"How does the song go?"
This is a beautiful guitar with a beautiful story . . . It's a custom Martin, one of only three from 1936, with the odd distinction of having been built for seven strings, after the Russian guitars of that style. A 12-fret slothead, there is a plugged hole in the center of the peghead where a banjo tuner had been. The conversion to 6 strings happened long ago, at least before the guitar came to Robert Hunter in 1969, a gift from his friend and colleague, the estimable Jerry Garcia.
Hunter, who owned the guitar from 1969 to 1972, a period of great creativity for both Hunter and Garcia, believes that the guitar came to Jerry from Lawrence Shurtliff ("Ramrod"), crew chief for the Grateful Dead.
"It's the same story the crow told me . . ."
Jerry Garcia is a guitarist who needs no introduction. Ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as 13th on their list of the Greatest Guitarists of All Time, Jerry started on the banjo and moved on to a Danelectro that his mother gave him for his fifteenth birthday. Known for his sinuous electric lines as lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead, his acoustic roots were never far away. This 000-18S was used by Jerry when the Dead appeared on "Playboy After Dark" in January of 1969 performing "Mountains of the Moon," one of the many songs co-authored by Hunter & Garcia. After "Aoxomoxoa" Jerry and Robert collaborated on their two acoustic gems, writing most of the words and music for "Workingman?s Dead" and "American Beauty," both recorded and released in 1970.
"He's come to take his children home . . . "
There are inscribed filigree-like patterns that run along the outer edge of the guitar on the bass-side upper bout that Hunter did himself with a pen after getting the guitar. Hunter, who played with Garcia in several old-time bands in the early Sixties tapped into the spirit of the older music with his lyrics for those two essential albums, "Workingman's Dead" & "American Beauty." WD was released in June, 1970; readers of Rolling Stone would name it best album of 1970, and songs like "Casey Jones" and "Uncle John's Band" were heralded as instant classics. A few months later, American Beauty appeared, with "Truckin'," "Ripple," "Friend of the Devil," and "Box of Rain," to name a few. Mickey Hart has said, "They're one work, really. We just had to split them up. But in a way, they're twin sisters." Rolling Stone magazine hailed the Dead as 'Artist of the Year.'
Hunter's contribution to the two albums has left an indelible mark on popular music. In the notarized letter that comes with the guitar Hunter states that he was given the guitar by Jerry "while we were developing the 'Workingman's Dead' album."
"Will you come with me? . . ."
The 000-18S is all original, except for slightly over-size bridge (to accommodate the conversion to 6 strings); the bridge plate looks original, but there is a thin half-inch wide overlay, again, we assume to accommodate the conversion. Original scalloped braces, and tuners. Finish is all original with some belt-buckle rash that goes to the bare wood. Also wear on the back bass-side edge to the bare wood. On the top bass side at the edge of the guitar there is wear through to the bare wood. One half-inch crack on the treble side, lower bout, and the typical 'B' string pickguard crack.
The tone is well-balanced and lively, with good note separation, a strong bass presence and a fat treble -- an exemplary guitar, a historic instrument.