Sometime in 2011 I was contacted by a woman named Julie to have our repair department thoroughly go over a 1952 Martin D-28, which had been her father’s. The guitar had not been played or looked at for many years as her father had long since passed away, and she wanted to make sure that it was in top shape and have any work needed done by us. We did so for her, and she then put the guitar away again until contacting me recently that it was finally time for her dad’s treasured Martin to have a new, very appreciative home and have music made with it once again as she was not a player herself. She was very specific in wanting only us to be its caretaker and finder of a new, caring owner, and I was quite flattered. I was especially taken with what she wrote to me, without being asked to do so, regarding the history of the guitar and her family’s and especially her Dad’s connections with it. I am always impressed by quality writing, and what what she wrote and how she put it literally made my morning, from someone who really knows how to express herself with words and in her writing style. Being so articulate just seemed to come naturally to her and when I asked if she was a writer by profession she seemed to pass the question by.
Julie and her husband were living in NYC back in 2011 but have since moved upstate, and it took quite a bit of maneuvering among a few different people to get the guitar here but here it now is. Below is the story she sent me, verbatim, regarding the relationship between her family and her Dad and his Martin over the years, followed by a bit of later back-and-forth between us. I have rarely, in all my years, been so taken with the telling of a story of an instrument's history.
"Not sure how much provenance matters, but every object has a story, especially when it is cherished.
My father grew up in Whitby, West Virginia, which was a coal mining town in the exact vein as the one Loretta Lynn grew up in, if you've seen the film.
All he knew when he graduated high school was that he wasn't going down in that mine. Day after graduation he hitched a ride to Wheeling and enlisted in the Air Force. That would have been 1954.
He spent his first tour of duty at Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, CA, west of San Francisco, northwest of Fresno. He loved it there. He played baseball (lefthanded first base and pitcher on some sort of semi-pro team) and played in a country western combo. The studio photo from that time shows him playing upright bass, but this is when he bought the guitar that you are helping to re-home now.
He told me many times how Martin made the very best accoustic guitars and how he had saved up for the money to put down as a deposit at a guitar shop and paid the rest on installment. If memory serves, he paid something like $275, a great deal of money to him. I feel it safe to say that aside from a house and automobiles, purchasing this guitar was the largest sum of money he ever spent.
That guitar traveled with him from duty station to duty station, and then a bit more with my mother and then me. It has travelled safely from California to Ohio, Alaska. Florida, Germany (West Germany, then), Massachusetts, Nebraska, Indiana, Rhode Island, New York City, Philadelphia, and finally the Catskills. I do wonder where it will go next.
My Father was not a great player. He played chords by ear and sang harmony. He loved to hear a new country song on the radio and pick out the chords and melody and then come ask me to identify the song. He had a closet full of Country Music Magazine, and once went to a local radio station to take a test to see if he could be a country DJ.
He died of ALS in 1995. I don't know the last time he played the guitar, but I can vividly imagine how hard it was for him to gradually lose the ability to do so.
Love of music is not something my mother and father shared. But thanks to him I was raised on the Porter Waggoner Show, progressing through the years to Austin City Limits.
What I most understand about this guitar is that it was meant to be played. Its sound is gorgeous, round and full, rich and mellow. Even just the few chords I can play sound grand.
I am grateful for the care I know you will take in helping this guitar to resume its music making life.
And here is a bit of our conversation after the Martin arrived here………….
"You are definitely part of this guitar's story. I don't remember how I first became aware of your shop, but when it turned out that my husband and I were going to be living in New York for a few years, I knew I'd be taking the guitar to you for evaluation and appraisal, and it seemed like some sort of destiny fulfilled in a strange way, that my convoluted life path would lead to my being able to easily get the guitar into the best possible hands. I don't believe in coincidence, but I do believe in serendipity, if that makes any sense to you.
More than a decade later now, it occurs to me that the moment seems right to ask for your help in moving it on to the next right person. My hope is that it goes to someone who will love playing it.
Anything of what I wrote that you would like to share with the new owner would be fine. My father, whose name was James Gerald Cox, would appreciate it, I believe, for the story to be known”.
So there it is, the story, to be continued by this wonderful Martin’s next caretaker, via us to you.