Commemorative D-45 Pays Tribute to Mike Longworth
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 18 - Jan. 2005
D-45 Mike Longworth
Mike Longworth was a renaissance man in the truest sense of the word. During his nearly 30 years at C. F. Martin, he helped resurrect the legendary D-45, designed the popular D-41, assisted in the return of herringbone trim with the HD-28, answered thousands of letters from Martin owners and wrote the first reference book on Martin guitars. A revered member of the C. F. Martin & Co. family, he retired in 1995. Sadly, his was a full life, but not one full of years: he died in 2003 at a much-too-young age of 64. In tribute to Mike Longworth's many contributions, Martin takes pride in presenting the D-45 Mike Longworth Commemorative Edition.
A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Mike Longworth learned the art of pearl inlay while still in his teens. By the 1960s, he had turned his talent into a business, inlaying pearl on the guitars of many of country music's biggest stars, including Lester Flatt, Johnny Cash and Hank Snow. He often converted Martin 000-28s or D-28s into 000-45s or D-45s (both of which Martin stopped making in 1942), but marked his work by inlaying a small letter "L" on the fingerboard. He and wife Sue also began collecting guitars, putting together an impressive group of pre-war Martins.
When Martin decided to reintroduce the D-45 in 1968, after a 26-year hiatus, the company hired Longworth and brought him to Nazareth to supervise the intricate pearl inlay work. The new D-45 found a welcoming market, and within months he suggested a new, less elaborate pearl Martin with inlay only on the top, fingerboard and headstock. The D-41 debuted in 1969 and quickly became a hit, with sales averaging more than 200 instruments a year.
With Martin's pearl inlay operation running smoothly, Longworth began handling questions from Martin owners and representing Martin at festivals and guitar shows. His passion for old Martins made him a natural, and he eventually became Customer Relations Manager. With access to the Company's ledgers and its longtime employees, he wrote "Martin Guitars: A History" a concise overview of the Company and its instruments. The book was published in 1975, and two updated editions followed (with a third more extensive update by Richard Johnston and Dick Boak now in the works).
As Martin continued to introduce models inspired by its past, he proved invaluable in getting the details exactly right, like the herringbone inlay and "zig-zag" back strip on the HD-28 and the ivoroid binding, squared headstock and diamond fingerboard inlays on the HD-28V, the first guitar in the Company's Vintage Series.
Upon his retirement, Longworth and his wife returned to their beloved Tennessee. He spent many of his remaining days building exquisite ukuleles in his home workshop.
Longworth's role in reviving the D-45 makes it the logical choice for the Mike Longworth Commemorative Edition. With Mike's accomplishments and personal preferences in mind, Martin has created a special version he would be delighted to call his own.
A classic Dreadnought, the D-45 Mike Longworth Commemorative Edition features solid premium tonewoods throughout. Back and sides of East Indian rosewood are matched to a top of Martin's finest Adirondack spruce, revered for exceptional tone. Scalloped and forward-shifted 5/16" Adirondack red spruce top braces contribute exceptional dynamic range and bass-to-treble clarity. The neck is carved from solid genuine mahogany, while the fingerboard and belly bridge are crafted from select black African ebony.
Top, back, sides and rosette feature select abalone pearl inlays, in each case framed with black/maple/black wood fiber. Top and back both are bound with grained ivoroid. The grained ivoroid end piece is fully enclosed with select abalone pearl in Mike's "boxed" style, and both it and the grained ivoroid heelcap are accented with fine lines of black/maple/black fiber in the Golden Era® style. A multicolored Style 45 back strip bisects the two-piece back.
The polished East Indian rosewood headplate provides a spectacular "canvas" for the familiar "C. F. Martin & Co." script logo in mother of pearl, below which is nestled the classic Martin torch from the 1930s in select abalone pearl. The back of the headstock features the antique "C. F. Martin & Co." pressure stamp. Waverly gold tuners with butterbean knobs con-tribute to the headstock's distinctive look.
The lavish use of abalone pearl continues on the fingerboard, where Golden Era Style 45 snowflake inlays extend from the 1st to the 17th fret. Mike Longworth's legendary "L" inlay is positioned between the 19th and 20th frets. Both the headstock and fingerboard are bound in grained ivoroid that enclose black/white fine line purfling.
The nut, through saddle, bridge pins and end pin are crafted from rare fossilized ivory, the latter two accented with black pearl dots. A polished and beveled tortoise color pickguard protects the top. Vintage toner gives the top a look of timeless elegance. Both the body and neck of this handsome instrument shine with a flawless polished gloss finish. In keeping with Mike's strong belief that acoustic meant acoustic, his commemorative instrument is not available with electronic sound reinforcement.
Production of the D-45 Mike Longworth Commemorative Edition guitars is limited to 91 instruments, a number equal to the total of original D-45s produced by Martin between 1933 and 1942. Each instrument will bear an interior label personally signed by Sue Longworth and Martin Chairman C.F. Martin IV, and is numbered in sequence with the edition total. A second interior label will feature a photograph of Mike Longworth. Each guitar will be delivered in a Geib vintage style hardshell case. Following an initial ordering period, Martin will post the names of participating Martin dealers on this site.