This story begins with a little boy receiving a pawn shop Gibson archtop from his uncle. That’s when a love affair began that is still strong today.
That little boy was Dr. Jonathan Kellerman, a world-renowned psychologist and one of America’s most prolific and popular novelists, with more than 45 million books in print internationally. His best-selling crime novels have entertained readers worldwide.
||1932 Martin OM-45
“Martin’s famed Orchestra Model (OM) was built at the request of musician Perry Bechtel in the late 1920s. He wanted a guitar that featured a narrower fingerboard with frets that were accessible past the 12th fret. Martin took a Grand Auditorium (000-sized) and squared the shoulders to allow access up to the 14th fret. Subsequently, this led to a longer 25.4” scale length. The OM first appeared in Martin’s catalog in 1930 and was immediately available in several trim levels, including the top-of-the-line Style 45. Features of this style include Brazilian rosewood back and sides; pearl borders around the top, sides, soundhole, and fingerboard; ivoroid binding; and fancy snowflake fingerboard inlays. Only 40 OM-45s were produced between 1930 and 1932, and these guitars currently bring $150,000+ in the vintage guitar market.”
author of the Blue Book Series
Kellerman’s latest book, With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars
(Random House), is a departure from what his readers normally expect, but the plot is quite familiar to gearheads—you can never have too many guitars. The 387-page book features fretted instruments that Dr. Kellerman and his wife have acquired over the last 40 years. It contains 120 pictorial essays and an introduction by Andy Summers of the Police.
In an exclusive interview, we chatted with Dr. Kellerman about the love affair and found that it draws on his immense respect for luthiers. The Kellerman collection has been painstakingly assembled over decades and ranges from a prewar Martin flattop to Gibson electrics to vintage classical guitars, some of which are hundreds of years old.
Despite having one of the most unique and valuable private collections in the world, it is Kellerman’s collecting criteria that really impressed us. Some enthusiasts collect for ego; some collect in anticipation of financial return; and some collect for status; but Dr. Kellerman is motivated by a player’s passion. He values sound, tone, and playability above all else.
“I won’t insult your intelligence by claiming I never intended to build a collection, because you don’t just happen to end up with 120 guitars. But amassing and hoarding were never my primary motivations. For the past thirty-five years, I’ve been chasing fabulous sound. And since the guitar produces a more varied sound than any other instrument, the quest has led me to lots of guitars,” Kellerman explains.
In this spectacular coffee table book, we are treated to pictures and stories of one gorgeous piece of guitar porn after another. The usual suspects—Gibson, Fender and Martin—are there, as well as aficionado brands like D’Angelico, Hauser, Stromberg and Torres. The pictures of these rare beauties are accompanied by Jon’s own back stories and written as only a wordsmith with a keen attention to detail can write them.
|1936 Martin 000-28S
“The Martin 000-sized guitar debuted in 1902, but it never gained popularity until the late 1920s. In 1934, Martin introduced the configuration that is seen here with a squareshouldered 14-fret body and a solid headstock. However, this is a specially ordered guitar (indicated by the S in the model name) in rare 12-string configuration. Not only is this the only 12-string 000-28 in existence, it is the only pre-war steel 12-string Martin guitar ever built! Style 28 guitars feature Brazilian rosewood back and sides and herringbone top borders. Regular 000-28 models from 1936 command $35,000 to $40,000 in the vintage guitar market; however, a model this rare precludes accurate pricing. Many famous musicians including Eric Clapton, Norman Blake, and Lonnie Donegan have continued to make this one of Martin’s most popular configurations.”
Dr. Kellerman freely confesses to being a lifelong “guitar freak“ and is decidedly gear agnostic as reflected in his opinion that, “it really doesn’t matter what the genre is, you know, it’s all about sound and tone.” The author’s favorite musicians reflect his diverse respect for guitarists from many genres. “There is so damn much talent out there,” he says, “and I respect and admire everyone from Segovia to Eric Johnson!”