Martin is Electric
I’ve read several of your articles in past
issues of PG, and I’m finally writing to get
some information on one of my many guitars. I picked up this dirt cheap Martin bass
(serial number 34XX) several years ago at
a guitar show, but with all the respect and
heritage that goes with Martin acoustics,
I’ve heard virtually nothing about Martin
electrics! Can you shed a little light on this
guitar? I’m sure many other readers would
be interested in the electrified Martin history. By the way, it’s a great playing bass!
First of all, thanks for reading “Trash or
Treasure” and sending in an instrument for
me to research – these are homework assignments that I enjoy! Due to space considerations, I’ll assume that most readers know
the basic history and success of Martin as an
acoustic guitar builder during the twentieth
century, and get right to the electric side.
There are two distinct eras in Martin’s short
electric period (1961-68 and 1978-82). Since
the electric guitar market looked appealing in the early sixties, Martin decided the
easiest way to tap into this potentially huge
market was to electrify its acoustics. The
first electric Martin was actually a D- 18 with
two DeArmond pickups and knobs mounted
directly on the face of the guitar. Martin
also equipped the 00-18 and the D- 28 with
similar electronics. By 1964, Martin realized
that these acoustic/electrics were not well
received and they scrapped the idea.
In 1961, an entirely new line of archtop electrics were introduced, called the F Series.
Models included the single cutaway, single
pickup F- 50; the single cutaway, double
pickup F- 55; and the double cutaway, double
pickup F- 65. While most Martin guitars are
visually appealing to the eye, these guitars
were just plain ugly. Martin didn’t know much
about the electric guitar and since technology was rapidly expanding in that industry
during the early sixties, these guitars were
outdated before ever leaving the factory.
In 1965, the F Series was replaced with the
GT Series, which featured more traditional
appointments; however, the GT Series was
equally unsuccessful and Martin cut their
entire line of electric instruments in 1968.
Martin took another stab at the electric
guitar in the late seventies with a line of
solidbody instruments called the E Series.
When Martin first got into electrics during
the sixties, the goal was to cut into the major
electric guitar builders’ share of the market.
This time around, Martin was struggling (as
was most of the guitar industry) and they
viewed the electric guitar as something to
reinvigorate the Martin guitar line. The E
Series debuted in 1979 with the E- 18, EM- 18
and the EB- 18 bass – which is the bass you
own. Two additional models were released
in 1981, the E- 28 and E-28B bass. All five of
these models were produced through 1982
when Martin exited the electric guitar market
for good. Reasons are vague for the discontinuation, as these guitars actually played pretty
well and looked correct for the time period.
Speculators have pointed to the synthesizer
scare of the early 1980s, which probably did
the most damage, leaving Martin to return to
their roots in acoustic flattop instruments.
Your Martin EB- 18 bass guitar features a
maple body with a maple neck-thru body
design and walnut strips for reinforcement, a
22-fret rosewood fingerboard with small dot
inlays, a unique headstock with two-per-side
tuners, an all brass chrome-plated bridge with
individual saddles, a single double-coil pickup
that could be split, two knobs (Volume, Tone)
and a mini pickup tap switch. Martin does a
great job of serializing their instruments and,
unlike most other manufacturers, you can easily determine the date of your guitar just by
looking at the serial number. However, the E
Series from the late seventies and early eighties featured its own system and I can’t find
any numbers to accurately date it. In excellent condition as it appears in the photos,
this guitar is worth between $650 and $750
– a far cry from the value of Martin’s Golden
Era instruments, but a treasure to those who
enjoy a great playing bass.
Martin has not re-entered the electric market
since the last E Series was produced in 1982.
However, many of their acoustics come standard with modern electronics and according
to their price list, electronics can be factory
added to any model. Martin has also collaborated with Dale Unger of American Archtop
to produce the CF- 1 and CF- 2 electric archtop Special Edition models that are still currently produced.
Zachary R. Fjestad
is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue
Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue Book of Guitar
Questions can be submitted to:
Blue Book Publications
Attn: Guitar Trash or Treasure
8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175
Minneapolis, MN 55425