Elliot Easton Custom Herringbone Edition Returns Respect to Mahogany and Lefthanders
Anyone who has heard Elliot Easton’s inventive hooks, imaginative arrangements and melodic solos knows he is a gifted guitarist with impeccable taste and tone. Easton established his reputation as lead guitarist for The Cars, one of the world’s most popular bands of the late 1970s and 1980s, but his playing over the years has demonstrated an impressive stylistic range. He also is among the most recognizable left-handed guitarists playing today.
Like many electric guitarists, Easton has an acoustic side that doesn’t get a lot of exposure. That acoustic side has been expressed almost exclusively on a Martin; his guitar collection includes several, which he primarily uses for songwriting and studio work but also occasionally takes on stage. So when he and C. F. Martin began to collaborate on a custom edition guitar that would bear his name, Easton proved ready for the challenge and very definite about how “his” guitar should sound and look.
As he commented, “I’ve owned my share of fine Martin guitars over the years, but I always keep coming back to my 1970s D-18 and – in recent years – my D-18V and 00-18V. I love the sound of mahogany: the sweetness, balance, purity of tone, and the ease with which it records. However, I’ve never understood why Martins made with my favorite wood were so “plain Jane,” with basic black or tortoise shell bindings, rosewood fingerboards and bridges, and simplified fingerboard inlays, while the rosewood models got grained ivoroid bindings, ebony fingerboards and bridges and elaborate fingerboard inlays, not to mention either elegant herringbone or brilliant abalone purfling!
“This new Martin – the HD Elliot Easton Custom Edition – is my bid to redress this situation and elevate the mahogany guitar to the status it so richly deserves. To that end, I have asked Martin to build my dream guitar: Dreadnought body, Adirondack spruce top and forward-shifted, scalloped Adirondack spruce braces, rare quilted mahogany back and sides, fine herringbone trim around the top and rosette, grained ivoroid binding, modified “V” neck with diamond volute, gold Waverly tuners with butterbean knobs, ebony bridge and fingerboard, long pattern “diamonds & squares” position markers, the “Old Style” Martin decal on the headplate and polished gloss lacquer finish throughout.
“I also wanted the guitar to have ‘stage ready’ electronics, so I requested that the Fishman Ellipse Aura system (with a release date of August 2006) be available as a factory-installed option. Mounted inside the soundhole, it eliminates the need to cut into the side of the guitar and – because it is virtually invisible – allows the instrument to retain all of its aesthetic charm.
“The resulting guitar has more than exceeded my admittedly high expectations. This is my perfect Martin! From conception to completion, it has been a labor of love. I am donating my “artist’s proceeds” from sales of the Martin HD Elliot Easton Custom Edition to the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center for autistic children.”
Elliot Easton’s appreciation of good custom guitars comes from a lifetime of playing. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, he began to play guitar after seeing Elvis, and also the singing cowboys, on television. A few years later, the Ventures and the Beatles inspired him to go electric, and he progressed quickly; he was lead guitarist in a surf-rock band while still in junior high school. During his development as an electric player in the 1960s, he also regularly attended the annual Newport Folk Festival and gained fluency in the styles of everyone from Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James to Bert Jansch and John Fahey.
After graduating high school, he studied guitar at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where in 1974 he hooked up with vocalist Ric Ocasek and bassist Benjamin Orr and played in two of their short-lived groups: the acoustic-based Ocasek and Orr, and Cap’n Swing. In 1977, the threesome joined forces with keyboards and sax player Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson to form The Cars. One of the band’s demo records became a local hit in Boston, and the group soon signed a record deal.
Between 1978 and 1987, The Cars released seven albums, all of which became multi-platinum sellers. Driven in part by Easton’s inspired guitar work, the group had a dozen “Top 40” singles, including “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Shake It Up,” “You Might Think,” “Magic,” “Drive,” and “Tonight She Comes.” The Cars have sold over 30 million albums and remain a radio favorite to this day.
Before The Cars disbanded in 1988, Elliot Easton expanded his musical horizons by releasing “Change, No Change,” a collaborative album with vocalist Jules Shear. Beginning in the mid-1980s, he also appeared on a wide range of records, includ- ing “Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin,” on which he played with Hall and Oates, Brian Wilson’s first solo album, “The Guitars that Rule the World” and the “Jackie Brown” soundtrack. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he toured and recorded with Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
Early in 2006, Easton and original Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes joined vocalist Todd Rundgren, bassist Kasim Sulton and drummer Prairie Prince to form The New Cars. The group’s first album, “It’s Alive!”, a mix of live and brand new studio cuts, and its 2006 summer concert tour of the United States give fans a fresh dose of his impressive fretwork.
In addition to the custom guitar body elements already noted, the HD Elliot Easton Custom Edition features a TUSQ nut and compensated USQ saddle, white bridge pins and endpin topped with red eye” tortoise dot inlays and subtle aging toner on the top. he HD Elliot Easton Custom Edition may be ordered as a lefthand r right-hand instrument with no additional charge.
Packed in a vintage Geib-style case, each Martin HD Elliot Easton Custom Edition guitar bears an interior label individually signed by Elliot Easton and Martin Chairman C.F. Martin V and is numbered in sequence. The HD Elliot Easton Custom dition is open ended, and authorized C.F. Martin dealers have lready begun accepting orders. Participating dealers will be osted on the Martin website.