In 1933 cowboy star and country singer Gene Autry came up with a special project. Autry wanted a guitar similar in appearance to his idol Jimmie Rodgers’ 000–45, but in the new large body style. The Martin Company complied, and the first and perhaps most famous D–45, #53177, was born, complete with Autry’s name in pearl script on the fretboard.
Like all early Dreadnoughts, the first D–45 had the elongated body and 12–fret neck. As you can imagine, with all of the abalone pearl body decoration, the guitar proved to be expensive to make, costing a whopping $200.00 in the middle of the Depression.
Although the D–45 was not cataloged until 1938, five more were built between 1933 and its official introduction, including two other 12–fret versions. The guitar built for Autry had a "torch" inlay pattern on the peghead; subsequent D–45s had the familiar "C. F. Martin" block letter logo. In 1939, the fretboard inlay pattern was changed from the traditional style 45 "snowflakes" to new "modern" solid hexagons.
The Martin Company had produced 91 D–45s by the time the guitar was [temporarily] discontinued in 1942. Except for the 1936 D–45 (which had a 5/8" wider body and three different 12–fret "S" designs), all of these guitars were structurally identical to the other pre–1945 Dreadnoughts.
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