Martin D-18GE, a real cannon, the way they built them in 1934. I play it a lot with the Celtic band "Pennyland."
Martin OM-28, really sweet, and easy to play. Model introduced in 1929. My main axe for picking and grinning solo.
Martin 000-15SM, the way they made them up until 1929. I use it mostly for teaching and recording.
Seagull Walnut 12-string. Mostly for recording.
Fender American Precision Bass. I play it in the studio and with the band "Alpine Highway."
Kala Tenor Uke, for wherever ukes are legal.
Gretsch G9241 Resonator guitar, just the sweetest voice imaginable.
Rogue Triolian Resonator guitar, strings raised for slidey studio stuff.
1975 Fender Stratocaster, my go-to electric.
Loar archtop. My jazz son, who only plays archtops, says this one is the real deal.
Whyte Laydee 5-string banjo, built by Leonard Coulson, of Intermountain Guitar and Banjo.
Breedlove A-style "Americana" mandolin. A good friend in the recording studio.
Yamaha "Flamenco," not because I play flamenco, but because I wanted the mellow voice of nylon strings.
When I was nine years old my mother bought me a ukulele. Its coloring was kind of blonde sunburst. I had found a booklet in the piano bench called “How To Play The Ukulele In 5 Minutes,” and was disappointed when it took nearly a half-hour, but not so embittered as to forsake music. Later, in the sixth grade, I became famous for ukulele, but I played the teacher’s uke. [The little decal on the headstock said “C.F. Martin est. 1833” but I didn’t know that that meant anything.] I also owned a plastic uke and a banjo uke, but I can’t remember where I got them, or why.
In my childhood I found an antique mail-order guitar, very small-bodied [and unplayable], in a dusty corner at the place where my dad worked.
In about fifth grade, I was tracted out by a music-lessons salesman working for a full-blooded musical Hawaiian [exTREMEly rare] who happened to be the father of my best friend, John Kapua. That Christmas my parents surprised me with a Harmony electric guitar. It was solid-body, blonde and thin, and remarkably nice-looking for a cheap guitar. I remember plunking out the melody line of Rick Nelson’s “Lonesome Town” at a church talent show. I had learned maybe four unrelated chords. I sold that guitar several years later to my cousin, Chuck Jonkey, who got famous as a guitar player because of it. [And whose musical curiosity eventually led him into the Amazon to record fire-ants. No kidding.]
Turning the corner into high school, I became enraptured with folk songs. The Kingston Trio fell only just short of the Apostles and Prophets in my esteem. I liked the Limelighters until they did an album with drums. I took binoculars to Peter, Paul and Mary concerts to learn the chords. [A few years ago, I sat in Peter Yarrow’s hotel room at Snowbird and told him about the binoculars as we swapped songs. He was highly amused but, as I recall, didn’t show me any chords.]
I went, as a freshman, to hear Joan Baez at the Hollywood Bowl and was one of a very few there who’d even heard of her surprise on-stage guest. Most others in the audience tittered at, or were at best puzzled by, his performance. It was Bob Dylan [The next time I saw Dylan live was forty-three years later, and I couldn’t get close enough to tell him apart from a microphone stand–or to recognize his drummer, who I later realized had played drums on my first album, and also swept the studio in which it was recorded.]
I bought a twelve-dollar Silvertone guitar at Sears that cut my fingers. Later that year, my parents did the first of many happy things. They gave me $150 for a C.F. Martin guitar [00-18] from the local music store, the only Martin I had ever touched or even seen up close. [That guitar lists now for $2,599.] An impossible dream had come true–I was fourteen, and owned a Martin. That ecstasy was compounded a short time later when I found a 1944 Martin [0-18] hanging in a pawn shop. It was, technically, a "pre-war" Martin. They wanted $20. They got it. Fast.
