Thursday, January 21, 2010

Martin Electric Guitars

C.F. Martin at one time made electric guitars. Seriously! And I am not referring to acoustic guitars with a piezo pickup under the bridge saddle, but actual electric guitars. Say it isn’t so!

Martin D-28e

But it is true. Martin decided to jump into the electric guitar market in 1959 by taking some of their traditional instruments and putting DeArmond pickups on them, complete with tone and volume controls on the lower bouts.

Their first type of guitars produced were given the designations the D-18E, the D-28E and the 00-18E.

The D-18E and the D-28E both bore two chrome sided pickups which were typical of the day with large polepieces on one side and smaller ones on the other. These were replete with twin volume and twin tone knobs and a three-way pickup control switch on the top upper bout.

The pickguard needed to be cut to maintain the pickup rings.

The 00-18E had only one similar DeArmond that was mounted at the bottom of the neck. There was a single volume and tone controls for this model.

All of these guitars had the same accoutrements as their acoustic cousins. All had a spruce top. The D-18E and the 00-18E had mahogany back and sides and the D-28E had rosewood back and sides. The D-28E had gold plated Grover Roto tuners.

Besides the pickups the biggest difference between the electric and acoustic models of this series was, due to the pickups mounting, the electrics were made with transverse bracing on the top. This changed the sound when the guitar was played acoustically. Subsequently they sound thinner than a typical X braced Martin.

Although Martin guitars did not become expensive until around 1973, electric guitar pickups that are screwed into a Martin acoustic guitar and holes drilled into the top and ladder bracing? That is a sacrilege!

The D-18E was discontinued within a year. The D-28E and the 00-18E were produced through 1964.

F-55 - F-65 - F-50 from the A Marshall Collection
In 1961 prototypes of a Martin thinline guitar was being developed. These guitars were available for purchase as of 1962. They were designated models F-50, F-55 and F-65.

The bodies measured slightly less than 2” in thickness. The tops and backs were maple plywood with the tops being bound. All had a sort of dreadnaught shape, though the lower bout was wider. The cutaways on these were different than any guitar of the day as they were wide and stood at almost a right angle from the neck and had a modified Florentine shape. The necks were glued into the instrument and processed a 20-fret rosewood fingerboard which joined the body at the 14th fret.

The headstock was a typical Martin shaped with 3 plus 3 style tuners. Another unusual feature on this series was the use of a clear Plexiglas adjustable bridge. Like most archtops, the pickguard was elevated.

The F-50 bore a single humbucking pickup at the bottom of the neck and a single volume and tone control on the lower bout.

Martin F-55's
The F-55 and F-65 included a neck and bridge DeArmond Humbucking pickups and a toggle switch mounted on the upper treble bout. They also had dual volume and tone controls.

Martin F-50
The F-50 and F-55 models both had trapeze tail pieces with a large M cut into the base that was mounted above the guitar’s top.

The F-65 had a double cutaway and was offered with at trapeze tailpiece or a Bigsby made vibrato that had the Martin M in the base.

All of these guitars were produced from 1962 through 1965.

These guitars could be purchased with solid state amplifiers which bore the Martin logo.

Martin 112T amplifier
These were designated Model 110T and 112T, possibly due to the speaker size and the fact they came with a tremolo circuit.

The Martin Model 110T and 112T were made by the DeArmond Company. In fact, but for the color of the covering and grill cloth these amps were virtually identical.

By late 1965 the Martin F series was discontinued due to lack of interest. However Martin stayed the course and created a new series of electrics dubbed the GT series that became available the following year.


Two models were available this time, the GT-70 and GT-75. These were thinline guitars with two F-holes and a neck that joined the body at the 15th fret. The 22 fret rosewood fretboard was bound. The guitars inlays had dot position markers and the headstock was redesigned and bound.

The GT-70 had a single cutaway on the lower bout. The upper bout had an inward curve into the neck. As with its predecessor, this model bore two DeArmond humbucking pickups. The neck joined the guitar at the 16th fret. The tailpiece was a Bigsby with a large V in its base. The bridges were now made of chrome and adjustable.

The GT-75 was similarly equipped to the G-70; however there were twin cutaways on the upper bout.

Martin also made 12 string versions of the GT-75 sans the Bigsby. These guitars bore the Martin M trapeze tailpiece. All models were available in black or burgundy finishes.

Along with the new guitars, Martin offered a new amplifier designated the SS-140. In keeping up with popular amplifier designs of the era, this amp was the size of a refrigerator and is assumed to have 140 watts of power. As a kid, I recall lugging those big heavy amplifiers around. Thankfully some brilliant unknown engineer discovered that amps could be “miked” and their sound could be run through the public address system eliminating the need to drag around amplifiers that weighed 200pounds and up.

Around 1970 Martin followed the pack and outsourced a less expensive version of its acoustic guitar under the Sigma brand. By 1973 Martin added solidbody and hollow body electric guitars to its lineup under the Sigma and SS logo made by the Japanese company Tokai.

They were copies of well known electric guitar shapes with a self-styled headstock. Their sales were dismal and discontinued in the mid 1970’s.

In 1974 Martin went back to producing a domestic series of electric guitars designated the E series. The headstock was sort of a variation of the old Stauffer Martin design with the exception the tuners were 3 per side.

E-18  -  E-28
There were 3 versions of the guitar; the E-18, the EM-18 and the EB-18. All were double cutaway guitars with the lower treble bout offset from the upper treble bout. The horns were rounded off. The natural lacquered bodies were built to resemble the natural wood guitars of the day, using a laminate of maple and rosewood and mahogany giving not only a striped effect, but the appearance of a neck-through-body guitar, although the necks were glued into a pocket in the body.

