically of the GT-70 and GT-75 thinline models. It wouldn’t be until a decade later before Martin would introduce a new series of electric guitars; the E-18, EM-18 and EB-18 guitars and basses before bowing out of its manufacture of electrics completely in 1982.

With the tremendous interest in acoustic guitars in the early 1970s (which coincided exactly with the new “soft-rock” era of James Taylor, Loggins & Messina, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – whom favoured the pre-WWII models – and Seals & Crofts), the Martin company increased production to an unprecedented rate. The 1970s also saw the company in acquisition mode eventually acquiring the renowned Vega Banjo Works of Boston, the Fibes Drum Company – makers of a unique fiberglass drums – the Darco String Company and the A. B. Herman Carlson Levin Company of Sweden, all of which uniformly lost money for the company.

Martin debuted the D-76 Bicentennial model in 1976 and shortly thereafter followed it in late ’76 with the HD-28. The HD-28 was a conscious effort to remake a guitar from the past—the prewar herringbone D-28. Like the early Dreadnoughts, it featured scalloped top braces, a small maple bridge plate, and herringbone marquetry around the top. This bow to the past was to prove to be a very popular model.

In the early 1980s, the company slumped to its lowest ebb since the Great Depression years. The decade proved to be one of it’s darkest in its history, with the only new addition to any guitar line being the JM (now called simply J) model in 1985 which followed on its predecessor the M sized model back in 1977.

The 1990s would see the company eventually returning to its former glory days. In 1994, Martin issued a recreation of Gene Autry’s famous 12-fret D-45 which bore a list price of $23,000! And in 1995 Eric Clapton collaborated with Martin on a limited edition 000-42 (right) with a number of other special features. Only 461 were made (the figure commemorates Clapton’s 1974 ‘comeback’ album “461 Ocean Boulevard”) and the project was so successful that Martin went on to develop a signature Clapton model, the 000-28EC which is currently available under the Vintage series.

And in 1996 a collaboration with “MTV Unplugged”, would yield a highly unusual Dreadnought that mixed both rosewood and mahogany tonewoods with MTV conceived inlay patterns. As the company heralded in the 21st century and looked forward to the future, it also celebrated its one millionth Martin guitar to roll off its production line.

Joe Matera is the lead guitarist with Australian rockers GEISHA. He is also a respected music journalist whose interviews appear in countless guitar magazines around the world from ‘Australian Guitar’ and ‘Guitar & Bass’ to ‘Performing Musician’ and ‘Guitar World’. He’s interviewed everyone from Aerosmith, Tool and Motley Crue to Steely Dan, Black Sabbath and Cheap Trick.


REVIEW: EVH Wolfgang

Jemsite member Anthony5150 has provided I Heart Guitar with the following review and photos of his brand new EVH Wolfgang. Take it away Anthony.

I’ll start with the fit and finish. The body is basically the same shape as the older version, if not exact. The neck still has a roundish feel like the older one, but scaled down. It’s not really chunky and I wouldn’t consider it really thin either. It falls right in the middle. To me, its a perfect balance. The more I play it, the more I like it. Kind of like an old glove. The stainless steel frets are much smaller the 6105’s. They felt a little weird at first but they are growing one me, and I’m really starting to like them. The action was the best I’ve ever felt on any guitar. I have had professional level and setups and this one is right there on par, probably better. I can’t believe how close the strings are to the board, especially on the higher frets. There is a slight buzz in some areas, but no fretting out or loss of tone anywhere. I have never seen anything like it that was playable.

The knobs on this thing are on top of low friction pots, so they move really easily. This is something I could have done without, as the slightest brush of the volume knob with your pinky is gonna move it. I can see how they would come in handy but I have never played using the volume swell technique used in eddies “Cathedral”. But maybe now is a good time to learn :) The trem springs were a little loose when I received it, as the bridge was lifting with big bends. A few cranks on the screws solved that problem. Other than that the actual finish of this thing is superb: I couldn’t find any flaws whatsoever.