Somewhere in here my dad [who apparently cared more about my musical passion that he did about life and limb] took me down to the Fifth and Main district in Los Angeles to troll pawn shops for a five-string banjo. [I can’t even TELL you how dangerous this neighborhood is.] There I became acquainted with the old Jews at Eagle Music Exchange [rising above waves teeming with treacherous sharks, a tiny island of treasurous wonder] where we bought a nice little Kay banjo. That banjo, which I gave to Dena Turpin [very nice girlbuddy (not quite “girlfriend”) who lived around the corner], was replaced by a beautiful Muse, which I acquired with Dad’s $200 from a guy in the Young Americans, a group I played with while I was a high school sophomore. I had it through my first year of college, when I sold it to help finance my church mission. It had Scruggs pegs. [These are marvelous devices (now exTREMEly rare) that reside on the peghead among all the pegs who ordinarily live there, but these particular pegs turn little pins against the two center strings, moving them just enough to raise their pitch by a half-step–enabling the player to do these cool “bee-yow” and “bo-ing” moves in the middle of a song, twisting notes down (“bee-yow”) or up (“bo-ing”) respectively.]
Late in high school my dad surprised me with a Mexican 12-string he’d picked up. [No kidding, he saw it in a store window and thought, “Hm, that looks like something my son might use.” This is not unlike buying someone’s dental work for them out of a catalogue–but it was a great guitar!]
In my senior year, I bought (with my own money) a nice Guild classical guitar, rosewood with satin finish, which I subsequently gave to Ann Hollingworth, a safe thing to do, I thought, because I intended to marry her. (I didn’t marry her.)
Just earlier, I traded $90 and my first Martin for a jumbo Gibson (J-50) at Eagle. It was my workhorse for years, accompanying me into adulthood.
In West Berlin with the Southern California Youth Chorale, I bought a Framus 12-string, which I sold in France a couple of weeks later.
I bought a little Japanese classical guitar on my church mission to Australia, and gave it to the mission president’s son when guitars were outlawed among missionaries by the supervising Apostle, Howard W. Hunter, who made his living as a young man playing sax on cruise ships to Japan but wasn’t a missionary at the time. (Before this giveaway, I had sold it to “Laurie Tredrea, Sultan of Swap,” a pawnbroker in Adelaide, South Australia, and thought I was rid of it. The following Sunday evening after church an Australian brother said, “Elda Pine, there’s a parcel for you in the clark’s office.” He had seen me walking into the pawn shop with a guitar and out again without it and had bought it back for me. A Gift of the Magi.)
Shortly after I was married [putting down roots in Utah], and had done some professional recording, it became apparent that my Gibson had too much “thump” for sensitive microphones, so I bought a very nice Brazilian rosewood Martin D-28 from Jimmy Moore. The actual transaction was precipitated by David Zandonatti (of “Moby Grape,” “The Free Agency,” and “Natty Bumppo,”) coming by while my wife was sick and I was gone and plunking down a small check for a down payment on the Gibson and walking away with my guitar. The check was signed by Orrin Hatch, who was almost President of the United States. (No one knew in 1970, except Brother Hatch, that this was actually plausible. Nor did anyone in 1970 suspect that he would someday become a Nashville-haunting songwriter, which I think, personally, he enjoyed a lot more than if he had become President.)
In 1972, living on Silkie’s farm, we rented a Chickering piano from a store in Provo. Then we inherited the old family piano [a gutted player-piano that I used for a space ship as a child], and so traded our “rent-to-purchase” piano equity for a Japanese 12-string and 6-string [the latter being a Yamaha FG-180], an excellent guitar [this model showed up on “Hee Haw” a lot] which Yamaha soon after phased out in favor of an inferior guitar. Both these guitars served me well on my third album, “Utah."
I was out peddling my records in East Provo one night and found a coed with a very sweet red-sunburst Gibson J-45, the value of which she could not appreciate. I traded her the two Japanese guitars for it that very night. In those days, Bob Steineggar became notable as a builder and repairer of guitars (fixed guitars for the Everly Brothers–the story of the violence inflicted upon one of these guitars by the Everly Brother who got mad at the other Everly Brother and whacked him with it onstage belongs in a personal history for sure, but maybe not mine). I traded my two remaining Martins (one of which had spent the last several years in Bob Taylor’s locker in a Las Vegas firehouse--Taylor was a high school buddy) for a Steineggar copy of a pre-war Martin Herringbone D-28. Bob’s guitar had already become the object of much curiosity and praise. It’s now owned by JAC Redford, celebrated composer for film and the concert hall who used to be a sideman in my band.
Just before the “Please Imagine” album (#6) I fell in love with the sound of the Gibson Howard Roberts jazz guitar (Florentine cutaway and oval sound hole). I don’t play jazz, but it was the first electric that didn’t feel utterly alien to me. At $1002, it was clearly the most expensive instrument I’d ever bought. I used it a lot and eventually sold it to buy another (same model) with nicer coloring. [An exTREMEly rare guitar that’s nearly impossible to find today–I might be the only guy on the planet who ever owned two of them.]
