Cover of Jimmie RodgersMartin acoustic guitars can be traced back in the USA to 1833 when C. F. Martin Sr. arrived in New York from Germany with his family and set up his luthier shop in the city. The legendary Martin guitars were born.
The company also made mandolins for a time, as well as ukuleles and steel-stringed Hawaiian guitars when these instruments were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, their mainstay was and continues to be guitars. Martin acoustic guitars lead the way, but now there are many electric guitars too in the Martin range.
One of the first American singing stars to have a Martin acoustic guitar built specially for him was Jimmy Rodgers. In 1928 Martin made the "Blue Yodel" 000-45 guitar for the man who was known as "The Singing Brakeman."
Jimmy Rodgers was at the top of his career at that time and arguably the most popular singer in America. The movie he made that same year, aptly titled "The Singing Brakeman," features Jimmy Rodgers singing and playing the "Blue Yodel" 000-45 guitar made specially for him.
The Singing Cowboys of the 1930s movies were the next to be attracted to Martin acoustic guitars. Gene Autry had the first D-45 created for him in 1933, 100 years after the company was started.
In the 1940s and 1950s it was Country Music that took up the Martin guitars in a big way. Stars of the Grand 'Ole Opry in Nashville are seen on stage playing Martins. Among the big names of the time are Hank Snow, Lester Flatt, Ernest Tubb, and the biggest star of them all, Hank Williams.
Modern day country rock singer, Neil Young, actually bought an old guitar that had once belonged to Hank Williams. He plays it regularly on stage believing that even a guitar that has gained iconic status as a result of having once been played by a superstar should be used. It's a 1941 Martin D-28 with herringbone purfling, and Neil believes it sounds as good now as it first did.
In the 1950s country music gave over to rock and roll. Elvis Presley was the young man taking the world by storm. As soon as he could afford a new guitar, Elvis chose a 1942 D-18. It wasn't long before he decided to get a bigger guitar, and in 1955 he bought a 1954 D-28, a big bodied guitar with a big sound. All of Elvis's famous Sun Sessions were recorded with this guitar.
Folk music was also big in America during the 1940s through to the 1960s. Legendary singers like Woodie Guthrie played Martin acoustic guitars, as well as other popular groups such as The Kingston Trio, Pete, Paul and Mary, and the Weavers.
In 1990 the 500,000th Martin guitar was produced. It was a HD-28 and it was signed by all employees and placed in the factory museum. Four years later in 1994, Martin went into space when the Shuttle carried a small Backpacker and orbited the earth.
The 1,000,000th of the Martin acoustic guitars was produced in 2004. Two years later the company had the grand opening of the Martin Guitar Museum and Visitors Center, and two years after that in 2008, C.F. Martin & Co celebrated 175 years in business and the oldest surviving makers of guitars, Martin acoustic guitars, in the world!