This ’70s Japanese lawsuit-era guitar was brazenly designed to mimic a Martin D-41, and to our columnist’s ears, sounds just as good as the original.
It’s a 14-fret dreadnought acoustic with a spruce top and rosewood back and sides. It’s appointed with beautiful reduced-hexagon abalone inlays, matching binding, and multi-stripe detail throughout. The logo reads vertically instead of horizontally, and it has a rich, powerful tone. Surely I’m referring to an heirloom-quality, America-made Martin D-41, right?
On the headstock, Takamine imitated the style of the vertical Martin logo. Takamine took the same approach to their Guild and Gallagher copies.
Nope! I’m talking about the delightful 1978 Takamine F-450S-A, an unashamed, fractions-of-an-inch-accurate copy of one of Martin’s most prized designs. According to Takamine’s 1976 catalog, the F-450S-A was “the finest guitar made by Takamine,” featuring genuine Pacific abalone pearl inlaid by hand. The catalog boasts of the experienced older craftsman slowly teaching young apprentices the “Takamine way” to make guitars. While there can be no doubt the F-450S-A is a fine instrument, the Takamine way sure looks a lot like the Martin way to us!
A revealing statement can be found just a page further in the catalog: “To the eye and to the ear, a Takamine matches any guitar on the market today.” You don’t say!
“To the pocketbook however, a Takamine is no match. Play and compare. You’ll find the sound you want at about a third the price.”
The logic was simple: A quality Martin clone made cheaply in Japan could easily be marketed to American consumers who couldn’t afford the real thing. While researching, I came across this illuminating post on The Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum: “Being from Western North Carolina and picking out with older folks on porches, I could never afford a Martin. When we would be picking, others would come up and say I like your Mar... tin... and then stop and look like they took a bite out of a rotten tater.”
Takamine mimicked other brands, too. The same 1976 catalog features the name “Takamine” contorted into the distinctive “peaked” Guild logo. Not too long ago, we had a Takamine-made Gallagher copy come into Fanny’s House of Music, with the famous Gallagher “G” subtly morphed into a “T.” This period in the 1970s is often called the “lawsuit era,” a term that refers to a 1977 lawsuit filed by Gibson against Ibanez for infringing on their headstock design. The phrase “lawsuit era” might suggest that American companies were suing their Japanese counterparts left and right, but the truth is, lawsuits were rare, and Gibson and Ibanez settled out of court. There was no lawsuit against Takamine for their headstocks, although Martin did send a cease and desist letter. Soon, Takamine, Ibanez, and other Japanese companies began cranking out great original designs of their own, and the lawsuit era was over.
The oblong-hexagon abalone inlays on the fretboard are another feature of this guitar that resembles a Martin.
According to the Takamine catalog, the back and sides of our F-450S-A are made of jacaranda, and, boy, did that ever send me down a rabbit hole! It sure looks a lot like rosewood to me. Besides, with everything else on this guitar being such a close copy of a D-41, why would Takamine use an entirely different species of wood for the back and sides? Jacaranda is a genus of 49 species of flowering plants, and rosewood belongs to the genus Dalbergia, which famously does not flower. Everyone knows that. (Just kidding.)
As it turns out, the journey the word “jacaranda” takes from Portuguese to Japanese to English can leave us with a term that generally means “rosewood,” even though jacaranda is a very different species. Washburn, Tokai, and other Japanese manufacturers sometimes even listed fretboard material as “Jacaranda (Brazilian Rosewood),” which is nearly enough to turn my brain to mush! At a certain point, one has to admit defeat and begin climbing out of the rabbit hole. We may never know exactly what species of wood we’re dealing with here, but who cares when the guitar sounds this good?
The Takamine catalog says the back and sides are jacaranda, a colloquialized umbrella term that often just means “rosewood.”
The neck of our Tak’ has a comfortable medium-C shape and nice low action. It’s clearly a well-built instrument with good volume and depth of tone. It’s in outstanding condition for its age, with hardly a mark on it, which means there’s a lot of songs in this old gal! It may be a mere “knock-off,” but don’t knock it ’til you try it. It’s a great guitar and I can’t wait to see who it inspires next.
Martin announces four new models, including two signature artist edition models that celebrate John Mayer’s popular OM-28JM model.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of John Mayer’s popular OM-28JM model, Martin collaborated again with John Mayer to offer two stunning anniversary models. They are limited to the calendar year 2023, so make sure to check them out soon.
This Orchestra model exhibits the same versatility for today’s diverse contemporary musical styles and includes a unique label with Mayer’s electronic signature. This edition is limited to the calendar year 2023. If you’re looking for something with a little more flash, check out the OM-45 John Mayer Platinum Anniversary Model, which is also new for 2023.