On a long tour in the Eastern U.S. with Guy Randle (whole book’s worth of stories about songwriting and recording collaboration, and chili consumption on the concert circuit) I got to feeling that there wasn’t enough volume and fullness to my Gibson. So I wired $1000 to Norm Harris in L.A. (he sold guitars to Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, and, well, you’ll see in a minute) for a 1955 Martin D-28 Guy and I had earlier discovered while killing time in L.A. because the van broke down there. The guitar had been owned by Bob Dylan (yes, Bob Dylan–yes, this is true–he traded it back to them for an old white mandolin and I bought it, yes). I thought (as I had with many previous guitars) that I would probably always have it. Beautiful guitar. Let me move to journal entries now. Notes added later are bracketed.
26 September 1982. Bob Dylan’s D-28 destroyed [should have knocked on rosewood–its utter demise in a baggage-sorting machine at O’Hare airport while enclosed in a steel-reinforced flight case. I still avoid United Airlines]. I have G. Randle’s D-41 [very ornate Martin that he graciously sold me for the (insufficient, not to say “paltry,” “niggardly,” or “parsimonious,” which I hardly ever say anyway, except when pushed) airline insurance money].
Dec. 1982. Sold D-41 and an old frailing banjo in East Lansing, Michigan at Elderly Instruments. Bought there a Yamaha classical guitar to replace the old Vitali I’d appropriated from my wife. (I'd taken it to Chile for a few weeks and almost got used to it. Nylon strings are not macho. Unless you’re Willie Nelson. Or Latin American.)
Early 1983 Traded my friendly old blonde ES-125 that I bought from Mark Hoffman (not the forger and murderer) for very little cash, simply because he thought I should have it (a thin hollow electric guitar with f-holes in its face, like a violin, instead of a round hole like, well, a guitar) to Lloyd Mecham for sweet tobacco-sunburst Alvarez-Yairi dreadnought acoustic.” (Played it on “Hymns” and “Love Songs” albums. It’s pictured on the “Spiritual” CD.
3 September 1988 Ken Stika, a kind master guitar builder in Provo traded me a beautiful Taylor 810 (big acoustic guitar–Taylor is a modern competitor of C.F. Martin) for some performances in his shop. [This was a remarkable gift. In those days, acquiring a really high-end guitar seemed far into the unfathomable future–I’d only dropped into Ken’s shop because I wanted to meet the guy and play some nice guitars. This is not new behavior–when I was at BYU, I simply skipped a Spanish 101 final exam because I was prowling around Salt Lake looking for Martins I couldn’t possibly afford.] This guitar is deep, throaty, ‘chime-like,’ very ‘live’ sounding–does most of the work for you.” [It suddenly occurred to me that I may have readers who don’t know what I mean when I write “acoustic” guitar–You will ask, “Isn’t anything involving sound sort of ‘acoustic’ by definition?” “Acoustic” here just means “not electric.” I asked Guy Randle once if he used an electric razor, and he said, “No, acoustic.”]
18 May 1989 Traded the Taylor back to Ken for a Martin M-36. [Vital note for the nine readers who understand any of this: If the M-36 had been given the correct name, it would have been the 0000-35. Then it would obviously be a Martin guitar that you could fully picture from the numbers. As it is, I always have to say, “No, stewardess, it’s not a weapon.”] Very warm and friendly. I may keep this one.” [I did, for many years. It really was the best guitar I’d ever played. I played it nearly every day, often over the midnight hour, which would have me playing it two days in one sitting.]
15 May 1993 Drove up to Temple Square and bought from a kid who gardens there a blonde natural-finish Gibson ES-335 electric guitar. I had seen it displayed on consignment in a store–one of those situations when you say, "Hey, what is my guitar doing in this store?" I always wanted one of these. [Not really “always.” When I graduated from high school, eight years after the ES-335 was invented and probably before B.B. King bought his first ES-335 named “Lucille” (there have been, I think, eleven “Lucilles”), our all-night graduation party was held at a sprawling bowling alley. There were lots of rooms, and bands in a couple of them. A skinny long-haired guy wearing a denim shirt in one of the bands was playing a walnut-stained Gibson ES-335. It looked to my folksinger eyes something like a musical instrument, as opposed to an appliance or power tool. That’s when I began thinking it might be cool to own one.]
