Back in the 1970s, both early and late, when I was near the end of being at my first store location and well into the second, I had some ideas for a few very special Martin guitars but in those days they had no custom shop and were not taking special orders of any kind, from no one, nohow. OTOH, I had a very special relationship with Martin going back to the early 1960s, had known and had the pleasure of meeting and doing business with CF Martin III, who ran the company from the 1930s until he passed away in the 1980s. I had become a Martin dealer in 1969 and had made many good friends there in sales, in management, in production, and more, having visited the factory many many times. And so when upper-echelon sales said “No way” to a few of my requests I went, um, over a few heads, was persuasive as it were, maybe even was more of a pest, but I got it done, in style, more than once.
Hard to remember the sequence after so many years but one of the projects seemed simple enough: Take a standard HD-28 body but change the soundhole rosette to that of a D-45 and put on a full-tilt D-45 neck. Simple, and rather elegant if I do say so myself. I seem to recall ordering four of them, maybe two more a few years later, and doing a reprise many many years later, perhaps in the 2000s, when “custom" was no object. One of those 1970s guitars went to Johnny Cash who, along with his wife June Carter, always stopped by when they were in town.
The second project was more of a corker. Martin had had the D-45 in their standard lineup since the late 1960s but that was it for pearl-inlaid models. What I wanted was a 000-45. This was in the 1970s and it seemed simple enough: take some D-45 wood, make it into a 000, give it the “45" treatment, and voila´. Some wiseguy in sales said “No way but if you want SIX of them…….”. Being an even bigger wiseguy I said "Sure, and can you mix up a few minor specs on them?” After they agreed I hit ‘em with the order. Three 12-fret versions with slotted pegheads; one with no fingerboard inlay, another like it but with hexagon fingerboard inlays, and another like that but with a sunburst finish on the top. And three more like those, but with 14-ffret necks. Beats me why they said yes but they did, and all six turned out to be fabulous guitars. All had standard construction specs of the day; no scalloped bracing, none of that stuff, just regular Martin building style was fine with me. I don’t recall where they all went but I do know that one got traded for a few other guitars, and the 12-fret sunburst one went to my old friend Artie Traum. At some point Artie decided that he had more guitars than he really needed, and that one came back to me. It went to Steve Earle, who still has it, and treasures it.
Coda to the story. One day in the 1990s, when one of those 000 guitars was in my store for sale and another in for repairs, two separate people who had bought others years before happened to walk in, carrying them. Four out of the six co-incidentally back at my place all at once? What are the chances of that? I call it Kismet.