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Rick Turner’s 1962 Martin D-28
 
The late luthier’s dreadnought accompanied him onstage and was heavily modified.
August 17, 2022
 

When luthier and guitarist Rick Turner passed away at the age of 78 last April, he left behind several personal instruments. Besides his beloved Howe-Ormes and several instruments he’d built, there was also the heavily modified 1962 Martin D-28 he purchased in the Boston area before going on the road as guitarist with Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia in the early 1960s. Found hanging on a wall in his shop, the guitar didn’t have a bridge or tuners, so Rick’s oldest son Ethan Turner (who, as a member of the board of directors of Rick Turner Guitars is continuing Rick’s legacy through production of his groundbreaking guitars and basses) had San Francisco luthier and repair guru Alan Perlman bring it back to life. I recently had a chance to check out this extraordinary instrument in the Peghead Nation video studio.

If there was ever an instrument that made you think, “I wish this guitar could talk,” this D-28 qualifies. We can assume that Rick played the guitar when he performed with Ian and Sylvia at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and during the recording of their 1966 album Play One More. He once mentioned that regluing the guitar’s bridge when it popped off after being left in a hot car was one of his early introductions to instrument repair, but we don’t know when the various modifications to the guitar were done. What are the modifications? For starters, the guitar has a slotted peghead, which is highly unusual for a 14-fret D-28, and when asked about it, Rick’s decades-long friend Lowell Levinger (aka Banana), told me the guitar definitely had a solid peghead when Rick got it. Did Rick modify the stock neck? Build a new one? Did someone else do this work? We don’t know for sure, but the result is a nicely shaped neck, slightly wider than a standard ‘60s D-28, and with white binding, similar to the neck of a D-35. We can also assume that Rick added the abalone purfling and rosette to the body of the guitar, both of which give the body a unique appearance. 

We do know about the instrument’s most visually striking element. Around 1978, Rick gave his friend and former employee at Alembic Guitars Larry Robinson (robinsoninlays.com) a blank ebony fingerboard, telling him to do whatever he wanted. Larry says he had no idea what guitar it was going on, but he did what Rick asked him, using the fingerboard as a blank canvas. The result is a beautiful combination of imagery that includes mushrooms, flowers, butterflies, birds, and grasses, inlaid in abalone, pearl, silver, ivory, and other materials. 

At a time when originality is a major factor in the value of a vintage instrument, this Martin D-28 shows that extensive modifications can add, not detract, from an instrument’s cool factor. It sounds and plays great, and while I wouldn’t suggest similar mods to a pristine vintage instrument, it’s a welcome reminder that there’s a place for morphing a stock guitar into a unique instrument.

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    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com