Bits and Peaces


I’m still working on my killer synopsis of this past month at camp…….but in the meantime I wanted to pass along some info that I found news – worthy and hope you’ll enjoy. The first letter came to me from a Fur Peace Ranch Alumni who hails from the Sunshine State…..Thank You Bill for your note……

Dear Hurl:

I’ve been reading a book about the history of the Martin Guitar Company entitled Martin Guitars: Illustrated History, by Jim Washburn and Richard Johnston. It’s very interesting and comprehensive.

Here’s some fun facts that I thought you may enjoy:

1. Of the 86 pre-war D-45’s produced (the holy grail of all Martin guitars), 75 are believed to be still existing. One Japanese collector owns 14 of them.

2. The Martin designation has always been guitar size, then decoration, as in 000-45. The decoration numbers started out as being the wholesale price of guitar. Oh, those were the days.

3. Joan Baez, during her most popular career years only owned two guitars, both 00-45’s. One was stolen from her car at Woodstock. She made a plea to the crowd for its return and it arrived back to her via Greyhound bus. When one of these guitars became road worn, she gave it to David Bromberg as a gift.

4. When Martin’s factory was first moved to Nazareth, PA, it shipped its product back to New York City to the Martin retail store via stagecoach (C. F. Martin, Sr.’s house was located along the stagecoach line). The guitars were packed in the early small “coffin” shaped cases for protection during their shipping. Many still arrived in pieces.

5. Through 1925 Martin’s average production of guitars was around 300 a year. In 1926, that jumped to 14,300 guitars; 14,000 of which were ukuleles. Think here about a bunch of Harvard boys playing “Tiptoe through the Tulips”.

6. The first Martin D-45 was made for Gene Autry. He had sent his dreadnaught guitar back to the factory and asked them to adorn it beyond its style 42 accruements (abalone only on the guitar top). The factory wrote back that doing so would not improve the tone. He sent it back again and told them to decorate it the most that they could. His name was inset into the fret board and the final guitar had, as do all D-45’s, a total of 242 pieces of inlaid abalone. The next half dozen or so D-45’s ordered were all sold to singing cowboys, whose names were also inlaid in the fretboards. The extra abalone pieces beyond the style 42 accruements can not probably be seen by anyone beyond the musicians on the stage.

7. The D-35 model (which is slightly larger than a D-28 body and which has a three piece back), was introduced because of an ever growing scrap pile of 7 inch wide rosewood back sections, instead of the 8-9 inch wide version needed to make the D-28 (two piece back).

8. Golden Age Martin guitar headstocks (1930-WW II) and earlier through peg headstocks, have very square upper end corners. More modern through peg headstocks have noticeably more rounded corners. This was not by design. In the mid 1970’s it was noticed that the pattern used to draw and shape the headstocks had deteriorated over time; the sharp corners having become rounded. Since this discovery all reissued (modern) vintage models are made with square corners. All other current production models remain rounded.

9. The M series of guitars started when a New York City luthier took an F-7 or F-9 guitar (the only archtop models ever produced by Martin, neither of which ever became popular), removed the arched top and replaced it with a reshaped dreadnaught top. David Bromberg heard it and ordered one for himself. Martin adopted the new design, designating it an M-38 (adorned around the sound hole and guitar body side of the fretboard with abalone inserts). David’s Martin Signature guitar is the same body but adorned with style 42 adornments.

10. In the late 1970s, Fredrick Martin, chairman of C. F. Martin and Company, and the father of Chris F. Martin, IV, the present chairman of the board, decided to expand the company into a major multi-corporate holding company in the music industry. He did so by acquiring other existing music companies, including the string division of another manufacturer; a Swedish guitar manufacturing company (that failed and Martin still had to pay the workers two years severance pay each); various Japanese companies that produced low line guitars; and a bunch of other companies. Nearly all of these acquired companies went out of business or were sold off. This plan nearly bankrupted CFM & Co. Fredrick was repeatedly accused of taking four hour lunches where most of the food was in liquid form. The shareholders, other board of directors and senior management decided to fire Fredrick. Chris voted in favor of firing his father. Fredrick did not even attend the board meeting; he was in a local pub during the time of the meeting.

Hope you have enjoyed this summary. The book is highly recommended to any Martin guitar lover.

Another nice letter came to me out of the blue. That is a cool aspect about the internet and email…..From time to time you get a note from someone you haven’t heard from in ages and they have searched you out to re-establish a link and open communications. In the past couple of months….two of my old drummers from bands I was in a long time ago reached out and grabbed me and it was nice to touch base, exchange letters and catch up. So…..this letter is from Michael Frontani and he asked me some Jorma questions, which I forwarded to the Captain. I think Jorma’s response to Michael’s questions will be of interest… here are both letters…..

Hey John,
I hope you remember me—I used to go to OU and, thanks to you, I was in on the Fur Peace Ranch’s first summer; a few years later I had Jorma, Jack, and you to Elon University, in NC. How are things? I often dream of coming for another stay at the ranch, and I’ll work it out within the next year or so. I had a question that has been nagging me for a while, I can’t find an answer. I also need a bit of advice on guitars.

