The John Mellencamp Custom Artist Edition
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 26 - January 2009
00-18S John Mellencamp
00-18S John Mellencamp Gloss
Stunning Quilted Mahogany 00 12-Fret Benefits Farm Aid Charity
John Mellencamp embraces the American heartland in plain words and strong beliefs. His music reflects the place from which he comes – the landscape, the people, the dreams and the hardships – with an integrity few can match.
We at the Martin Guitar Company were thrilled to collaborate with John in the creation of a special guitar that would bear his name. His request that we donate a portion of the proceeds from “his” guitar to Farm Aid was expected; John has supported the organization’s work to help family farms thrive for more than two decades, and he is both a Farm Aid founder and a member of its Board. The annual Farm Aid Concert he helps organize with Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Dave Matthews (all three are Martin players!) has raised more than $30 million to keep family farms afloat and to promote the benefits of purchasing food from family farms.
We also expected he would want his namesake guitar to be like the 1951 Martin 00-18 that he has played in concert and in the studio for many years, but he had something more personally meaningful in mind. For years John has treasured a small, plain 12-fret parlor guitar he simply calls Maybell, probably one of the May-Bell guitars built in the 1920s and 1930s. He requested a guitar inspired by Maybell and we are pleased to fulfill that request with introduction of the 00-18S John Mellencamp Custom Artist Edition.
John Mellencamp has been defying expectations for much of his career. Growing up in southern Indiana, he began playing guitar at age 14. After high school, he bounced between Kentucky and Indiana for a few years; attending junior college, holding down a series of jobs and playing in local bar bands. In the mid-1970s, he headed to New York to become a rock star. He soon found a manager, who decided – for marketing reasons – to give him the stage Johnny Cougar. His debut album, Chestnut Street Incident, failed and his next two albums weren’t released in the United States initially, though a single of the second one, “I Need a Lover,” became a hit No. 1 in Australia. The single was added to John’s second U.S. album, 1979’s John Cougar, and became his first American hit, reaching No. 28. At some point during this period, he moved back to Indiana, where he continues to make his home today.
His next album, Nothing Matters and What If It Did, put two singles on the “Top 40” charts: “This Time” and “Ain’t Even Done With The Night.” But 1982’s American Fool became his breakthrough album, yielding “Hurts So Good,” which landed at No. 2 on the charts and won a Grammy Award, and “Jack and Diane,” which went all the way to No. 1.
With the huge success of American Fool, he had the clout to add his surname to his stage name, and became John Cougar Mellencamp. He also became a major concert draw. Uh Huh, released in 1983, continued the winning streak with two more “Top 10” singles, “Pink Houses” and “Crumblin’ Down.” Two years later, John took a more serious stance to his rock in Scarecrow and the album became a classic, putting five singles on the “Top 40,” including “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” and “Lonely Ol’ Night.”
In the late 1980s, his music evolved to include country and folk elements. Lonesome Jubilee continued the hits with “Check it Out” and “Paper in Fire,” while the darker and more introspective Big Daddy included “Jackie Brown.”
The early 1990s were difficult years personally, though he continued to make fine music. Finally eliminating the Cougar moniker for good, he released the critically acclaimed Human Wheels in 1993 and the stripped-to-basics Dance Naked a year later.
However, the tour that followed was cut short when John had a mild heart attack. He came roaring back with 1996’s funky Mr. Happy Go Lucky, put out the selftitled John Mellencamp in 1998 and took a bluesy turn with 2003’s Trouble No More. In 2007 he released Freedom’s Road, which included the anthemic “Our Country.”
In 2008, John was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. However, it is clear his passion for music remains strong; in July he released the 22nd album of his career, Life, Death, Love and Freedom, a simple, haunting work produced by T Bone Burnett, to very positive reviews. He spent much of the summer touring the United States and he performed at the first annual Notes of Hope Benefit Dinner to fund the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center. He also performed a special show at the historic Crump Theater in Columbus, Indiana, which was filmed for a Bio Channel television special, “Back Where We Started.” After his annual concert appearance at Farm Aid, he and his band flew south for a concert tour of Australia and New Zealand.
The Martin 00-18S John Mellencamp Custom Artist Edition is a beauty; understated yet handsome. That beauty begins with the solid tonewoods; back and sides of rare quilted mahogany for bright, clear tone, a top of Carpathian spruce, a tonewood from the mountains surrounding the Black Sea that combines the rich timbre of European spruce and the dynamic range of Adirondack spruce, and a neck of genuine mahogany. Scalloped 1/4” top braces provide superb responsiveness and balance.
Minimalist appointments let the instrument’s tonewoods and tone be the center of attention. The Old Style 18 rosette is matched by five layers of alternating black and white purfling around the top. Tortoise-color binding protect the top and back edges, and is matched by a tortoise-color end piece. This instrument does not have a pickguard, in keeping with its vintage inspiration.
The 1 3/4” (at the nut) low profile neck sports a tapered slotted headstock with square slots. Premium Waverly™ brass three-on-a-plate tuners with small ivoroid buttons provide smooth, accurate tuning. The Madagascar rosewood headplate bears the traditional (for a slotted headstock) small Old Style Martin decal. The black ebony fingerboard has abalone pearl dots, decreasing in size, at the 5th, 7th and 9th frets, leading to John Mellencamp’s signature inlaid in mother of pearl between the 19th and 20th frets.
A black ebony pyramid bridge, black ebony bridge pins and endpin, a black ebony heel cap, bone nut and saddle, and aging toner on the top complete the 00-18S John Mellencamp Custom Artist Edition’s vintage-inspired appointments. At John’s request, the guitar has a satin finish, which – combined with the handsome tonewoods - gives it a soft, almost glowing appearance; Martin’s polished gloss finish is also available as an extra-cost option. Factory-installed electronics are likewise available at extra cost, while left-handed guitars may be ordered at no additional cost. The guitar is delivered in a fitted Geib™-style hardshell case.
Each Martin 00-18S John Mellencamp Custom Artist Edition guitar bears an interior label personally signed by John Mellencamp and numbered in sequence without total. Authorized C. F. Martin dealers will begin taking orders for the 00-18S John Mellencamp immediately and dealers who order this Custom Artist Edition will be referenced on the Martin guitar website.