23 August 1999 Martin D-15. [Bizarre story: I was cast in a play as Joseph Smith’s guitar-playing Guardian Angel (really). When the director first saw my visually interesting but conventionally terrestrial Martin guitar he asked, “Do they make white guitars? Could you check?” I didn’t want to tell him that when acoustic guitars are painted, there’s always the possibility that they’ve been made of less than wonderful wood–wood you wouldn’t mind covering up with paint. Still, I checked. Martin had just reintroduced some all-mahogany guitars, last seen in the 1940’s. They weren’t white, but they were real plain. They also happened to be the general color of the jillion-dollar set that was being built for the play. I borrowed and brought one to a rehearsal. “How about this?” The director looked, briefly, and said, “Yeah! Great!” And they bought it for me. A Martin. For a prop. (This was the same company that flew my son Sam up from St. George--250 miles away--daily for a couple of months to rehearse and then portray Joseph Smith. And bought him blue contact lenses, actually visible sometimes from elsewhere on stage. I imagine Emma could see them pretty clearly. But not the audience. The expense-to-return ratio of this production was, shall we say, “disproportionate.”) It’s a Martin D-15, wonderful guitar.]
24 December 1999 Traded my ES-335 to my monster-jazz-guitarist son Joshua for his sunburst ES-125, a nice jazz box from the early 1950’s.
28 June 2002 Traded the old ES-125 for a new ES-135 [for better sound–very sleek black electric guitar that sounds spookily like my old Howard Roberts guitars. Right here, I was going to invent something funny for “ES” to stand for, since I don’t know what it stands for. But give me a minute with Google and I’ll find out for you… (surf, surf, surf) Okay! “Electric Spanish,” coined in 1936. Well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri River in its decreed course, or to turn it upstream, than to hinder this writer from pouring down knowledge on the heads of y’all.]
29 July 2003 I’ve wanted a really fine banjo for about as long as I can remember. My life insurance company and the telephone company helped me get one yesterday. The former had overdrawn my account by a couple hundred dollars, and for lack of another couple hundred the latter had silenced our phone. I filled our little car to the brim with amps, speakers, redundant recording equipment, a couple of tom-toms, a spare guitar case, and headed for Salt Lake. At a secondhand music store I discovered that my sweet old 1964 Fender Jazz bass (not for sale, nope) was worth a whole lot more than I thought it was. [I can’t even remember how or where I got that bass, but I’d had it for at least twenty years.] I sold them everything but the bass, then went home to fetch it and drove further north to Intermountain Guitar and Banjo. They got the bass and my old banjo (which I learned was worth a lot less than I thought it was) and I got a new banjo and enough cash to put out the fires as well as buy a feather-light perfectly serviceable and good-sounding Yamaha bass at a big brash guitar store on the way home. Twenty-one years ago in East Lansing, Michigan, I played a "Whyte Laydee' banjo that I promised myself I would own one day. This is a Whyte Laydee, highly flamed hard-rock maple, with a star inlaid in a rosewood plate on the peghead. It has a pretty rosewood heel as well. Without the fancy case (I kept my old burlap-covered case) it would have cost me about eight hundred dollars. [See footnote RE “Burlap-covered case.”]
Here is the Footnote RE ‘Burlap-covered case.’ It’s not at the actual “foot” because this is the internet, and digital is essentially nonlinear and pageless, and also because I couldn’t wait to tell you this great story:
20 September 1987 I was driving through south Orem and saw two little kids walking home from school dragging an unhinged banjo case. I pulled over (in my big scary black van) and asked them if I could see it. They said, You can have it! and took off running… They’d found it in somebody’s trash. [It was made of really thin wood, and I had to tape the joints together. Fourteen years later, I covered the entire outside of the case with burlap soaked in wood glue, then sanded and varnished it several times over. I love it.]
10 August 2003 Been paid some money, wondering which fires to throw it at, wondering if I can get a halfway dignified bass guitar to replace my old ’64. [The Yamaha was, as noted, serviceable, but had no history or aesthetic legacy clinging to it–I have a high history and aesthetic legacy need.] Did some arithmetic, found we had enough to pay tithing, with twenty bucks to spare. Saw the bishop out the window while I was looking for a stamp. Walked out in the light rain and handed him the envelope over the fence. Didn’t feel noble, just felt good. The light in my wife’s face when I told her what I’d done was worth a million bucks.
