After Nick Drake appeared seated with a Guild M-20 on the cover of his 1971 album, Bryter Layter, the instrument became closely associated with the singer-songwriter and his particular approach to the six-string (see a lesson about his style here). But as it happens, the instrument wasn’t his—it (as well as the dandyish footwear in the foreground) belonged to Nigel Waymouth, the photographer who shot the album cover—it’s likely Drake played a Martin D-28 or Levin dreadnought.
The Economy M-20 was Guild’s least expensive offering when it was introduced in 1958. It was also the first model to roll out of Guild’s production line in 1967, shortly after the company moved its factory to Westerly, Rhode Island, from Hoboken, New Jersey. With its mahogany top, back, sides, and neck, and its spare appointments, the concert-sized M-20 was a good choice for getting new employees up to speed to build fancier models.
Owing to its association with Drake—it’s often called the “Nick Drake guitar”—the M-20 is one of Guild’s most sought-after vintage steel-strings. The 1950s examples are the rarest, and are also known to be more lightly built than those made in the ’60s. In spectacular condition, the 1959 M-20 shown here shows the most minor signs of use—the occasional ding or dent, as well as a refret.
But despite its collectible status, the M-20 remains a relatively affordable option for the budget-minded guitarist in search of that old wood. At press time, a mid-1960s example in player-grade condition was spotted on reverb.com for $1,150—less expensive than most, if not all, solid-wood guitars made in America today.
Here’s a vid from a few years ago of a sweet-sounding 1963 M-20 being put through its paces: