"I picked on a lot of axes, but the best I’ve ever seen, Is my funky, beat-up, wonderful, old Martin D-18."
- Norman Blake from 'The D-18 Song'
Norman Blake (1934 – ) was one of the early “flatpickers” to burst onto the hot acoustic scene in the early 1970’s. Bluegrass pickers, including myself, just couldn’t get enough fiery hot licks from Norman, Doc Watson, Dan Crary, Tony Rice, and Clarence White. Besides masterful flatpicking and crosspicking, Norman had a lot more to offer like his fingerpicking, superb interpretations of traditional songs, and the wonderful original songs he composed that sounded both old and new at the same time.
Norman grew up in the south absorbing the sound of old-time music and was ready to hit the road as a professional musician at the age of 16, including a stint with Johnny Cash, but he is most known for his superb musicianship when playing either solo or in small bands where he is the bandleader. His masterful guitar, mandolin, and fiddle playing can be heard on over 30 albums.
Besides Norman’s amazing musicianship, it is always interesting to see what vintage guitar he is playing. Originally it seemed to be an old beat-up 1930’s Martin D-18 or sometimes an old D-28, but Norman has also been seen picking a Gibson Advanced Jumbo, a Gibson Nick Lucas, Gibson Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe, and numerous early Martin pearl-trimmed small-body guitars. He is one of the few musicians that embraces the full sound pre-war Martin and Gibson “12-fret” dreadnoughts.
- Old Brown Case from Fields of November, 1974
- Ginseng Sullivan from Back Home in Sulphur Springs, 1972
My 1942 Martin D-18 – This much-played and well-worn old Martin guitar was found in a shed in California before it made its way to me. These pre-war Martin guitars are not only made extremely well, but also sound absolutely great! I would never even think about refinishing it. As temporary custodian it is my obligation to get it in tip-top playing condition and make sure that it stays completely original. When buying old guitars, I always pay more for as-found guitars that have never been worked on and have have not been cleaned. I would take this old Martin over a shiny new guitar every time!