11 August 2003 [Please note that this is the very next day. Thanks.] Got a call this morning asking us to pick up a royalty check for back sales of Scripture Scouts. Laurie and I had been pondering which bass to hope for. [After a refund on the Yamaha that I had deluded myself into thinking might suffice, there were five Fender bass guitars that would have brought me into Grown-up Bassplayerland–one of them would have cost us $469 out-of-pocket.] The check was for $468. After yesterday’s tithing decision we’re calling this beautiful sunburst Classic Series Jazz Bass "the Lord’s choice." And we’re perfectly happy. The one-dollar difference between what He brought to it and what we brought to it is probably an apt example of "grace, after all you can do." It’s practically an exact replica of my old bass of twenty years’ playing, only prettier. [Sounds just a titch better, too.]
1 December 2005 Yesterday I shipped my mahogany D-15 to a nice musician in Portland who will give it to his daughter. The five hundred dollars will go into savings for a Martin 000-15S, which is a mahogany guitar of the same dimensions as the 000-28VS that's out there in my bright future.
29 December 2005 000-15S. What sweet guitar! Joshua [my son who worked for Musician's Friend at the time] was so excited to hand it off to me this afternoon. Just played the kids to sleep. It's a friend already. Guitar number 33--if I were a hobbit, it would be my "coming of age" guitar. Eighth Martin.
12 April 2006 Yesterday I drove up to where Joshua was teaching [guitar] in Salt Lake and picked up the new guitar he got for me. It's an Epiphone Zephyr Regent, Florentine cutaway archtop with a vintage sunburst finish and one gold humbucker pickup. This might be the prettiest guitar I've ever owned--sounds glorious and "plays like butter." This is to replace my black Gibson, sold to satisfy domestic needs.
5 February 2007 Bought a Little Martin to teach the kids on. This one is singularly sweet.
13 February 2007 About a week ago I donated a set of new strings to the Guitar Center so I could find out how a Martin D-18GE (Golden Era) sounds. [Mahogany back and sides.] It sounds really good. I've played it now against several new Martin rosewood dreadnoughts up there and it's more "real" and "present" than any of them. I think I already have the best-sounding big rosewood guitar around.
2 March 2007 Today the D-18GE came. I bought it from a guy in Cincinnati who bought it in New York. [He had developed some physical condition that made it hard for him to play a dreadnought.] I immediately slapped on new strings and bone bridge pins I got from Elderly. It's a gorgeous guitar. It passed the final cut gloriously--playing the kids to sleep. [This guitar has a nut and bridge saddle made of fossilized Mammoth ivory.]
13 April 2007 Epiphone Les Paul Special. [I should note that through 2007 I had an unusually lucrative recording contract, as evident in this flurry of purchases.]
31 May 2007 The Epiphone has been trying very hard to be a real Les Paul, which would be a Gibson. It's the only guitar I have that's trying to be something else. I value "authentic" so I said "What the heck?" and picked up a real Les Paul today. It's a model I've admired for several years, plain dark satin-finished mahogany.
17 July 2007 Yesterday I went into a store I'd never visited in Orem because Drew Williams told me they had the only Utah County Martin franchise. They had a dozen--same corroded strings problem you encounter in most high-traffic stores. I walked out with a nice little $50 uke. Very light weight, very light color, very wide grain--made by Samick.
I brought home from my son Joe's place my old Fender Stratocaster, which he hadn't touched for years. [I'd been looking at Strats a lot, even went to Guitar Center to play some. Then I remembered that I already had one.] Made in 1975.
6 August 2007 When we rolled in [from Yellowstone] at about midnight we found a big carton on the front porch containing the Rogue Triolian Biscuit Cone Resonator guitar I ordered from Musician's friend three months ago. It's just fun. Gloss-finished mahogany body, about triple-0 size, 12 frets clear of the body with a slotted headstock. It looks really neat.