The sound of this thing is just amazing. Compared to what I thought was perfect in the older version, the new one made me realize I really don’t know what perfect is. This thing is a different sound all together. It’s much brighter. I think this is what really puts the sound over the top. It has a nice full sound to it and the separation is unbelievable: every note stand out on its and comes through nice and clear. At first I was having problems getting tapped harmonics to ring loud and clear, but after a day or two I got used to it and that’s not an issue. I will definitely buy another one of these in the future when the price comes down a bit, and probably trade my older one in for it.

This thing is awesome. Eddie and fender really got it right.

Buy EVH products at Guitar Center:

EVH Wolfgang Electric Guitar Vintage White Maple Top for $2,999.99.

EVH Wolfgang Electric Guitar Tobacco Sunburst Quilted Maple Top for $3,149.99.

NEWS: Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein humbucker available for preorder

Whoa! I just spotted this over at the Van Halen News Desk. Released on March 1 is the EVH Frankenstein humbucker. Recommended retail price is $199.99. There’s also a relic’ed, Eddie Van Halen-autographed version (see below) for $399 which, while expensive, is pretty freakin’ cool!

CLICK HERE to buy the EVH Frankenstein Relic Humbucker LTD (Signed) Standard for $399 from Music123.

CLICK HERE to buy the EVH Frankenstein Humbucker Standard for $149 from Music123.

Or if you’re feeling particularly saucy, why not CLICK HERE to splash out $25,000 for the EVH Frankenstein guitar?

A page on the Van Halen Store says:

EVH Frankenstein Relic Humbucker LTD (Signed) StandardThe legendary humbucking pickup from the guitar that changed everything.

Think of it as a brand-new version of the original Frankenstein’s battle-worn pickup, wound to the exact original specs and built to fit in any humbucking-pickup-equipped guitar. One of the most famous humbuckers of all time is now available at a competitive price and serves as a great upgrade and alternative to the popular crop of cliché replacement humbuckers.

This is awesome news. Who hasn’t wished they could leach some of that famous Van Halen I tonal magic? I think I might just have to get one of these and chuck it into the Ibanez RG370 I wrote about in my guest blog on Jemsite.

GUEST POST: Stratoblogster – Fender not stopping at Road Worn Series (Parody)

In a last minute scramble to add just one more price point in time for Winter NAMM ’09 in Anaheim, Fender has decided to follow its new MIM Road Worn Series with a Squier Relic treatment.

This newest Squier RUG BURN Series will incorporate the ever popular aging & distressing features into the Indonesian produced Squier line of guitars & basses, to be priced at a mid point between the standard Squier line and the Standard Baja manufactured products.

According to a company spokesperson, “We have a 10-15 age demographic just ready to make the jump from game controllers to a product with the appearance of something a great grandparent might have owned. It’s important to keep that heritage going, and at $329 we feel the RUG BURN Series is gonna fit right into that Xbox 360 niche. Creating another price point was only a minor consideration– as our priority is simply to service the needs of our public in the best way possible.”

Each RUG BURN Series instrument begins as a standard finished Squier model, which is then placed into “the tumbler”; a large rotating drum– similar to a concrete mixer, which is lined with Dupont Stainmaster berber style carpeting. During the tumbling process thousands of walnuts are introduced along with dried mustard for age tinting. After leaving the tumbler, the guitar is then “dusted” off with high pressure air & Kool Menthol unfiltered tobacco jets, after which the strings are finally added. Then each Rug Burn Series model is prepared for shipping in its own Dupont Stainmaster berber style carpet lined gig bag along with a Dupont Stainmaster berber style carpet strap.

Both the gig bag and strap are designed to help maintain the freshness of your RUG BURN Series instrument’s finish for many years to come.

Watch for the RUG BURN Series! And remember, it’s not a Squier Rug Burn unless it has the, “RUG BURN Series” sticker on the pickguard. So take one for test tumble soon at your nearest Fender dealer and you might just walk out with a Rug Burn of your very own!


This is a guest post by JP from Stratoblogster – a very cool site with lots of great content, Stratty and otherwise. Go check it out! Here are some stories to get you started.

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A Strat For Friday #11: ‘McStrat!’