The Avett Brothers
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 21 - Jul. 2006
D-35 Johnny Cash
When he died on September 12, 2003 at age 71, Johnny Cash passed from icon to legend. In a singular career that spanned six decades, more than 1,500 songs, 48 hit singles and 11 Grammy awards, the “Man in Black” showed unique power and passion in his music. Even today, with the success of the movie “Walk the Line,” the musical “Ring of Fire” on Broadway and the huge success of the five albums he recorded in the last decade of his life, it is clear that Johnny Cash matters, and no artist could wish for a better legacy.
C. F. Martin produced a total of 80 black D-42JC Johnny Cash Signature Model guitars in 1997, #1 of which Cash played for the rest of his life, except for a short period when it went back to Nazareth for repairs after an onstage mishap. But, for years previous to the arrival of his D-42JC, Johnny Cash’s favorite Martin was a modified D-35 Custom, his – and Martin's – first with an original polished black finish. It was this guitar that Cash played on stage for nearly 20 years. Now Martin pays tribute to Johnny Cash with a close facsimile of that instrument: the D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative.
The story of how Cash’s black D-35 came to be is one its owner must have appreciated. C. F. Martin III was head of Martin in those days, and he never allowed the Company to build a guitar with a black finish – it was just too radical. So Cash’s custom order was built in secret, with the guitar hidden away and only worked on when he was away from the factory floor. The guitar was completed and delivered, and C. F. Martin III remained unaware of the instrument until one night when he turned on his television to watch an episode of “Columbo” and saw guest star Johnny Cash playing it. Those in the know say he was pleased to see the Martin on television, even if it was black!
The D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative’s polished black gloss lacquer finish allows its appointments to shine. Five bands of alternating black and white purfling encircle the top, three bands encircle the back and five bands border the sides, in all cases protected by grained ivoroid binding. The grained ivoroid heel cap and endpiece are likewise framed by multiple black and white inlays. The Style 45 rosette features an inlay of vibrant select green abalone pearl. Traditional Style 35 zigzag backstrips separate the three-piece back.
Both the fingerboard and headstock are bound with grained ivoroid and inset with mitered black/white fine line inlays. Martin’s Old Style large decal logo gleams on the polished black ebony headplate. True to Cash’s D-35 Custom, the headstock also sports Grover Rotomatic enclosed chrome tuners. The African black ebony fingerboard is inlaid with position markers similar to those on the D-42 Johnny Cash Signature Edition and small abalone stars bordered with mother of pearl at the 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th and 15th frets. Johnny Cash’s signature in pearl appears between the 19th and 20th frets.
Because it’s a Martin, the D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative sounds as good as it looks. Combining an Engelmann spruce top with 1/4" forward shifted scalloped braces gives this Dreadnought sweet tone and incredible responsiveness. Back and sides of East Indian rosewood add warmth and projection. The 1-11/16" neck is carved from genuine mahogany. A bone nut and compensated bone saddle (fitted in an ebony belly bridge), enhance its resounding power and clarity. Abalone-topped black Style 42 bridge pins and endpin add an elegant touch of color. A polished and beveled black – of course – pickguard protects the top.
This black guitar deserves a black case, specifically a Geib style case with special black hardware and a black interior. The D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative may be ordered as a left-hand instrument at no additional charge; factory-installed electronics are optional.
The D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative guitar comes with a special interior label in tribute to the “Man in Black,” each personally signed by Cash’s son, John Carter Cash and Martin Chairman C. F. Martin IV, and numbered in sequence. While the D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative currently is open-ended, it is subject to closure in the future. Authorized C. F. Martin dealers will begin accepting orders for the Martin D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative immediately and participating dealers will be posted on the Martin website.