27 August 2007 Kay baritone uke.
25 January 2005 Said goodbye to a good friend today. My little mahogany 000-15S is on it's way to Vermont. I've determined I just have too many. Along with the mahogany I'm advertising my M-36, something I thought I'd never do, and my Epiphone Les Paul, which I already should have done. In place of these I'll get the Martin 000-28VS, which is kind of a "grail" guitar, if I can find one used.
26 January 2008 Sold the Little Martin to help pay for a tweed Fender Blues Jr. amp.
30 January 2008 Sold my Martin M-36 today to Intermountain Guitar and Banjo.
1 February 2008 I arranged this morning for the purchase of a 000-28VS from a guitar store in Buffalo, New York, where there's two inches of ice on the streets. Found it through the help of a couple of Martin Guitar Forum members. Bit of a dream come true, but a dream dearly bought. Feels wholesome. Like apple pie lovingly made, like baseball lovingly played, like Martin guitars.
8 February 2008 The 000-28VS came today. Made in the year 2000. It's a live one--I've been working all day at trying to tame it. This is guitar number 42, which many regard as the answer to life, the Universe, and everything. The ring and sustain is practically orchestral.
14 April 2009 Funny how things happen. For some time I've been drawn to the Martin OM-28, the first "modern" guitar, introduced in 1929. I've been playing one at the store in Orem where my son Sam bought his OM-18. Every time I've driven down that way to pawn a guitar (four are in hock now) I've taken some of the edge off by stopping to play the OM. I've realized that it makes the sound I expected from the very old-style 000-28VS. Laurie never has warmed to the sound of the triple-0, which matters to me. The OM is much more like the M-36 with which I courted her. Same shallower body and deeper waist, but with a much longer tradition, herringbone and ebony appointments, and the 1 3/4 inch neck width I've come to prefer. They call the OM "a finger-picker's dream."
We're embarking on a re-recording of 1978's The Planemaker. I've looked forward to these sessions and thought about them every night as I've played little John to sleep with these songs on the D-18. Shortly into the work on the charts, I checked our bank balance online. Three hundred dollars in the red, a nasty surprise. A plan fell into place neatly and immediately, almost inevitably. Pawn the D-18, the only thing of any value left. Tell the folks at the music store that I have to see how their OM records (true enough) and that I'm plunging into the studio for two days starting tomorrow. Would they consider taking a hundred dollars and letting me record with the OM? If it performed, or if I damaged it, the hundred would lay it away for my committed purchase. If it didn't perform and the guitar came back clean, they could say I rented it for a hundred dollars. I'd been encouraged by the fact that on a recent visit they'd put new strings on it for me to try. Before another visit, they'd complied with my suggestion to lower the action--so they'd reworked the non-removable saddle, even expertly compensating it for me, a feature not factory-included for this model. On the next visit, they did some truss rod adjustment for me right on the spot. I had reason to imagine they were taking me seriously.
They somewhat nervously consented, I ran to VanWagenen's to pawn the D-18 and returned with a hundred cash out of the proceeds, and walked out with two day's worth of OM-28, with the meter running. I hadn't time between then and the sessions to explore any more conventional solution. The D-18 had to go for the overdraft and I had to have a guitar for The Planemaker.
16 April 2009 It performed. Played like butter, filled up the songs, and turned everybody's heads. Great sessions with great guys on a great guitar. Now, broke as heck and against all rational counsel, I have three fine Martins until I can sell the triple-0. Of course, two are in hock, one's locked up in layaway, and I'm playing John to sleep with an unplugged electric archtop. I have beautiful plans for the OM.
24 April 2009 Picked up an investor for a play I'm writing. This afternoon I paid the balance on the OM-28V and brought it home.
27 April 2009 Liberated everything from the pawn shop..
30 March 2010 Spent an hour this afternoon refining the action and replacing the saddle on the old Alvarez dreadnought. I'm selling it to Wes Funk up the street. I've had it for 27 years. I need the hundred bucks to keep the phone on,
1 April 2010 [I was facing a performance of The Planemaker and all my guitars were in hock. The producer gave me a little money to buy a stand-in guitar.]
I picked up the Recording King ROS-O6 guitar today. The guys in the store set it up precisely to my specifications and I put a Greven pickguard on it. It's really a neat little guitar--speaks right out, "Fat highs." Something I can really play.
21 September 2010 Sold the Recording King to Bryce Doman, who is taking guitar lessons from me.
22 September 2010 Ran down to BYU to George Nelson's office and sold him the Epiphone Les Paul. [A good friend and playwright for whom I'd acted.]
