Used Acoustic Guitars
Martin, C.F.: D-28 1940(Item ID: D-28 1940 Serial#: 75371)
Martin D-28 1940 “Blue Sky” (SN. 75371)
There are guitars that are treasures, and there are treasured guitars; but, every now and then, we are fortunate to encounter a treasured treasure. This is precisely how we would describe this very special D-28 herringbone, which, here at Maple Street Guitars, has now been dubbed the “Blue Sky” D-28, in light of its long-time owner (more on this later). Indeed, there are few vintage acoustic guitars (or guitars in general) considered more rare and desirable than a pre-WWII Martin D-28—many consider it one of the greatest acoustic guitars every made!
At the time of this D-28’s production in the late second quarter of 1940, there were fewer than 700 14-fret D-28s in existence (only 134 were made in 1940). The D-28 definitely underwent some design changes in the pre-WWII era while Martin began to hit their stride with the dreadnought, but the most significant changes arguably occurred in the post-war era. Most notable among these were: the move to tapered X-bracing from scalloped bracing in late “44/early ’45, the transition to Sitka spruce from Adirondack spruce for tops in ’46, and the change to simple top purfling and checkered backstrip from the zigzag backstrip and herringbone purfling in ’47. As a result, the D-28 was indeed a very different guitar by 1950, both aesthetically and structurally. Of course, the structural modifications have the most bearing on tone; and, to put it in fairly simple terms, the tone of a D-28 went from broad and boomy in the era of scalloped bracing (pre 1945) to increasingly focused with tapered bracing. Incidentally, one can glean a reliable impression of the difference in these two voices by comparing a modern D-28 (which has non-scalloped bracing) to an HD-28 (which has scalloped bracing).
Yet, none of these developments were of any concern when this guitar was purchased by its original and longtime owner, Earl Bolick, of the Atlanta-based duo, the Blue Sky Boys. To Earl, this D-28 was an instrument and a tool, albeit one of the finest tools a musician could aspire to in those days. At the time, he and his brother, Bill, were enjoying a fairly successful career in the bluegrass, country, and gospel circuits, where their unique blend of vocal harmonies, along with guitar and mandolin, would influence such artists as the Louvin Brothers and the Everly Brothers. Having gotten their start in 1935 on WWNC Asheville as part of the “Crazy Hickory Nuts,” the brothers gained experience and popularity as the “JFG Coffee Boys” before moving to Atlanta in 1936 to perform on WGST. That same year, Earl and Bill auditioned for RCA Records, and they were quickly signed in light of the quality of their singing. Their first record, which included “The Sunny Side of Life” and “Where the Soul Never Dies,” was recorded in Charlotte, NC on June 16, 1936, and proved to be an immediate success! Despite a healthy music career, both Bill and Earl enlisted in the military in 1941 and served throughout WWII. Following the war, they resumed their recording career and had a couple hits. Yet, the brothers ultimately chose to retire in 1951 due to their frustrations with emerging musical trends at the time. Even so, they did reunite to record and tour for brief periods in the early ‘60s and mid ‘70s.
All told, the Blue Sky Boys recorded over 100 songs for RCA and have numerous albums to their credit, which is quite an accomplishment for anyone. Fortunately, Earl’s family has preserved much of this history, some of which will accompany this beautiful guitar. Among this bevy of relics are a collection of LPs, many of which are still sealed, where one will see the “Blue Sky D-28” prominently featured. This alone is an exceptionally rare opportunity, as very few vintage/collectible guitars come with historic (and significant) recordings featuring the instrument itself—way cool!!! Needless to say, we are privileged and honored to represent the “Blue Sky D-28,” as it is not only one of the most sought-after Martins in existence, but it also represents a wealth of musical history that just so happens to have been made here in our hometown. This D-28 is indeed a true treasure that has humbly accompanied many a song and awaits many more to come.
From a structural standpoint this guitar is in very good condition. As is common for guitars of this age, the neck of this D-28 has pitched forward over time and is presently under-set—in this scenario, one usually encounters high action with little to no saddle material to work with. While the correct approach is to remove the neck and restore the proper angle, it is not always easy to find qualified repairman (particularly in the past!). Subsequently, this guitar has been modified in a manner that is also fairly common, where someone has shaved/sanded the bridge to expose more saddle material, thereby compromising the bridge’s structural integrity. When we received the guitar we noted that the bridge had a crack that ran through the bridge pin holes, which was probably resultant from the reduction of bridge mass. We also noted a top impact/crush in the treble side lower bout—evidently this originated from an encounter with an overly enthusiastic young child (Earl’s older son, who was two or three at the time) early in this guitar’s life. This area does have subtle relief and we observe that there is some scarce evidence of this impact inside the guitar, yet it does appear to be stable and poses no structural threat to the guitar. Other than this top impact and the now-repaired bridge crack, this guitar appears to be crack-free, which is quite a rarity given its age, extent of use, and the brittle nature of the Brazilian rosewood. That said, there is an extremely minor impact on the back where a very small section of wood and finish has chipped out—we also note that there might be an incipient crack stemming from this impact, but it is not through the wood and may therefore be just a finish crack. On a very minor note, the only other modification we note is the fact that the original tuning machines have been replaced with some open-back nickel Grovers with rectangular buttons (likely from the late ‘60s or early ‘70s).
As is our practice, we have thoroughly prepped this guitar to be its best in terms of setup and cosmetic conditioning, including the bridge crack repair. However, given this guitar’s history, originality, and collectability, we have elected to leave other issues as-is for the next owner to address as they see fit. From what we see, this D-28 would require a neck reset, a re-fret, a new nut and saddle, and a replacement replica bridge to be restored to best playing condition for the long haul. Yet, again, this guitar is very playable in its present state!
Given its age and a life spent in the hands of an active performer, this guitar has been remarkably well preserved. Moreover, it is constructed of some very high quality sets of wood. The back and sides feature a set of beautiful straight-grained Brazilian rosewood, which, apart from the rarest of old stock sources, will likely never be available again. The Adirondack top is also a very fine example, with a consistent and fairly tight grain, as well as that perfect “pumpkin” tone patina. That said, this D-28 definitely shows some wear consistent with its age. There are various dings and dents along with various points of finish wear or missing finish on the top, back, and along the binding of the guitar. However, all of this would be considered “honest wear,” in that it came through normal and respectful use of the guitar over the course of what has been a long and fruitful life. We otherwise note no other modifications or cosmetic issues of concern. EXCELLENT condition.
• Adirondack spruce top
• Brazilian rosewood back, sides, and headstock veneer
• Mahogany neck with T-bar
• Ebony fingerboard with abalone slotted diamond inlays
• Ebony belly bridge
• White binding with herringbone purfling
• Zigzag back strip
• Aftermarket Grover open-back tuning machines
• 1 11/16” nut width
• 25 1/2” scale
• 20 frets
• Lifton arched-top case included (brown exterior, burgundy interior)
• Also included: various “Blue Sky Boys” LPs (some un-opened), as well as some additional memorabilia.
Click below to popup a larger image