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Chapter 1: The Dreadnought Story

Martin® guitars and Rolls Royce® automobiles, Steinway® pianos, Baccarat® crystal.

High–falutin comparisons, to be sure; but few acoustic musicians can hear the name "C. F. Martin" without instantly linking it to some mental image that stands for enduring quality. Since 1833, the Martin Guitar Company has provided instruments of consistently high caliber to virtually a world–wide market. Among musicians there is a standing joke about being able to communicate in any language as long as you say, "Martin guitar."

What is it that has created the interest and demand for the musical products from this small, privately held company in Nazareth, Pennsylvania? Although some would point to various technical features or famed models, it’s probably best expressed in terms of family tradition and longevity, and a reputation that borders on legend. No manufacturer ever has an unblemished record of creativity, value, and service, but Martin’s has been so good for so long that one would almost think Christian Frederick Martin built his first guitar with wood from George Washington’s cherry tree.

The "hand crafting" image that is part of the aura goes along with Martin’s limited production. The company’s current output does not exactly qualify for Fortune 500 status.

Among the great variety of instruments the Martin Company makes, it’s safe to say that none has enjoyed more popularity than their line of Dreadnoughts or D–size guitars. Currently regarded as the standard acoustic guitar, the Dreadnought once was viewed in less favorable light primarily because it was so large in comparison to other guitars of the day.

The deep bass response of a D–28 was a very unusual feature to musicians used to the clear treble and overall balance of smaller "standard size" instruments. However, when the Dreadnought custom guitar body made its way into the hands of country music performers, it found an appreciative audience – it was just the item for backing up vocals, fiddles, and banjos in lieu of a bass instrument. A look through Mike Longworth’s book, Martin Guitars: A History, shows that the Dreadnought’s gain in popularity has been steady since its introduction. Today the Dreadnought is ubiquitous, found in every style of acoustic music, and accounts for approximately 80 percent of Martin’s yearly production.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Dreadnought Story
Chapter 2: From the Beginning
Chapter 3: The First D-45
Chapter 4: Mid-`40s to the Mid-`60s
Chapter 5: The Tumultuous Mid-`60s
Chapter 6: The Big Guitar Boom
Chapter 7: Other Models
Chapter 8: Approaching 2000 & Beyond

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