First, what effect is Jorma using on the guitar on the Jefferson Airplane’s Good Shephard? I’ve been searching high and low in books, online, etc, and can’t even find the trail:) I’d love to get ahold of that effect….

Two, you probably don’t remember, but I have a Gibson J-200, and I love it, but I remember Jorma mentioning that a shorter neck was good for the style of playing he does and I try to do. The J-200 is great, but I’m about ready to make a move. Any suggestions? I suppose I’d like to keep it at a couple of grand, but I might go higher (not yet, I’m still saving my pennies).

Anyway, I hope you don’t think this email out of the blue is too weird—I often think about my days at OU, and a couple of the highlights were coming in to your CD shop on Fridays and talking music and, of course, the Ranch. If you get the time, I’d love to hear from you (I’d also like to get Jorma and Jack back down here for a show—but that is another story….). Take care,
All the Best to you and the Ranch,

Dear Michael:

Funny stuff. First of all… as always, reality re-evaluates my opinions. I now play a Jorma Signature Martin M-30… yes, it’s a long scale like your J-200. I don’t like to play short scale guitars anymore… or rather my hands don’t. Don’t sell that J-200. I’ve attached some insights into my new Martin just for fun. Unfortunately, a couple of grand won’t do it… of course a couple of grand won’t come close to a good J-200 either. Yikes… time is moving on.

OK… on to effects. In the Airplane days I had only two pedals… A Crybaby on the bridge pickup (Stereo ES-345 guitar) and an Ampeg Scrambler on the neck pickup… separate Twins for each channel. I suspect the Ampeg Scrambler is the sound you’re looking for. Good luck on that, my friend. I haven’t seen one in years. Still and all, someone has probably made one somewhere. It’s the coolest fuzztone of all time.

Thanks for the HELLO…


The last letter I share with you for a couple of reasons……..Good cause to enter an auction ……and a good review of the NEW Rev. Gary Davis CD – “At Home and Church: 1962 – 1967″. This 3 CD Collection was recorded and produced by Stefan Grossman. This is a great collection and a crucial piece in the Rev.’s legacy. Thanks to Stefan for all he does and has done! Anyhey, this New Rev. CD…..along with all of his in-print CDs ….. are available at the Fur Peace Ranch Company Store.

Hi all,

We at Local 1000 need your help. On June 14th we’ll be auctioning off a one of a kind, Deering banjo that has been signed and played by Pete Seeger. If you could help us get the word out to your friends, fans and listeners, we’d really appreciate it. There is a cool video of Pete singing and playing the banjo. The link is below. Thanks for any help you can give.

Deb Cowan
Eastern Representative
AFM Local 1000 Executive Board

Here is the press release:


With the generous support of the Deering Banjo Company, American Federation of Musicians Local 1000 will be auctioning off a one-of-a-kind Pete Seeger-style long-neck Vega banjo that Pete has signed and played.

On June 14, 2010 the banjo will be put up on eBay and the auction will run for approximately 10 days.

All the proceeds from the auction will benefit Local 1000’s Emergency Relief Fund, which provides assistance to musicians who fall onto hard times due to illness, natural disaster, and economic problems. It will also help fund the Local’s organizing efforts to bring union benefits (such as health care and pensions) to working musicians throughout the acoustic music world.

For more information and to view a video of Pete signing the banjo, go to

We are American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 1000, the Traveling Musicians’ Union. We are specially chartered to represent acoustic musicians who perform most of their gigs away from the AFM jurisdiction where they live.

Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2010 19:52:25 EDT
From: Stevenramm@AOL.COM
Subject: My review of the new Rev. Gary Davis CD

I thought others might enjoy this review from my June column of the new CD from Stefan Grossman’s Vestapol label.

Steve Ramm

More for the CD shelf — You may remember a CD that I recommended last year of rare live recordings by Rev. Gary Davis, recorded on a home tape recorder in a Greenwich coffeehouse by Davis’ student Stefan Grossman. Well, Grossman – who produces a wonderful catalog of guitar lesson and performance videos – took his trusty tape recorder everywhere and from 1962 to 1967 he carried it
with him to Davis’ apartment in The Bronx, New York and recorded this guitar legend, nearing age 70 at the time, playing songs that he never recorded and telling stories behind them. Davis was a preacher as well and Grossman captured him in his church, both singing and sermonizing, too. The result is a wonderful three-CD album Rev Gary Davis: At Home and Church (Vestapol). Of course you’ll hear some songs that Davis is most known for (“Hesitation Blues”) but you’ll also hear “Candyman” sung as a waltz as well as the same song played on a 5-string banjo. There’s even the profane “Little Boy Who Made Your Britches,” after which, knowing his wife is not in the room, Davis sings Grossman the “dirty verses.” It’s not all vocals either. Davis plays ragtime, blues, and even a freedom song or two. I, for one, am glad Grossman toted that recorder along and, just as important, is allowing us to all hear these great moments.