OM-45 John Mayer Anniversary
On John’s first signature model with Martin, he chose to include an aluminum border around the headplate and bridge. For this anniversary model, the border is expanded to the fingerboard and pickguard and the border has been upgraded to a fine silver. Like Mayer’s previous models, it includes a thinner 1 11/16th width at the nut for comfort and speed. It also includes stunning satin nickel Waverly tuners. This edition includes a unique label with Mayer’s signature. $18,499.
The SC-10E-02, with its patented Sure Align neck system, gives you full access to all frets so you can comfortably reach those high notes. It’s also equipped with a low-profile velocity neck barrel that ergonomically accommodates your hand as you move up the neck, giving you the comfort and playability of an electric. The affordably priced SC-10E-02 includes a satin finished sapele top, back, and sides for a warm, yet crisp tone. It features a Richlite fingerboard and bridge with mother-of-pearl pattern inlay that is complemented by a rosewood pattern HPL headplate, and chrome enclosed gear tuners. To top it off, it comes with a softshell case for ultimate portability.
This 14-fret Dreadnought is crafted with sapele back and sides and a mahogany top with non-scalloped bracing, so you’re going to hear bright, airy trebles and a punchy midrange. The Dreadnought body provides plenty of volume so this baby can handle whatever music scenario you can dream up. To top it off, this model comes equipped with Martin E1 electronics and a softshell case to make it super easy to take with you on all your adventures.
Nashville guitar heroes Vince Gill and legendary pedal-steeler Paul Franklin talk about the tones and tools on their new album, Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys. Prepare for rare Martins and Paul’s signature pedal and amp.
A decade ago, Vince Gill and Paul Franklin recorded Bakersfield, a tribute to the raw-boned country music that came out of the rough-and-rowdy clubs patronized by oil-field hands and agricultural workers in the ’50s and early ’60s—packed with songs by Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. And we visited with them for a Rig Rundown then.
Now, just for the good times, these two legends of modern country music—the real deal kind—have recorded Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys. Price was known for his warm, baritone approach to melody, which is a perfect springboard for Gill’s and Franklin’s nuanced approaches to their own instruments.
If you don’t know Gill’s work, it’s about time you got informed. He has won more CMA Awards than any performer in history, plus 21 Grammys. He’s also sold more than 21-million albums and is currently in the Eagles, where his sweet tenor voice and skill with harmonies makes him a perfect match. (You can also hear Gill talk about his work on Cory Wong’s Wong Notes podcast, from November 2020.)
Although Franklin spends his time over the pedal steel, this artist is no slouch. He’s played on more than 500 albums, has been named Best Steel Guitarist by the Academy of Country Music multiple times, and is in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and the Musician’s Hall of Fame. Franklin is the most nominated artist in CMA history. He is also a member of Grammy-winning outfit the Time Jumpers.
Along with the PG video team, I met them at Gill’s Nashville studio, where they recorded Sweet Memories. The goal: to get a close-up look at Franklin’s steel rig and some of the incredible acoustic guitars Gill used on this album.
Brought to you by D’Addario XS Strings.
If you can keep your eyes off the wall of Telecasters in the background for a few seconds, you’ll see Vince Gill’s 1939 Martin D-18 Sunburst front and center. The D-18 was manufactured with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides for the first time in 1931, and very few were done in sunburst. Gill strings his acoustics with D’Addario Phosphor Bronzes, .012—.053.
More Martin Madness
Now, here’s an ultra-rare 1935 Martin D-28 with herringbone binding, even rarer for its sunburst finish.
Well Played, My Friend
With those marks, I’d call this a beater—if it wasn’t a 1937-’38 Gibson Advanced Jumbo sunburst. This round-shoulder model features a rosewood back and sides, ornate diamond and arrowhead fretboard inlays, and binding on the top, back, and fretboard. Wow!
One More Martin
This 1930s Martin 00-18 in sunburst features an Adirondack spruce top, Honduran mahogany sides and neck, and an ebony fingerboard and bridge. Yes, you want this one, too!
Paul's Big Ride
Paul Franklin’s father has been building steel guitars for him—and a lot of other artists—since Paul was a kid. All in, Franklin has 11 Franklin Pedal Steel Guitars. For this Rundown, he plays his double neck in C6 and E9 tunings, strung with D’Addario NYXL .010 sets.
Two Names, Four 6L6s
Paul Franklin plays a Little Walter Paul Franklin Signature ’89 amp. This super-clean 100-watt killer is loaded with four 6L6 tubes and runs a Little Walter 1x12 cabinet.
Although Franklin collects pedals, his philosophy is to start with a great organic tone and go from there. Where he goes is typically to his all-analog Benado Effects Steel Dream Signature stompbox for reverb, delay, and drive, as needed. Bad news—this device is sold out, according to the Benado website.
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin's Gear
- Franklin double-neck pedal steel
- Little Walter Paul Franklin Signature Tube Amp
- Benado Effects Steel Dream
- 1930s Gibson AJ
- 1930s Martin D-18
- 1940s Martin D-28
- 1930s Martin 000-18
- 1950s Telecaster
- 1940s D-45