28 October 2010 This month is coming to a close, and the prospect of dropping another several hundred dollars of non-productive interest on the pawnbroker just about made me ill. So I decided to take actual earnings and spring the rest of my gear out of hock. As I was leaving, Norm [the pawnbroker] said, "Hey we've actually got a Martin that's staying here!" I took a look and said "No you don't."
Martin DX1R for $150, thoroughly trashed. The "X" means its back and sides are HPL (high pressure laminate, sort of like Formica) and the neck is what they call "stratabond," which is many layers of wood perpendicular to the fretboard (actually a stronger and sounder neck than the solid mahogany on more expensive models). The "1" indicates that it has a solid spruce top, and the "R" indicates that the photographic outer layer of the HPL looks like rosewood. A little. There's no binding anywhere, and no fret markers on the fingerboard, which is a black ebony substitute, as is the bridge. I've played a lot of the X series Martins in stores and liked them. They typically sell for five or six hundred dollars, which, for me, has never been spare cash.
This one, made in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in most likely 2002, has been around the block, There was a gash in the back on the lower bout and a crack along the seam on the top from the bridge southward--you could push down on either side of it and separate the two sides. The whole guitar was filthy. It had been covered in stickers which, although removed, had left lots of gum behind. First I softened the gunk with lemon cleaner, then went over the whole guitar with Comet (this is never done), and finally sandpaper where nothing else would work. I puttied the gash in the back and cleated the top crack with epoxy and one of the kids' toy blocks that I split four ways. I messed with the neck tension and slotted the nut down some, put on some new strings and installed a strap button. By about midnight I had me a guitar, and it sounds like a doggoned Martin!
Since I was fourteen years old, I've wanted a thrashed Martin dreadnought. Now I have one.
19 May 2015 It's been several decades since I've owned a 12-string guitar. My first was a Mexican guitar that my dad bought me when I was in high school. I don't remember what happened to it. My second was a Framus 12-string I bought in Berlin. I was 17 and touring with the Southern California Youth Chorale. I sold it to Frank Yanez, another choir member, somewhere in France. My third I took in trade for a piano I was renting-to-buy. It was a Contessa. I traded it away.
My fourth was delivered to me today. It's a Seagull, made in Canada, and they called it the Walnut 12. You buy a 12-string to make rowdy jangly noises, but this thing can whisper like an angel.
[In early January of 2016 I sold my OM-28V to Scott Wiley to pay for an out-of-state soccer tournament for my son John.]
15 January 2016 Today my Martin 000-15SM arrived from Indiana. I played it for a rehearsal with my Celtic band twenty minutes after it came out of the box. It's chocolate sweet. I put on a new pickguard made by the Canadian Mario Proulx. Tomorrow I'll install a mic and a wooden strap button.
I packed the D-18 into its big case and I'll let it sit in the closet beside its lowly cousin the DX1R for a prolonged humidification while I play the daylights out of this new little mahogany friend, wake it up and introduce it to the kind of music its life will be all about.
27 January 2016 A couple of weeks ago I was teaching the injured and housebound Bryson Murdoch a guitar lesson when I noticed an old bass case against the wall. Inside was a '62 Fender Precision bass that belongs to his dad, Bryan, whom I've known and liked since he did the sound for our community's Sound of Music in 1984. I asked him if I could borrow it for a comparison with my Jazz bass and Bryan cautiously agreed. "It's worth a lot of money."
At the Alpine Highway practice it was glorious--huge bottom presence that supported the band beautifully. I chalked it up to its "vintage-ness." But then I compared it with mine in the studio. It won again. I returned it at Bryson's next lesson. At band practice that evening I borrowed a recent made-in-Mexico Precision from our sound guy, Eric, and even it provided a fuller foundation than my bass. Alone, the Jazz was sweeter and more focused, but the Precision just supported the band better. [I've heard it said that if these basses were peanut butter, the Jazz would be "smooth" and the Precision would be "chunky."]
This evening I was praying. After a heart-felt thanks for uncounted blessings, I asked the Lord to prosper and enable us to work and serve more effectively. I don't think I typically see things when I pray, but at the "serve effectively" part I clearly saw an image I've looked at several times in the last few days, an American-made Fender Precision bass that sells for just over a thousand dollars. I saw it as clearly as a thumbnail on a computer screen, except that it sort of glowed.