Later models eliminated the mahogany. The Martin brand was stamped into the back of the body. The necks had 22 frets. A CFM script logo was decaled on the head. The tuners were Sperzels.

The E-18 and the EM-18 were similar guitars but for the pickups and electronics. The E-18 came with twin DiMarzio pickups and a toggle switch to put them in or out of phase. The neck pickup was a PAF style and the bridge pickup was a DiMarzio super distortion. Both had brass nuts and Leo Quan bridges.

The EM-18 had twin Mighty Mite pickups and a 3 way switch that could put the pickups in or out of phase and also split the coils.

The EB-18 was a bass guitar with an approximate 34” scale and Grover tuners. The guitar was produced with a variety of pickups.

In 1980 Martin added a model designated the E-28. This was a fancier version of the E-18. The nut was made of Micarta. The fretboard was ebony instead of rosewood. The neck was extended to 24 frets giving it a two octave range.

Some of the later models had sunburst finishes. The headstock was overlaid with ebony. An active circuit was added.

An EB-28 bass was added to the line-up during this period with similar accoutrements. This had DiMarzio P-bass and J-bass pickups.

All models came with a molded plastic case. The entire line was gone by 1982.

Like the Little Engine that Could, Martin kept chugging along. And in their final attempt in the electric guitar market the turned to Korea. A line of guitars under the Stinger brand was produced. Much like the failed Sigma/SS series these were Asian copies of traditional US guitars. They additionally added a line of small amplifiers as well.

These products were geared to beginning guitar students and all had a low retail price. They were sold under the corporate name Martin Telemarketing. The Stinger series lasted until 1990 when Martin came to its senses and went back to what they do better than any other company - build high quality acoustic guitars.


Electric Guitar Sales said...

The guitar you have posted here is really cool, thank you

Anonymous said...

I saw a photo of Johnny "Guitar" Watson playing a GT-75. Possibly it was "Three Hours Past Midnight," which Frank Zappa said was one of his main guitar influences. Maybe he was joking, because the guitar solo on that sounds like random notes to me.

Anonymous said...

The article states that the pickups on the the F and GT models are DeArmond humbuckers. This is incorrect - these pickups are DeArmond single coil pickups that are very similar to the DeArmond Dynasonic pickups in the early Gretsch models. I know, because I have a GT-70. It's a great guitar, if somewhat eccentric in design - very twangy!

Peter said...

Hi such a nice post i have some great thought about music want to discuss Acoustic Guitar

Sofia Britts said...

The EM18 is fantastic! I'll do anything to get one of those, even if I have to take a cash advance! Wisconsin doesn't have that much guitar stores so I probably have to spend a little more than usual to import an EM18 from out of Wisconsin. Payday loans are great help in this situation LOL. The 3-piece neck and the neck-through construction are what gets me~

Anonymous said...

I own a Martin EM18. Bought it in 1979 I believe. Serial# 2230. Mighty Mite pu in neck,Seymor Duncan Invader pu in bridge(replacement by me). Weighs a ton but records beautifully. One of my favs

realmarshall said...

Great blog, a few corrections - the third photo isn't a factory Martin pickup install - the E18-EM18 series was first produced in Dec 1978 not 1974 - production of the 18 series ceased before the 28 series was made .. all E18's had mahogany necks, if you see one with maple it's a Tokai built Sigma (you've used a photo of one of these from my web site) which were mainly sold as kits from the Martin Factory store. See for photos and details.

Cosmo Vitelli said...

I own a GT 70, but without the vibrato (some had it, some not).
Does anybody know exactly the type of Bigsby I should try find to install it?
It's the guitar wich would need one.
Any info welcoime.

Roberto Orlic Photography said...

Hi...does anybody has any knowledge about 335like electric guitar Sigma by Martin guitar,model EJ-35 that has bolt on neck.
Here are some pics:
You can reach me by mail too

Anonymous said...

The article says the E18 has a switch for phase reversal. This is incorrect. The switch is for coil splitting. Read the company literature on these guitars.
I own #1318.

Tom Kinnally said...

I am a buyer of the E18 if there are any sellers

Odioussoul said...

I have an E-18 serial number 1200 I'm looking to sell.

Generic viagrabuy said...

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George Erdner said...

I once owned a Martin SS-140 guitar amp. I learned that it was actually a private-labeled version of the Rocky Mountain Industries RM-140, and was actually a keyboard amp. Rocky Mountain Industries had some sort of relationship with Allen Organ, noted maker of church organs. As a guitar amp, it didn't sound all that good in terms of tone. But for simply taking in any input you send in and sending the exact same sound back out at volume levels that could make your ears bleed, the SS-140 was outstanding. In my old band we ended up using the Martin either for PA or to run the organ through.

Chuck Langmead said...

No one has mentioned the rare Martin portable amp that was advertised in the early 60's catalogs as Martin 700. It came in a leather carrying case.
I have one in near mint condition. Looking for a SS140 and then I will have an example of every Martin electric guitar and Amp made.

Unknown said...

Have a Sigma by Martin EJ35B. ..335 Style semi hollow electric in black. ..anybody familiar with this model?

Unknown said...

Have a Sigma by Martin EJ35B. ..335 Style semi hollow electric in black. ..anybody familiar with this model?

Anonymous said...

I have a Martin F-50 that I have owned since 1977. It is the single pickup and has seen some abuse including fret board issues and a broken head stock which was poorly repaired.

jerry strull said...

Anybody know the model # of the Martin that Jackson Browne was playing on Stephen Colbert on the January 26, 2016 show. Further, does anyone know where I can get one.

Anonymous said...

Jerry- It's a '62 F-55. The specific guitar is shown here:


Chuck Langmead said...

I have severl examples of this model.