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History of the original CF Martin D-42
How the 2nd ever D-45 became the 1st ever D-42
Tex Fletcher with his new Martin D-42. Notice there is no pickguard.
However, the Kid was physically small in stature and wanted a 12 frets (clear to the body) neck like Gene’s, so when he found out it was being made as a 14 fret neck he stopped production and the guitar was shelved. That’s when Martin recycled this second ever D-45 into the first ever D-42. The next D-42 the company made came 54 years later in 1988, the year after Tex passed away.
Renown luthier and guitar historian John Woodland explained that he had unrestricted access to Martin’s production records from the 1930s, and that’s where he found the amazing story of the D-42’s origins.
The Dreadnought wasn’t a catalogued item in 1934 and few really knew about it. It was really Autry that became the first star of the Dreadnought, ordering the first style 45 Martin Dreadnought in 1933. Martin’s Orchestra Model features that started in 1929, a 14-fret body joint, solid headstock, belly bridge and pickguard, started making their way into other models by 1932. The 14-fret Dreadnought happened in 1934, around the time that the Kid requested a Dreadnought in pearl trim with his name inlaid on the fingerboard like Gene’s.
While Martin was switching all Dreadnoughts from 12 to 14-fret body joints, the Kid ordered his flashy guitar, (but) unbeknownst to him it was started as a 14-fret model. Halfway through production word got to the Kid it was being made as a 14-fret and he refused to accept anything that wasn’t like Autry’s. So, Martin halted production of the first 14-fret D-45 and started work on the second 12-fret D-45. It was good timing for Fletcher, who approached Martin that year wanting a Dreadnought with his name inlaid in pearl along the fingerboard. With the pearl trim already started on the top and not the back and sides of the original Kid style 45, it was only fitting the guitar went to Fletcher. It should be noted that the Fletcher inlay was done by the NY house that cut the pearl letters for the Jimmie Rodgers 000-45 in 1928, and in the same font. Martin outsourced their headstock, pickguard and neck inlay at the time. Grant Remaley, the Martin employee that did the inlay on Autry’s D-45, most likely did the Fletcher guitar as well.
Woodland explained, “The way I confirmed all of it was from the production records along with the Kid wanting a ‘secret serial number’ under the top of his D-45. That number is located under the top of the Tex guitar because the Kid didn't want the 14 fret neck.”
In 1970, then Martin guitar historian Mike Longworth contacted Fletcher and the guitar was eventually donated to the C.F. Martin museum where it is currently on display. In his 1975 book, "Martin Guitars: A History," Longworth referred to the guitar as “one of the rarest of all Martins.”
In his 1975 book, "Martin Guitars: A History," CF Martin historian Mike Longworth referred to the guitar as “one of the rarest of all Martins.”
In the spring of 1934, Geremino Bisceglia, better known to WOR/Mutual Network listeners as radio star “Tex Fletcher,” contacted C.F. Martin through the Wurlitzer company in New York City requesting a pearl-trimmed Dreadnought guitar with his name inlayed into the fingerboard, similar to the first D-45 made for Gene Autry the previous year.
While Autry’s D-45 featured standard 45-Series pearl trim appointments on the back and sides, Fletcher opted to have all his “flash” up front, where it would be seen by the audience. Tex requested that Martin produce the special order Dreadnought in their Style 42 design, which offered pearl inlay only on the face of the instrument, plus “Tex Fletcher” in large block letters that barely fit on the fretboard.
Although strung as a “righty,” Tex played the guitar left-handed. The D-42 was the second 40-Series Dreadnought guitar ever made, stamped May 11th, 1934. Just one week before Tex’s order came in, another cowboy singer, Jackie “Kid” Moore had ordered a D-45 similar to Autry’s. The fad of performing with a fancy guitar with your name on the neck had of course begun with Jimmie Rodgers, who’s custom Martin had inspired Autry and countless later stars to turn their guitar into a full-time press agent.
ABOVE: About 20+ years later, the D-42 now shows the wear brought on by Tex Fletcher's constant gigging (the upper right part of the "T" in "Tex" is missing). The guitar also now sports a pickguard.
BELOW: May, 2011. 77 years later, Tex's son, George is surprised by CF Martin IV and museum and special projects curator Dick Boak when they had the original D-42 brought out of it's display case during a Martin museum and factory tour for music industry in Nazareth PA.
Much gratitude to John Woodland whose research provided invaluable insight in clarifying the history of the D-42. We have drawn heavily from text that he provided!
And to Martin Guitars' CF Martin IV and Dick Boak for their continued hospitality to the Fletcher family over the years and allowing me the honor playing our dad's guitar. It played and sounded great! Nothing that is made today can compete with a pre-war Martin!
Tex Fletcher's D-42 is a stand-out at CF Martin Guitar Museum
“Still, nothing represented the Martin myth as much as the custom left-handed D-42 that belonged to Tex Fletcher, the "radio cowboy" of the 1930s and '40s. It turns out that Ol' Tex was born in Harrison, N.Y., and was christened Geremino Bisceglia by his Italian-immigrant parents. But slip a Martin into his hands and he's Mr. Sagebrush himself, the author of such classic cowpoke songs as "The Lord Is in the Saddle Tonight."
You can get so caught up in Martin lore that it's easy to forget that sometimes a guitar is just a guitar. But when the son of an Italian stonemason can star in the movie "Six-Gun Rhythm," now that's magic.”
"In Pa., a Museum That Hits Just the Right Notes"
By Tim Warren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008; Page C02
Entire story HERE