Thunderous bass response balanced by crystal-clear, articulate highs—the D-28 sets the standard by which all acoustic guitars are judged. Hank Williams, Sr., The Beatles, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Page, countless bluegrass greats—the list becomes a who’s who of guitarists and songwriters across pretty much every genre. Simply put, the D-28 does everything well. It is the quintessential workhorse guitar.
“The post-WWII D-28 had a slightly different look than its predecessor and became the centerpiece of the folk and folk rock movements at their pinnacle in the 1950s and 1960s,” current Martin CEO and owner Chris Martin said.
This early 1954 D-28 (serial #134573) is a superlative example of the post-war Martin D-28. It features Brazilian Rosewood back and sides that show subtle figuring and a beautiful book match. As some Martin historians argue, this D-28 was produced during a short period of time when Martin used a stash of Red Spruce and/or Engelmann on many dreadnoughts instead of Sitka Spruce. Without testing a sample in a lab, it’s impossible to definitively prove what species of Spruce we see here, but to our eyes, the top looks more like Adirondack Spruce than Sitka. But considering how good this guitar sounds, the specific species is probably not altogether important.
Considering its age, this '54 D-28 is in remarkably fine cosmetic condition, and its repair history is minimal, too. This is about as nice of a postwar D-28 as you are likely to find. When it came to us, the action teetered on the high side, and the original bridge was worn out from past adjustments. Recognizing the potential of this clean old Martin box, we brought it to John Baxendale of Colorado Guitar Company. John reset the neck and carved a new Ebony bridge that is a faithful recreation of the '50s Martin belly bridge. He also cleaned up the frets (which are period appropriate but not original, and have a ton of life left). As a result of John's expert lutherie, this D-28 plays like an absolute dream. Every note up and down the fingerboard rings out with proper intonation, and the action is low and inviting. Plus, the tall saddle allows for a strong breakover angle on the top, providing drive, power, and wider dynamics.
Apart from the recent neck reset/new bridge, this '54 D-28 is in exceptional structural condition. As is common with Martins from this era, its shrinking pickguard has stressed the top to some degree, but fortunately its effect was minimal. Its original bridge plate is perfectly in tact (most '50s D-28s can't attest to that!). All of its bracing is in tact as well, and the inside looks as clean as the day it left Nazareth, PA. There appears to have been some unwanted finish checking on the sides, and long ago someone tried to clean that up with light overspray (on the sides only), which of course only made the checks more noticeable. It is most visible on the treble side and on either side of the neck heel. But the top, back, neck, and headstock all show their original, unmolested finish. It sports its original Kluson "Waffleback" tuners, and its original nut has never had any issues. It also includes its original green-lined hardshell case, which is every bit as clean as the guitar.
This '54 Martin D-28 produces a bright, cutting sound balanced by powerful low end and the subtle refined complexity of a seasoned vintage guitar. It does everything well, like a good D-28 should. This is a guitar that will inspire you for many, many years. At Telluride Music Co., we’ve had the good fortunate to handle, examine, and evaluate a wide array of early '50s D-28s, and this may be the finest example we've seen.