DescriptionOne of the Last Martin 00-42 Guitars Ever Made -- Played by Hank Williams. C. F. Martin & Company was founded in 1833 and has been lovingly hand-crafting fine instruments ever since. The Martin name is to guitars what Rolls Royce is to automobiles, Steinway is to pianos -- a name you can always trust for quality and consistency. The Style 42 flat top was introduced in 1858 -- a dreadnought acoustic 12 fret model with rosewood back and sides, fancy inlay, fancy backstripe and an ebony fingerboard. Late in the 19th century the snowflake pattern fingerboard inlays were added, as was the tortoise pickguard in 1932. The guitar remained unchanged until it went out of manufacture in 1942. Both Bob Dylan and Chet Atkins are known to have owned and recorded with vintage 00-42s. In 1996 the Martin Company introduced the D-42 and since then has made special models for Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Graham Nash and Eric Clapton.
That is enough about Martin and the style 42 -- let's take a look at the history of this particular instrument and its current owner, Milton Beasley. Beasley joined a country music band called The Southern Serenaders in 1945 with four other teenage friends in Jackson, Mississippi. They began their radio career on WJXN Radio the very next year. In late 1947, Beasley purchased this guitar from a gentleman who had played it in the Chicago Symphony for the previous four or five years. Shortly after that the band got a better gig -- a show on WSLI Radio, a 5,000-watt station on the ABC Network. They released a single record during this period combining "Mississippi Boogie" with "Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb" and had the pleasure of hosting several major national acts on their show such as the Blackwood Gospel Quartet and Ernest Tubb (who played this guitar).
There was a particularly memorable day in February of 1950 though. The featured guest on The Farmer Jim Show that morning was a lean and lanky country singer-songwriter named Hank Williams. Williams never traveled with a guitar -- he would just play whatever was available. On that fateful day, this 00-42 Martin owned by Beasley was "handy" and Hank played three songs on it -- "Lost Highway," "I'm a Long Gone Daddy," and a new song, "Long Gone Lonesome Blues." Show host Jim Farmer asked Hank if he had anything new and Hank replied that he had some unreleased numbers cut a month or so back but he didn't want to do them publicly until the record was out. Southern Serenader Red Pleasant remembers, "Then he said he'd done this 'Long Gone Lonesome Blues.' None of us knew it, and he didn't run it down for us, just gave us the key. He said, 'When I stop, you stop.' We didn't know where he was going. We was all grouped around him so close, trying to get that chord pattern. We were right there with them. Talk about electricity. Hank sang with such intensity that if the world had come to an end without disturbing him, we wouldn't have known it." The song that received its public debut that day, when released, went to Number One on the charts and remains one of Hank's most popular compositions -- covered by dozens of artists from Sheryl Crow to Leon Redbone (as well as his son Hank Williams Jr.). Luckily for us, these songs were captured on tape and have appeared on the 10-CD Mercury box set The Complete Hank Williams along with a photo of Milton and the Southern Serenaders in the accompanying book.
The band stayed together for about five years before breaking up. Beasley and one other member then founded the Country Cowboys and re-recorded "Mississippi Boogie." Bookings were strong during the early 1950s and included shows on CBS. In 1954, this young musician got word that his mother had terminal cancer. The very next day his band was offered a full-time job playing for the second largest booking agency in the world for "more money than we could spend." Beasley knew what he, as an only child, had to do though, and spent the next six months in a Jackson, Mississippi hospital with his mother until her passing. The band members all scattered pursuing various careers. Beasley worked in the newspaper business and got his law degree. He managed to have two other bands through the years playing country swing music. In the last few years, his left hand has been bothering him and he is no longer able to play, thus the painful decision to find a proper new home for this beautiful guitar.
This instrument, played by Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams, played on many stages including the Opry, is in remarkably nice condition. Martin professionally reset the neck a few years ago making the guitar eminently playable. For several thousand dollars, one could purchase a brand-new, modern version of the legendary Martin Style 42 flat top guitar. It would certainly sound good (as all Martins do) and be a pleasure to play (and display) -- but it wouldn't have 60+ years of history and karma. This one, undoubtedly, has both in abundance. The only thing it lacks is a guitar collector who will play it and appreciate it for another 60+ years. There is much more beautiful music to be made with this instrument. Don't you want to be a part of that?
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