Obscure Du Jour: Martin Lady Liberty

Want something off the beaten path? Something obscure? While this guitar as a whole is obscure, there is nothing obscure about either of the world famous institutions which came together to make it what it is.

There’s the big, torch bearing symbol of freedom that resides in NYC’s harbor (New Jersey’s harbor if you reside in Jersey, but that’s another story) — a French gift to the United States, better known as the “Statue of Liberty.” Then there’s the equally familiar and distinctively American, Martin dreadnought acoustic guitar. They are both recognized around the globe as uniquely American treasures.

Being a true New Yorker, I only visited Lady Liberty up close once, but I have gazed upon her across the harbor often, in all her green glory. The copper statue has a sea foam green layer of oxidation, a reaction to the salty air—though it makes her no less awe inspiring. But I have spent a lot more time with a dreadnought Martin.

The Statute of Liberty emblazoned dreadnought is a big guitar, but it’s much easier to get your arm around than the actual statue. C.F. Martin began offering whimsical and affordable X-series guitars with graphic scenes like cowboys enjoying a smoke, Felix the cat, a Woodstock concert poster, and the DX-420, which features hippies enjoying a “smoke” of a different nature.

The D-28 Louvin Brothers guitar started a new trend of higher end, solid wood Martin guitars. It featured the 1959 classic gospel album cover for “Satan is Real.” For the first time, a high-end Martin had a top with a photo-realistic graphic. A fine record, but the low budget album sleeve is a picture of Charlie and Ira Louvin standing in front of a 12-foot corrugated cardboard devil, surrounded by hellfire (hidden away tires set a flame). The graphic has a “campy” look to the casual observer. This perfect replica (no matter how dated looking) is a tribute to how well Martin was able to apply photo-real artwork to a solid top, high-end guitar without losing any tone.

Sam Ash Music took note of this new technology and created this limited edition, custom run of special-built guitars. The guitar honors the Statue of Liberty and America’s Independence Day (note the famed 4th of July fireworks surrounding the great statue). It also celebrates a great American institution—C.F. Martin Guitar Co.

New York is actually the birthplace of C.F. Martin Guitars in America—their home before moving to Nazareth, PA. On a related note, New York City (Good ole’ Brooklyn) is also the birthplace of Sam Ash Music. The Ltd. Ed. Martin “Lady Liberty” has no political agenda—it’s just an image of freedom.

The Martin D-16 that Lady Liberty is built upon is a pro-level, all-solid wood Martin guitar, bound to be one of tomorrow’s collectables. It is flashy. And maybe the marriage of graphic and guitar is not for everyone—but if it was, it couldn’t be art. True art is never intended for all people to love. Forget art and style for a second. This is a rare, early, all-solid-wood graphic top, limited edition Martin.

Obscure is in the eye of the beholder. Separately, there is nothing obscure about Martin or the Statue of liberty. Together, you have the right to ponder…Obscure Du Jour?

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Mike Rock
A fixture in the Rock and Roll guitar community since 1978, Mike Rock is the “Go-To” source for Sam Ash's most intricate questions involving Guitars and related gear. A collector whose true passion is playing, Mike has performed over 2,500 gigs around the world. Mike began his musical journey studying the trumpet. While buying sheet music for a recital, Mike first heard an electric guitar through a fuzz box. Forty years later, he still maintains that the fuzz WAS germanium based (he is a bit crazy). This encounter drove Mike to his first guitar and a tube amp. Soon his guitar was heavily modified and the amp was on its 3rd replacement speaker. Mike was hunting for tone and blowing guitar speakers before there was a “boutique” or “vintage” market. It wasn’t long before Mike was buying, and validating vintage guitars and gear for some of the biggest companies in the world, finally finding a home assisting mentor and friend Sammy Ash, at the place where he heard that first Fuzz Guitar, so many years ago. Mike still performs regularly and recognizes the history and beauty of vintage and modern gear. Mike is aware not everyone is a collector and most players need a set up that works for the sound they chase, regardless of its pedigree, or vintage or status.