This beautiful, unique instrument is possibly the finest example of the early period of the American guitar. The 000-45 Deluxe and its sister guitar, the OM-45 Deluxe, symbolize a turning point from the early to the modern period. The early period was the age of 12-fret guitars, with wide necks, slotted pegheads, and long bodies with only 12 frets clear of the body. These guitars gave way to models with solid pegheads and narrower necks, instruments whose shoulders were shortened to allow 14 frets clear of the body.
The instrument shown here is a custom-ordered 000-45 made in 1930. It was called a 000-45 Special in Martin’s records and is the first known use of what would later be called the deluxe trim: a fancy inlaid pickguard, abalone snowflakes on the bridge, and gold-plated, engraved tuning machines with mother-of-pearl buttons. The most opulent model to show up in the Martin catalogue (as opposed to being custom-ordered) is the OM-45 Deluxe. Only 14 were recorded to have been made, all in 1930. When this 000-45 Special, a hitherto unknown guitar, showed up a year ago, it became clear from the serial number (which dated it as older than all of the other Deluxes) that it was the 15th Deluxe, the de facto prototype for the OM model. Note the slotted peghead with tuner buttons extending backwards. When Martin switched to the now standard solid peghead with buttons sticking out to the sides, it looked odd to the public. To resolve this problem, Martin initially used banjo tuners on the OM model, which proved to be impractical because of their low tuning ratio and their difficulty with the guitar’s thicker bass strings.
There is something magical about the sound of this instrument: deep, warm, fat, clear, bright, and full. The 12-fret Martins seem to be throatier than their 14-fret counterparts, and the OMs in particular display a remarkably clear, musical treble.
This article originally appeared in the September 1998 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine and was reprinted in the September/October 2020 issue.