As Bill Frisell wrapped up the recording of...
1952 Martin D-28
posted by Michael John Simmons
A few Saturdays ago I was hanging out at Gryphon Stringed Instruments when a women walked in the store with this brown guitar case. As she walked to the back counter, the store got quiet, sort of like the scene in a western movie when a stranger first walks into a saloon. All eyes were on that case, which was obviously old and most likely contained a great vintage guitar. Being brown, I assumed it held a Gibson, because, well, brown cases = Gibson guitars.
But when the woman opened the case I was a bit surprised to see a nice Martin D-28. If you look carefully, you can see the Martin doesn't quite fit right in this case.
The D-28 was made in 1952 and it used to belong to her father who passed away a few years ago. He bought the guitar new and for a while in the early 1950s he tried to start a career as a country singer. Like all D-28s of its era, it had Brazilian rosewood sides and back.
The D-28 was in very good shape, with one minor repaired side crack and only minor pick wear on the top. I got to play it for a few minutes and even with dead strings it sounded very nice. During this period, D-28s had straight braces and a small maple bridge plate, which give them a rich, non-boomy bass and a sparkling but mellow treble. These days, most dreadnoughts have scalloped braces but I think modern builders might want to consider revisiting this bracing configuration. (One builder who has is Jim Merrill, who was interviewed in issue 27 and who built a straight braced dreadnought for David Grier, who we covered in issue 16.)
It was nice to see that the guitar still had its original Kluson "waffle back" tuners. It also has the classic Martin headstock "dart" volute.
And the best part? This photo of the original owner back in 1952 with his new guitar. The woman said that although her father never made it as a professional singer, he played every day and performed at parties and various Masonic events his entire life. She also said that as much as the guitar reminded her of her father, she didn't play and she knows he loved his guitar and would want it to be played. The guitar has since found a new home and is reportedly being played every day. Thanks to the good people at Gryphon for sharing the photos of this guitar.
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