McClurg Jam

McClurg Jam

Friday, May 21, 2010

Norman Blakes's Guitars

I have always been fascinated by Norman Blake and certainly his use of 12 fretter Martin Dreadnaughts had a lot to do with my own choice of a Martin D-18 VS.

Here are some of Norman Blakes guitars. They may not be the actual guitar but the actual model. I will try to ID as to each one.

On the right is a Gibson Nick Lucas Special. A twelve fret guitar

On the left is a Martin D-18H. This is his actual guitar. Or was. I think he sold it.

In his early years, he used a Martin D-18 (1934) and this is the guitar he used on Whiskey Before Breakfast and other early albums. To add a note of caution, used a number of guitar over the years including a D-28 fairly early.

This post is not trying to exhaustively list every guitar he used as it is impossible to do so.

Interstingly, Norman trades guitars often and seems not to keep any for a real long time. Apparently, this is how he helps pay the bills. Who would not love to have a guitar owned and played by Norman Blake!!!???

Bat Masterson used to do something similar. He would buy an old beat up peacemaker Colt (In NY city of all places where he lived and worked as a sports writer for the last half of his life) and sell it to an adoring fan who now posessed Bat Masterson's gun!!! Uh Huh.

Today, the rage seem's to be cutaway's with at least 14 frets. Norman Blake is pointing us toward the great tone and sound of 12 fretters. I agree with Norman. To play Old Time or Bluegrass or Country or Folk, a 12 fretter is more than up to the job and really, who needs to play up the neck in these genre's anyway. Norman certainly does not.

If your a guitar player, take a look at 12 fretters and be prepared to rethink your ideas about what you really need on a guitar.

I hope to post more Norman Blake guitar pictures as I go.

In recent years, Martin Guitars have developed two Norman Blake 12 fretter models with Norman Blakes design guidance. These really are awesome guitars. The first was a 000-28 slothead and sounded fantastic. The next one is a 000-18 and it too is just awesome. If I were to buy a new really upscale guitar, it would be one of these.

One more bit of information on 12 fret guitars.

Originally, acoustic guitars were all 12 fret. Until the twenties. It was the banjo craze that caused Martin to develop the 14 fret guitar for banjo players who wanted more.

12 fret guitars have a different sound that 14 fretters. Fuller and deeper. I definitely prefer it. Most people have no idea about any of this because the 14 fret configuration has become standard these days. With blues and rock predominating, it seems many people feel the need to play up the neck with cutaway's to facilitate that. Even Doc Watson has a cutaway and has for years.

Not Norman Blake. You never see him with a cutaway and usually he plays a 12 fret guitar. Of course, he plays 14 fretters and owns some as he has a collection of vintage guitars to impress even the most jaded.

That's the other thing about Norman Blake. His guitars are all vintage models from the 20's and 30's generally. I think he sells the Martins that Martin gives him when they come out with a new Blake model. He does actually say nice things about these guitars.

I should also mention that the Luthier, John Arnold has built at least one and maybe two guitars for Blake that he really liked.

I had heard that Norman Blake and Nancy, had semi retired from touring but from looking at their schedule, it appears they un-semi-retired. They are very busy these days.

Finally, I should mention that he played a Martin 00-40 and figures prominently in several of his recordings. I understand he no longer owns that guitar. As I said, he trades guitars. You too can own a Blake...but I expect you would pay a premium for that.

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