4 October 2016 Laid away the Fender Precision bass I saw while praying. I also put on layaway a little Washburn resonator parlor guitar that I kind of fell in love with at first sight. It's an act of faith, because I don't know where the money's coming from.
28 January 2017 Today is Saturday. While leaving band practice on Thursday night, I asked Johnny Johnson [drummer] if he would be willing to lend me the $800 balance on my Precision bass to that I could play it in a promotional video we shot this afternoon. He was perfectly happy about that, but when he dropped the cash off at the studio yesterday, he made it a gift instead. I'm very grateful. I was already grateful. We had a great time at the shoot. The bass sounded great.
14 March 2017 The little Washburn resonator guitar is so cute and so easy to play, but the bitter pill is that only the top strings sound good. So today I swapped it for a sweet Kala tenor uke, slot-headed with a tweed case, an instrument I'll actually use.
26 March 2019 Today I sold my Jazz bass to a nice kid who was very excited to have a "serious bass for serious bands." This sale was to finance the purchase of a much nicer resonator guitar than I've had. I was inspired in this direction by hearing Mark Knopfler play and talk about his 1930s National resonator. He didn't play resonator stuff, he played Knopfler stuff. I want to play Marvin stuff.
30 March 2019 The case for the resonator was delivered this morning. I gave it a couple of coats of Shellac.
3 April 2019 This morning I received my Gretsch G9241 Alligator resonator guitar. Pretty sweet, it'll be a fun color to play with. Nice dark sunburst (I'd done my best to suggest a sunburst on the case).
4 April 2019 For a neck-heel strap button I'm using the endpin from Bob Dylan's D-28. The Alligator guitar is in a case made by Gator. Coincidence.
22 October 2019 [Owing to having suffered a torn rotator cuff, I found my main gigging guitar, my D-18, difficult to play for long periods of time. I thought I could sell the dreadnought and get another OM-28, but an old D-18 resides at the center of a play I'm writing and I need to hang onto it. So I went to a good friend, Tom Andra, who is a fan of the story around which the play is built, and asked if he would be willing to invest in its completion, so that I could buy a guitar that would be comfortable to play. He gladly assented. ]
At about noon today I bought the guitar, It's gorgeous. All the great traditional Martin 28 appointments, herringbone trim, open-geared tuners, neck volute. The top is resplendent with silking, which I love.
And the sound! Rich rosewood overtones, and dreadnought depth, but warm. I can't imagine how it will ring when it opens up.
Tom's check was for a couple hundred more than I'd asked, so I also grabbed a Squier Precision bass, in order to have a bass living full-time in the studio. It recorded well tonight (21 March 2022). Dave Heslington handled the deal, and when I bought the OM I asked if he'd get a commission, hoping he would. He said they had cut the price so much that his commission might buy him a nice lunch. After I had the OM in the car and got the bass idea, I went back inside, pulled the Squier off the wall, knocked on the door of the high-end guitar room, and asked him if he wanted dessert.
12 July 2023 I started a student, Ashlee Cook, who brought to her first lesson a family guitar that was entirely inappropriate for her, so we shopped through Sweetwater and found a Yamaha classical guitar that they’d specified as “Flamenco.” The specs were good and the price was right (meaning spruce top, blonde cypress sides and back, a little lower action, light as a feather, and costing $400), so she pulled the trigger and I lent her my wife’s old classic until it comes.
Not just that shopping moment, but also a long-held desire to have a really good nylon-string guitar (intensified by this morning’s meeting at the Covey Center to plan for the upcoming ten-concert run) have led me to explore the purchase of a $2k Martin or a $900 Taylor, both way out of reach.
Craig Proulx called me to ask about taking lessons. His advanced age (old as me!) and back surgeries and unknown stature and hand size suggested an appointment at Best In Music in Orem to find him a suitable instrument. After looking closely at six and settling on a Teton classical guitar, on a whim I asked the store if they had any classical guitars that weren’t on display. The owner’s daughter returned with Ashlee’s model of Yamaha. It was glorious! Loud, full, open, articulate, with a friendly neck contour and light as a feather. Craig very happily bought it. As did I also as soon as I got to the studio, with the precise balance left on my Sweetwater card.
THAT'S ALL FOR NOW. STAY TUNED.