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Meet Dick Boak and Richard Johnston to talk about the history of Martin Guitars

Boak and Johnston co-authored the new books Martin Guitars: A History and Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference and in doing so, uncovered new information about the history of C.F. Martin and Co.

In this forum environment, we invite you to engage with the authors of those books and ask questions about the research that went into the project, some of the new facts that are presented both in the books and in our story, and the long process of writing the books.

Tags: discussion, event, guitars, history, martin

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Your 1989 HD-28 Grand Marquis is listed in Chapter 3, Book Two, "Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference" (the second book of the Longworth rewrite). It's described on page 135 (only 112 were sold in the US, with another 8 to foreign dealers). I believe this was the first use of the "Marquis" name, and your example is not related to the later Marquis versions of the Golden Era models.
Excellent! Thank you both for your information and passion for one of the most wonderful inventions of mankind.
Is this the chat window?
Why is there no mention of my J-40MC on the Martin website? It has an oval soundhole. Is it the red-headed step-child of the Martin family? Mike Kobetitsch
BTW, it's a great sounding guitar but for some reason the binding has had to be reattached a couple of times and the only other one I know of had the same problem.
I own a 1993 JC-40 which I believe is the same model that you reference (the model designation was changed at some point in it's production). It's a beautiful, responsive and powerful voiced instrument. I have not experienced the problem that you mentioned; however I, did encounter an intonation problem starting at the 12th fret to the 20th on the 6th strength. I lived with it for years (I never used the 6th string below the 12th fret), but recently adjusted the truss rod, and voila, it's perfect all up and down the board.
I had the saddle intonated and it plays pretty much in tune but I've never really gotten used to the thin neck and play my D-28 more often. Mine is from '89 I think.
Please see my reply to the question about the JC-21. Your J-40MC is probably listed on the website, but as a JC-40, which is the model code Martin gave that it in 1990 when they dropped the redundant "M" and put the "C" for "cutaway" after the body shape portion of the model code, instead of after the part of the code pertaining to the Style (40, 21, 28, 45, etc.)
Hi Richard & Dick,

In the excerpt reprinted in the July issue of Acourstic Guitar two aspects of the history of Martin Guitars struck me as especially insightful and important: that Martin didn't evolve from a small shop but was mass-producing guitars almost from its inception and, even more important, that the company didn't always recognize the guitars that were essential to its survival and its future. Do you elaborate those points in the book, which is now on my must-read list for the summer?

I should add that I've recently become a Martin owner for the first time, and, to confirm your observation, it was one of the "plainer, more unnasuming models" that I bought: an 00-15. Although this guitar is by far the least expensive acoustic I own, I love it. It's made me rethink the entire Martin line. Now I want another Martin, though I will probably never own one of the high-end, expensive models. The more things change. . . .

Thanks, Mark Malvasi
First of all, I feel compelled to mention that Martin's early catalogs often mentioned "Many styles, one quality." I think the 00-15 is a prime example, and where I work we sell more 00-15 models than all the other Style 15 sizes combined! There's something about that smaller size that really works well with the simple bracing and mahogany top.
There is more mention of the points I brought up in the article about Martin not recognizing which models would make it famous and successful, and which ones were headed for oblivion, but isn't that always the case with hindsight? Think of where General Motors would be today is they had said, within the company, "well, those big SUVs are selling like hotcakes right now, but we should plow those profits into high-mileage research, maybe even an electric car, 'cause the world is gonna run out of oil real quick once China and India get up and running."
And part of the reason Martin didn't recognize its future winners is that the world changed. There were no speakers that could reproduce much bass in the 1920s and '30s, so singers wanted as much bass out of their guitar, naturally, as they could get. Once people began hearing LPs in the '50s and '60s, they wanted acoustic guitars that could deliver the same response they heard coming from their record player. I remember my response to hearing the first Doc Watson LP on Vanguard (1964 or '65), I thought, I want to sound like THAT! So my first vintage Martin was a 1940s D-18, 'cause that's what Doc was playing at the time.
This is so much fun! There are a few more questions on my mind, here are the most 'important':

- did Martin ever get one of Neil Young's guitars back in the factory (for repair or setup)?
- my OM-28M RC has a very typical smell, very different from all the other Martins I have. Is it the Madagascar rosewood that I smell? I can't compare because I have only one Madagascar...
- has Martin ever used Finite Element programs to model the vibrating top (or even the complete guitar)? And if so, did that lead to know knowledge?
I'll have to leave your questions about Neil Young's Martins, and the Finite Element programs, to Dick Boak. I just stuck my nose inside a Martin made with Madagascar rosewood, and I have to agree that it does smell a bit different than the Indian rosewood Martins hanging nearby that are also new, and of about the same age. I also have to admit that I never would have noticed the difference if you hadn't clued me in!


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