I’ve worked with the good people at Martin Guitar on many projects over the years, with ideas and projects flowing in both directions, but I could never forget about the very first one. This story begins before I ever had a store, during the years from about 1964-68 when I was doing guitar repair and restoration. I had a few locations for my workshop during that time; one of them, in 1967 or so, was at the Folklore Center here in Greenwich Village. The Folklore Center, owned and operated by Izzy Young, had been “folk music central” not only for New York but for musicians from all over the world for many years, and at a particular time when I had no place else to set up my shop Izzy was very gracious in letting me do it there. While the Folklore Center was not a guitar store, they occasionally had a few instruments for sale but, and it’s a big but, they had a Martin dealership. This was because for a few years prior Marc Silber, my mentor in my early years in this business, had had his own store, Fretted Instruments, right next door, with a sort of alliance with the Folklore Center, and when he closed it in 1966 or so the Martin dealership went to Izzy. Being the Martin fanatic that I already had been for years, having repaired and done complete restorations on many Martin guitars and having already made several good friends at the Martin factory, you can imagine what a thrill this was for me. I was the only one at the Folklore Center who knew what to do with Martin guitars, new or old, and so at the ripe old age of 20 I had my run of it.
By the late 1950s, the early years of the "Folk boom”, Martin had only one model, the 00-21, that was based on their 19th-century guitars with 12-fret necks, and seeing a new demand for the older styles they brought out the 0-16NY, a slightly smaller and less expensive version, around 1961. The original Size-0 guitars that Martin had made in the 1800s were called “Concert” size, and they were the largest guitars they made until the late 1870s when they came out with 00, or “Grand Concert” size models. The 0-mdels mostly fell by the wayside over the decades even though they had some very special qualities found nowhere else; they were extremely easy to hold and had the most unique, sweet tone. Thinking about this in 1967 I asked Martin to build us a rosewood version of the 0-16NY. They had no custom shop then and were not taking special orders of any kind and so their answer was no, no, and no. But I was persistent and finally persuaded them, with my knowledge of how guitars are made, both by hand and in factories and especially my familiarity with how the Martin factory was set up and run, of how easy it would be for them to make a guitar that was essentially an 0-28 NY. Same size and dimensions all around as their 0-16NY but to just do it in then-standard style-28, with rosewood back and sides instead of mahogany and 28-grade specs all around. They eventually consented, and four or five months later we had two guitars marked 0-28NY arrive. Brazilian rosewood was the norm at the time and both guitars were an absolute joy to behold and play, and my knowledge of Martin guitars and my suggestions put me in very good stead with them, which lasted for more than the next fifty years and to this day. Interestingly, also in the late 1960s, with my knowledge of pre-war Martins I prevailed on them to build us a few OM-28 models, the Orchestra Model spec being something that they hadn’t done since the early 1940s.Those came out beautifully too, and the OM models eventually worked their way back to major popularity for Martin and others. This collaboration continued right up through the 2000s, with the M-size (0000) instruments I started making in the late 60s, to the re-emergence of the 000-45, which I worked with them to bring back in a few different forms in the 1970s, and on through several other projects.
Both of the special 0-28NY guitars sold right away back then in 1968, and one of them went to one of my very best friends, David Santo, with whom I had gone to high school, during which years we shared our love of music and guitar making. David and I went in slightly different directions over time, I to repairs and restorations and David to California, where he got into guitar making. David, having a somewhat creative mind, at some point carved a vine with leaves into the top of the bridge of the 0-28NY; alarmed me at first but hey, it was his guitar. Move ahead a few years to 1971, by which time I already had a real guitar store, when David asked me to sell the guitar for him and I did. David and I kept up our friendship cross-country over the years; he passed away in 2010 and we all dearly miss him.
Now here’s where it gets even more interesting. Move ahead to 2015, forty-four years later, and in walks the person who had bought it from me in 1971, kept it immaculately, and asked me to sell it for him, and so I did. Now move forward again to 2017, just a few months before I closed the walk-in store portion of my business for good, and the 0-28NY was back for sale again and once more, away it went, I figured this time forever.
And now for the most amazing part. In July of this year I was contacted by the current owner, asking me to sell a few extraneous other guitars for him. We chatted on the phone for a bit and the story behind that Martin came up, and we both remarked on how wonderful it was, he saying how much he loved it and I saying how happy I was that it had gotten such a good home. A few days later he came by with an electric guitar for me to sell for him and he was also carrying an acoustic guitar case. I asked him what was in it and he responded “It’s your guitar”. I was a bit confused by this and asked him to elaborate and he replied “It’s your Martin. You should have it. It’s a gift”. To say I was thunderstruck would be a vast understatement; I just sat there, speechless, for about five or ten minutes before I could stammer out my sincerest gratitude and my enormous thanks. To say that I was near tears would not be overstating it. I don’t own many guitars, have kept only a very few from my fifty-six year career in dealing with them, but this one, still with the vine carved onto the top of the bridge, that I had never forgotten about, now graces my living room. After waiting since 1967 for it, it is finally home.