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Old 11-05-2018, 07:59 PM
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matthewpartrick matthewpartrick is offline
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Default 1930 OM 28 comes home to roost

I suppose primarily because I get a little bit of artistic license as an ex-mod, I ran this past the bosses a few weeks ago and got the go-ahead to share this little story in the Custom Shop, for a few reasons, not the least of which this where I tend to lurk the most, and also because this particular instrument was historically significant as one of the first fourteen fret guitars ever built, and the direct inspiration for every modern OM by Martin or any other small shop or single builder. There are a bunch of other little historical tidbits that may be only interesting to me and which I've forgotten or glazed over, so please feel free to ask if old Martins aren't your thing.

As some of you may know, I've been hunting for several years for an old OM. There will be time enough to tell the entire story, but due to time constraints brevity is the soul of wit etc. I will tell you a few tidbits of what I know of the guitar, saving from whom I got the information and from whom I got the guitar out of some modicum of privacy to a few people who really went out of their way to help me out when they didn't have to. Suffice it to say, I've developed a few lifelong friends from my years here on the forum, and it's been some of the most rewarding friendships I've had.

The formula to success in this situation was equal parts saving a lot of money for about ten years, converting it into a few really good guitars, researching what appealed to my very specific tastes, and waiting for the right moment to strike, liquidating about five guitars in five weeks to free up salary cap space and put an offer on a guitar that was right for me in terms of price and condition, sticking to my guns on my important issues while willing to compromise on a few others. After a few years in the vintage market, I was firm on original finish but willing to accept well done replacement of bridge etc based on the astronomical market for 100% clean guitars. Unfortunately for my wallet, my tastes and fingerstyle playing went from 1937 000-18 (a killer guitar in its own right) to early transitional bracing rosewood long scale bar frets etc. Such is life.

I found a guitar that fit my criteria, and fate dictated that one particular instrument was tragically damaged in transfer before I took possession, and the owner very graciously accepted it back and pulled the policy and is in the process of having that guitar repaired. Out of the ashes of that bummer came a few very fruitful conversations at Martinfest, and within a few months I had become the recipient of an absolute miracle, an early February 1930 OM 28. As above, I will tell you all I know (for the most part) about this guitar.

This guitar was the 49th OM made, being stamped on Feb 11th, 1930 and clearing final inspection on February 28th, 1930, about 2.5 weeks. Guess 1930 likely wasn't a leap year! Since it was finished so early in the OM lineage and before April of 1930, there is a strong possibility that it either 1) was originally finished with a pyramid bridge, sat around for 2 years during the depression and then sent back to Martin to have the pyramid bridge replaced by the stronger belly bridge or 2) sat at the factory in the white, unvarnished, until the guitar sold in late 1932 or 1933 (more on this later.) In any case, from very close inspection there is no trace of a pyramid bridge footprint underneath the belly outline, so either of the above is possible, and it's pure geeky conjecture to guess which.

The plot thickens a little: there was a repair record of this guitar indicating that it was sent back to Martin in early 1934 to repair a crack in the rosewood that was sustained during transit in late 1933. The really neat thing is that the records indicate that the original owner was a gentleman in Buffalo, NY. At that time it was possibly sold in the Buffalo metro area from either Rudolph Wurlitzer &Co or McClellan Music House. On physical exam, the side crack was very well repaired, and has some drop fills, but no evidence of sanding, overt refinishing, or thinning. The repair has no visible cleats on the interior and appears to have been done with hide glue, further reinforcing the provenance of it being done by Martin very early in the life of the instrument. Additionally, some nitwit tried to put a pickup in the guitar at some point and notched out a small section of the rosette; this has been expertly repaired and is nearly invisible unless one breaks out the spectacles.

We're all at some level suckers for some good wood, and the straw that broke the camel's back for me was the subtle bear claw that the red spruce top exhibits. The late 1928-1929 Martin records indicate at the time they purchased both Sitka and red spruce from Julius Breckwoldt & Son in Dolgeville, NY for bracing and tops respectively. Bearclaw is pretty rare in red spruce to begin with as compared to the wicked figuring you've likely seen on some Sitka tops in the Custom shop, but in 1930 at CFM & Co it was possibly seen as a less desirable cosmetic defect. Either way, this is the only pre-war Martin on which I have ever seen bearclaw.

To answer other guitar nerd questions, the bridge has been recently replaced, along with the bridge plate. The spruce top underneath was completely intact, which was, at least in the setting of replaced bridges and plates, mandatory for me considering how I had been burned my infant past with oversized rosewood plates hiding spruce failure. The "new" bridge and saddle were harvested from a 1931 OM that had been irreparably damaged, and the maple plate came from old seasoned stock, and was properly placed in terms of size and shape. That's the kind of attention to detail that is difficult to fathom, so I am perpetually grateful to the team of wizards behind the curtain that brewed that up. The tuners are new hardware with the original buttons retrofitted.

