Monday, October 13, 2008

1969 Martin D-41 with Custom Inlay (maybe 1970)


I've been holding out on this story simply because I don't have actual photos of this guitar...and to properly tell the story it would really help to see the inlay on the neck. But, since I'm running out of my own stories, and you folks are starting to send in a few...but not many...of your own, I decided to go ahead and write this one up.

As previously noted, I moved to California in 1987 and, at the time, I had an Ovation 1984 Collector's Series guitar (story here) and a 1974 Fender Telecaster (story here). I was pretty happy with my guitars at the time, but one day I walked into Guitar Center down in San Diego (the old one down on El Cajon Blvd. for you San Diegans) and saw a guitar I just had to have. It was a 1969 (if I remember correctly) Martin D-41 and, in addition to the standard fancy inlay on the body, it had a sort of non-standard vine inlay down the neck that was really intricate and I later found out was added to the guitar after it left the factory. It was just stunning and it caught my eye from all the way across the store. It was far from perfect though...whoever had owned it previously either played it very roughly or had flipped it at some point and played it left handed. There was quite a bit of abnormal wear around the top of the soundhole and a fair amount beyond the edges of the pickguard.

I decided that I had to figure out a way to get this guitar even before I knew how much it was. I asked the guy to get it down for me and I'm fairly certain it was the first really nice, expensive guitar I ever had my hands on. He told me it was $2000 (I think) and gave me the line about having a couple of other people very interested in it. I inquired if they took trade-ins and he said they did. I went home and got my Tele and my Ovation and set out to come as close as possible to trading even. Of course that never works out and, although I don't remember how much additional money I had to come up with, I do remember that it was more than I could afford at the moment. I had only been at a new job for a short time and wasn't making all that much. But I knew I had to have this guitar and somehow, some way, I made it work.

I was only slightly sad to see the Ovation go. I take that back...I wasn't really sad to see it go at all.

But I was sad to see the '74 Tele go. It was sweet and definitely one of those ones you wish you could have back. I think the word for it would be "pristine."

I played the Martin with great pride for a number of years. At that time there weren't a lot of acoustic gigs around and almost no coffeehouses...this was pre-Starbucks, etc. But there was a small coffeehouse down by San Diego State University that had an open mic night every Tuesday and I would drive 40 minutes down there every Tuesday to play my three songs. Eventually I became the host of the open mic night and I'm pretty sure I was sort of known as "that guy with the really fancy Martin." Probably no mention of how awesome a guitarist I was.

You can read about how I ended up selling the Martin here...I was finally joining my very first band and needed an amp. The short version is that I traded the Martin for a Gibson Dove and an amp so I could rock the house. The Dove was actually a much better sounding and playing guitar to be quite honest. Although the D-41 was an awesome guitar in many ways, it was never the best sounding guitar I have owned. Now that I know more about these things I could probably take the time to get it dialed in better. But at the time, not so much. I could barely afford strings let alone the money to have someone spend time adjusting the guitar.

One other note about this guitar: One day I was at work and thinking about the Martin and wondering if the inlay had been done at the factory or afterwards. There is a label inside the guitar from McCabe's Guitar Shop, which is a very well known store that hosts really cool acoustic shows and sells some darn fine instruments. I actually called the Martin factory in Nazareth, PA and it was after hours. A gentleman named Mike Longworth answered the phone and spoke to me at length about my guitar, pretty much assuring me that the inlay was done post-factory. What I now know is that Mike Longworth is one of the most historical figures in the history of Martin and I now feel honored to have spoken with him about my guitar.

No matter what, this is one of the guitars that probably inspired this blog in the first place..."man, I wish I had that one back!"

As noted, the photos shown are of a D-41 from the same year, but the inlay on mine was so fancy and intricate that I have simply blurred out the neck in the photo so as not to cause confusion.
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