1972 David Russell Young Custom Dreadnought
A few days ago I posted about Erik Darling’s long neck banjo, an instrument that was significant for musical and historical reasons. Today, we have a guitar that has similar significance. This fancy guitar was made in 1972 by David Russell Young, who was one of the most highly regarded individual luthier of the early 1970s. Young was also the author of The Steel String Guitar: Construction and Repair, one of the very first books on how to build a steel string guitar. Young started building at a time when the large builders like Martin and Gibson were so busy they didn’t have the inclination to take on custom work.
Probably the first thing you noticed about this guitar is the intricate tree-of-life pattern inlaid in the fretboard. These days, a lot of inlays like this on production guitars are cut on CNC machines but back then every piece had to to be cut by hand. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Young spent more time on this than on the rest of the guitar. As you might expect, a special guitar like this was built for a special musician. Here’s a blurry, old clip of Gram Parsons, the man who ordered it, playing on stage with Emmylou Harris.
Gram Parsons didn’t have this guitar for very long. Young delivered it in 1972 and Parsons used with his band the Fallen Angels and on the sessions for what became the LP Grievous Angel. Tragically, Parsons died of a drug overdose in late 1973 and the guitar was stored away by Parsons’ widow for years. For the last ten years or so the guitar has been on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is a bit odd because the Hall hasn’t seen fit to admit Parsons himself. From the photos, it looks like the guitar is in good structural shape with a few nicks and dings that attest to a brief but intense life on the road. This David Russell Young guitar is due to be auctioned off by Heritage Auctions on February 15, 2014. If you’d like to get this guitar for yourself, you’d better start saving your nickels. The opening bid is $100,000.