They were days, before Kent State, when everywhere you looked, kids sat under trees, singin’ songs and swappin’ licks. Fresh-faced young girls with names like “Star” painted flowers on their cheeks and drifted between you and the sun wearing diaphanous tie-dye gauze dresses. For a moment, you couldn’t remember the words of the song or hear the singing of the others above the pounding blood in your head. Someone had a copy of Wayfarin’ Stranger and everyone crowded around to see if they could make out the name on the headstock of Burl Ives’ guitar. Your roommate had a magnifying glass, so instead of a cluster of tiny blurred dots, you could see a cluster of big blurred dots. Then, one day, somebody told somebody who told a friend who told you that Ives played a Martin. It took every last dime you had, but you bought the 00-18 – and it sounded fantastic! Then everyone started talking model numbers and rosewood. Not wanting to be left out, you agreed, “Yeah, mahogany Martins are terrible!” and you sold yours to get a rosewood guitar, and it did project better and it was prettier – but deep inside, you knew there wasn’t a guitar on God’s green earth to compare with that 00-18 you once had and, in a moment of incredible stupidity, let go.
Here are two cool examples of the guitar that powered the folk movement on college campuses nationwide. On the bottom is serial number 162468, made in 1957 – a perfect example of this overlooked classic. Compare it with serial number 186490, on the top, made in ’62. As the “folk boom” hit, Martin increased production. Unfortunately, many of their templates were made of wood, and the constant scribing wore them out of true. Notice in particular the narrow, rounded headstock on the later guitar and also the loss of definition around the pickguard and bridge. Thankfully, John Huber took control of R&D in the mid ’60s and made new templates of metal, reintroducing the correct headstock and pickguard profiles.
This article originally appeared in Vintage Guitar Classics No. 1 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.