Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 24 - Jan. 2008
D-41 Porter Wagoner
For many, Porter Wagoner’s broad smile, flashy stage costumes and distinctive voice have been the essence of country music stardom. Yet even these descriptors do not capture the importance of the “Thin Man from West Plains” to country music. A staggering 81 singles on the country charts, a huge television presence in the 1960s and 1970s, a superb writer of country songs and a key role in launching Dolly Parton’s career have solidified Porter Wagoner’s position as one of the most influential and respected country artists ever. With his passing in late October of 2007, the Martin guitar he inspired serves as a fitting tribute to an irreplaceable performer and individual.
Up until the very end, he continued to play the music he loved, having recently released Wagonmaster. Produced with the encouragement of his good friend Marty Stuart, the 17-song disc showcases Wagoner’s gift for wrapping his resonant voice around stirring narratives. In addition to both new and familiar songs, Wagonmaster features a track – “Committed to Parkview” – hand-picked for Porter nearly 25 years ago by Johnny Cash (after having previously been recorded by Cash and with the Highwaymen). Presented and paced like a stage show, Wagonmaster spins through tales of extreme mental anguish (“Be a Little Quieter”), blind romantic ardor (“Who Knows Right from Wrong”), back hills hard times (“Eleven Cent Cotton”), powerfully delivered spiritual messages (“A Place to Hang My Hat,” “Satan's River”) and, with the strikingly offbeat “Albert Erving” and a fine version of the Wagoner-Dolly Parton collaboration “My Many Hurried Southern Trips,” some sharply etched, rich glimpses of everyday life.
Among Porter Wagoner’s most cherished accolades was his induction into the Grand Ole Opry in 1957. 2007 marked the 50th year that Porter performed with the Grand Ole Opry and with the assistance of Marty Stuart, C. F. Martin embarked on the creation of a D-41 Porter Wagoner Custom Edition to mark the anniversary and honor this fine man for his contributions to country music.
As to be expected of a guitar honoring one of country’s great entertainers, the D-41 Porter Wagoner Custom Edition guitar is pristine and pure. Martin’s most colorful abalone pearl brightens the St yle 41 rosette and the perimeter of the aging toner-hued top. In true country tradition, the top bears a unique, custom-designed oversized nitrate tortoise-colored pickguard, based upon the unique and historic designs that Porter developed in collaboration with Martin throughout the years.
Scalloped hexagon abalone pearl position markers from the 1st to the 17th frets – previously offered on the George Jones Signature Edition in 2000 – shine against the African black ebony fingerboard and are matched by wagon wheel inlays in mother of pearl on the wings of the African black ebony belly bridge. “C. F. Martin” block letters are inlaid in abalone pearl on the polished East Indian rosewood headplate, and the white Style 45 bridge and end pins are topped with abalone pearl dots. Flawlessly finished in polished gloss lacquer, the D-41 Porter Wagoner Custom Edition displays a stage charisma rivaled only by the man himself.
A native of Missouri, Porter Wagoner began his musical career on radio, first on KWPM in his hometown of West Plains and later at KWTO in Springfield. His first major success in country music came in 1953 as a songwriter, when “Trademark” became a hit single for Carl Smith. Wagoner had his first “Top 10” hit in 1954 with “Company’s Coming” and soon after recorded “A Satisfied Mind,” which stayed at “No. 1” for four weeks and remained on the country charts for more than eight months.
Among the first country stars to recognize the power of television, Wagoner started the syndicated “Porter Wagoner Show” in 1960. The show stayed on the air for an impressive 21 years, airing in nearly 100 markets and popularizing country music across the United States. The hit records kept coming, including the chart-topping “Misery Loves Company” in 1962, the soon-to-be-a-standard “Green, Green Grass of Home” in 1965 and the “Top 10” hit “Cold Hard Facts of Life” in 1967. In 1967, Wagoner introduced a new female duet partner to his stage show: Dolly Parton. He and Dolly performed and recorded together well into the 1970s and several of their duets were hits. During this era he also worked with the Blackwood Brothers, picking up three Grammy awards for gospel music.
The 1970s brought more solo hits. In 1976, Wagoner retired from the road to devote himself to his television show and to produce records at his Fireside Studios. He returned to touring in the 1980s and took a role in the movie “Honkytonk Man,” starring Clint Eastwood. In the 1990s, though he essentially stopped recording, he appeared frequently on the Nashville Network and became a mainstay at the Grand Ole Opry. In 2002, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Wagoner returned to the studio in the new millennium to record two superb gospel albums. Then in 2005, with his more recent singing partner Pam Gadd, he released Something to Brag About, a fine album featuring new versions of classic country songs. That same year, he also recorded his “20 All Time Greatest Hits,” an album in which he revisited the songs for which he is most famous. Now, with Wagonmaster, his first album of original material in many years, Porter Wagoner has left a special departing gift for a new generation of country music fans.
While handsomely appointed, the D-41 Porter Wagoner Custom Edition shows traditional Martin quality throughout. The premium solid tonewoods include a top of the finest Engelmann Spruce paired with forward shifted 5/16” scalloped bracing for rich, open tone, back and sides of East Indian rosewood for deep, warm timbre and a low profile 1 11/16” (at the nut) neck with diamond volute carved from genuine mahogany.
Back, sides and neck all are bound in elegant grained ivoroid, and are matched by grained ivoroid on the heelcap and endpiece, the latter bordered by black/white fine line inlays. The headplate is bound in grained ivoroid inset with fine black/white inlays, and is appointed with Gotoh gold open-geared tuners with matching gold butterbean knobs. The nut and compensated saddle are crafted from genuine bone.
Presented in a Geib® vintage style hardshell case, each Martin D-41 Porter Wagoner Custom Edition guitar features a special interior “Wagonmaster” label personally signed by Porter Wagoner prior to his passing. Marty Stuart, his friend and co-collaborator, has also personally signed the label, each of which is numbered in sequence. Authorized C. F. Martin dealers are now accepting orders for the D-41 Porter Wagoner Custom Edition. Although the special Porter Wagoner pickguard is available on right-handed models only, either lefthanded or right-handed models may be ordered with the option of a standard Martin pickguard at no additional cost.
We are all tremendously saddened with Porter’s passing. It is our hope that his music and his memory will be preserved and commemorated in each of the special guitars that bear his name.