From the July/August 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By George Gruhn
I’ve been in the business of buying and selling some of the finest fretted instruments ever made for over five decades. During that time, I’ve played more than my fair share of stellar guitars. My latest acquisition—a 1933 Martin 12-fret, slot-head D-28—is my favorite flattop steel-string guitar. It came to me from a family whose father purchased it new in that year from the Wurlitzer Music Company in Chicago.
The 12-fret D-28 is an extremely rare guitar. C. F. Martin & Co. introduced this dreadnought model in 1931, when the company made just one, followed by four in 1932 and 12 in 1933. Fewer than ten of the 17 have survived in good condition. By contrast, there are at least 650 well-documented Stradivari violins in existence today.
This example is in remarkably good condition for its age, and I’d be hard-pressed to think of any steel-string guitar I’ve ever played that sounded quite as good. As expected with a 12-fret neck and extended-length body, this guitar doesn’t have quite the punch and boom of the 14-fret dreadnoughts, but is smoother and mellower, with greater sustain. Whether for solo or ensemble work, it’s hard for me to imagine a better-sounding or more versatile instrument. It is very inspiring to play, and I’m certainly extremely pleased to have it.
I intend for this 12-fret D-28 to be in my office for years to come—I don’t want it to live out the rest of its life in a glass display case. Those who want to see it are welcome to come by the shop and get a chance to hear what it can do. I want the guitar to be used on recordings by players who are better than I am. It deserves to go down in history as one of the greats, and I’ll do what I can to facilitate that.
George Gruhn, the founder of Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, is an expert on vintage American fretted instruments.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.