I have attached a few photos of the guitar, which are admittedly a little thin on details. Please humor me based on my terrible iPhone skills. Since I also am a legitimately terrible player and cannot record to save my life, I asked my guitar instructor to take it for a spin while I let the camera roll, without a fancy mic, just Apple proprietary hardware. Please feel free to ask questions, as I'm bound to have overlooked something. And yes, it plays and sounds stellar, all I hoped it would be. Thanks to everyone here and elsewhere that helped me to start this incredible journey! This is just the beginning, as I hope to expand on my penned thoughts as time goes on. Until then, cheers!















Youtube:



Still having problems embedding the YT, or perhaps my YT? Settings are messed up. Either way please help if you can!
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Last edited by matthewpartrick; 11-08-2018 at 10:04 PM.
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  #2  
Old 11-05-2018, 08:20 PM
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Guitars44me Guitars44me is offline
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Smile Persuit of the Grail pays off....

Congratulations on an incredible axe! Way to go. Video is not working but I will check back soon!!!

Was the 37 000-18 a 12 fret? Sucker for 12 frets, here...

Thanks for sharing and have a ball with this

Paul
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Old 11-05-2018, 09:34 PM
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justonwo justonwo is offline
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This is a fantastic story. The journey has been fun. Iím very happy for you. This is truly a piece of history to be treasured forever. I canít wait to play it!
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Old 11-05-2018, 10:13 PM
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Thatís a great read! Very happy you found this one. Looking forward to hearing it when you get the vid posted!
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Old 11-05-2018, 10:56 PM
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What a journey! I hope the two of you have many musical years together.
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Old 11-06-2018, 08:34 AM
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Steve Kinnaird Steve Kinnaird is offline
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Congrats on such a significant piece of American musical history; congrats on that way cool top; and thanks for the interesting story, so well-written!

Steve
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Old 11-06-2018, 08:48 AM
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Thanks for sharing this story. And congrats on landing such a fine piece of musical history. Sure hope I get to hear it someday.
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Old 11-06-2018, 09:14 AM
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Congrats! I love the write up and details about the guitar. I too have been fascinated by these old martins and hope to some day add one to my collection.
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Old 11-06-2018, 10:05 AM
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Burton LeGeyt Burton LeGeyt is offline
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Yessss! So glad it it is in your hands, especially after the shipping disaster. And still kicking myself that I passed up the chance to see it in person before it left.

Can't wait to hear what it inspires! Encounters with those pre war Martins completely opened my eyes to what was possible- an invaluable experience, and one I am very grateful for.
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Old 11-06-2018, 10:44 AM
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Congrats Matthew! What a great find and a well written post.

Please post a photo or two of the back of the guitar when you have time.
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Old 11-06-2018, 11:15 AM
LouieAtienza LouieAtienza is offline
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Matthew, awesome find! Not until recently I had played a pre-war Martin personally, and now I know why they're so coveted. Hope we get to see more of her in the coming days!
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Old 11-06-2018, 11:16 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Hi Matthew -was this he video you wanted to post ?

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Old 11-06-2018, 11:23 AM
maurerfan maurerfan is offline
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Love the pre-war and wartime Martins ... have a couple myself. Nice write-up, and congrats on your acquisition!!
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Old 11-06-2018, 11:53 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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I was a little shocked when I saw the headstock on this instrument - the backwards facing tuners.

It took me back to, maybe, the late sixties when I first got interested in bluegrass.

There was a chap in West London called, I think, Alan Holmes, who took me to his house once and showed me his instruments. He had a Gibson banjo, which I think he said was identical to Earl Scruggs' one, a 1920s Gibson F-4, and a Martin guitar that was smaller than I knew about (I only knew of dreadnoughts) and had those "funny" tuners.

So, I guess it was an early OM.

So there was, at least, one in the UK back in the day.

The OM was introduced in 1929 and discontinued in 1933. Only 487 were made.
Belly bridges from 1930, banjo tuners discontinued in 1931. Larger pick guards introduced in 1931.

Another thought:

There was a much loved crooner and tenor banjo/guitarist in the UK called Al Bowlly, (who was actually a Greek/Lebanese chap from South Africa!) who sung with various dance bands in and around London.
Somewhere I've seen a picture or a video of him playing an OM. (or possibly an 000 14 fret) with a dance band although was most frequently seen playing a Selmer Maccaferri "Grande Bouche".

He was sadly killed in April 1941 by a German parachute bomb which landed near his flat in the early hours. It is said that his body had no obvious injuries but it was supposed that his front door which was blown into his room might have hit his head whilst sleeping. His guitar was probably also undamaged and might have been ...an OM?

I wonder if Alan had it?

Wish I could find that pic of Al Bowlly playing it.

This is the music that the OM was designed for :

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Old 11-06-2018, 12:19 PM
wezzywest wezzywest is offline
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Great story and what a wonderful guitar to own. Thanks for posting.
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