A couple of years ago, Darren Stewart—Chief of Police at the Stonington Police Department, in Pawcatuck, Connecticut—encountered a particularly sad case. Stewart was visiting the estate of a local celebrity, Eva Franchi, helping her prepare for an annual concert in memory of her late husband, the tenor and actor Sergio…
These two Nationals display age and use in a way that museum curators treasure. These guitars were meant to be used, and their accumulated wear and patina reveal a lot about the lives they have led and the people who have played them.
Today, virtually everyone who wants to sell a guitar—even a brick-and-mortar store—lists it on public internet auction sites. The result is that almost every guitar for sale in the world can be seen on your screen, and the potential buyers are practically limitless. If you are not already addicted to online guitar auctions, here is a pragmatic introduction to navigating this brave new world of musical commerce.
Aside from the association with Baez, the 0-40 is a remarkable instrument in its own right. Martin only made a dozen or so examples of this deluxe parlor-sized guitar, with its Brazilian rosewood back and sides, bound ebony fretboard, abalone purfling and rosette, and brass (or sometimes German silver) engraved tuners with bone buttons.
The Weissenborn Style 4 is the high-water mark of the acoustic steel-string guitar for lap-style playing. The 1925 example seen here features an all-koa body and a hollow, square neck that contributes to the guitar’s volume and tone.
A couple of years ago, guitar maker Leonardo Buendia was at the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration when he met a retired Southern California luthier who had a stash of rare wood sets from a fallen mahogany tree known for its intense figuring. (Search “The Tree” at AcousticGuitar.com.) “The luthier had bought the…
The 13,000-square-foot building houses his two businesses, Vintage Instruments and Frederick W. Oster Fine Violins, and contains some of the finest and oldest examples of acoustic guitars to be found in any one place.
When the neo-psychedelic folk-rock-blues group Chris Robinson Brotherhood came through the San Francisco Bay Area for dates supporting their eclectic new album Barefoot in the Head, leader Robinson (of Black Crowes fame) and guitarist Neal Casal stopped by the AG studio to play a couple of songs for Acoustic Guitar Sessions, and to talk about the cool old guitars they brought.
Chris Robinson: This is my 1959 Martin D-18 that I’ve had quite a long time. This guitar was purchased in 1992 in Los Angeles, when they used to have guitar stores all over the place; this one was from Guitars ’R Us on Sunset [Blvd.]. At that time I didn’t play any guitar, but my father [Stan Robinson] was a folk singer on ABC Paramount Records and I grew up with a 1953 D-28 in the home that he played all the time, so that was one of the resonant sounds I heard growing up. Eventually, when I was going to purchase something, I wanted something nice and something I could hold onto, and I told Albert [Molinaro, owner of Guitars ’R Us] I was looking for a dreadnought Martin, so he pulled a few down, and this is the one I’ve had ever since.
I don’t really know anything about it, except for the fact that this is the guitar that all the songs fall out of. I love the sound. It’s on all our records. When it’s time to write, this is the guitar that comes out—so I keep it away from all the other guitars so as not to be influenced by them!
It’s funny about guitars—when I was a kid and didn’t play guitar, I was so cavalier with this guitar. I’d take it around, throw it in a case, put it on the plane to Jamaica, take it on tour to Europe.… It’s like anything in your youth, looking back at the decisions you made—it’s horrifying! But I still have it and I love it; it’s my favorite.
Neal Casal: This is a 1952 Gibson SJ that I have not even had a year. There’s no particular search story for the guitar because when I ran across it, I wasn’t searching for a guitar. I’ve spent all the money I’ve made the last few years on guitars, amps, and pedal boards, and at the time I found this, I had sworn I was done buying any gear for a while. But a friend said, “Come into this incredible vintage acoustic store in Philadelphia with me!” I said, “I don’t want to go in there, man.” “It’s cool, you don’t have to buy anything.” I said, “All right, fine, I’m not going to buy anything.”
So I went in and I was looking around at these very expensive guitars that I’ve played before—Martins of [Chris’] ilk, different Gibsons. I was picking them and nothing was really calling to me, and I didn’t want anything to call to me. Then, just as I was leaving the guitar room to go into the mandolin room, this guitar caught my eye. I’ve always had a thing for Gibsons of that era, because the Everly Brothers and the Beatles and Rolling Stones records, and so many other classic groups and recordings had these. It was the last guitar in the row and just as I was leaving I thought, “Aw, let me just check that out for a second.” I hit one chord… and it was all over. My friend was there and he said, “You realize you have to buy that guitar now.” I was like, “Man, you made me come in here.”
But I forced myself not to buy the guitar at that moment. So I left the store without the guitar, but it wouldn’t leave my mind, so I bought it a week or two later. It was good timing because we were just about to make Barefoot in the Head, which was originally going to be an acoustic album. It turned out to be more than that, but there is still a lot of acoustic music on it, and this guitar made a really beautiful debut on that record. It’s a lifetime guitar, like Chris’. I’ll have this forever. It’s been a bit painful paying it off, but I’m a musician, we do this for a living, and it’s well worth having.
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
Django Reinhardt got this guitar in 1940 and used it until his death in 1953. Reinhardt's wife, Naugine, gave the guitar to the museum in 1964. Up until this time, their son Babik used #503 to learn how to play.