It’s a bit difficult to describe Dick Boak without resorting to cliches; renaissance man, gentleman and a scholar etc. I could keep stringing them on because in Dick’s case the descriptions apply. For 42 years Dick was employed by the C. F. Martin Guitar Company where he used his considerable skills as artist, musician, woodworker, draftsman, luthier, public relations maven and art director. His 1976 hiring at Martin perfectly coincided with the vintage guitar phenomenon. Dick and Chris Martin IV, CEO and chairman, are recognized as returning the company to its former stature and bringing it to a new prominence. Dick established the artist relations department where they produced the highly sought after signature edition guitars with artists Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, CSNY, Mark Knopfler, Marty Stuart and others. In this case “every guitar tells a story” so settle in for a great podcast where he tells personal tales and music anecdotes and his all to rare story of a talent flowering in a corporate environment. Of course, his talents and lively sensibility weren’t left behind at Martin. We look forward to what he gets up to in the next chapter of his amazing journey. But for now enjoy this podcast filled with his extremely interesting stories thus far.
Here is Gene Autry in about 1934 with a Martin OM-45 with his name in script on the fretboard
Chris Martin IV saw Autrys original 1933 D-45 at an event at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage. An Appeal to the Museum to authorize an authentic replica Autry’s D-45 was approved with the stipulation that the profits go to charity. The success of this project set a precedent for approved signature edition guitars with proceeds going to charity. With the success of Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” album where Eric played a 1939 OOO-42, Dick Boak was allowed to approach Eric about a signature model.
Dick had to find a meaningful number to apply to the signature Clapton guitars . Clapton’s “comeback” album 461 Ocean Blvd. provided the answer. With legendary producer Tom Dowd in Miami’s Criteria studios Eric produced a great LP with the lead off single “I shot the Sheriff” The signature Clapton model sold all 416 within minutes. The LP sold a few more.
Mention must be made of pioneering vintage guitar dealers Stan Jay and Hap Kuffner, The Mandolin Brothers. Here photographed in Nazareth in 1976 with the first of their special Mandolin Bros D-45s and the Martin department managers who built it. Today Hap has this to say about this very special model: “Historically speaking it started the C.F. Martin custom shop. Until then no Grained Ivoroid Binding, Pre War Scalloped Braces, Aged Toner Finish, Tortoise Shell Colored Headstock Overlay, Vintage Style Tuners, Squared Headstock, and custom Label. 91 were to be made but only about 50 were completed. A Great Martin D45 Guitar!”
The Kingston Trio’s importance to American popular music can not be overstated. It’s fair to say that The C.F. Martin Guitar Company would not be the same today without their influence.
Joan Baez is another folk music performer that has always chosen to play Martin Guitars. Generally choosing vintage O or OO 40s . Of course Dick collaborated with her on a signature model.
Without a doubt the coolest place to be in 1968 was Laurel Canyon at Joni Mitchell’s with a few Martins laying around so David Crosby and Eric Clapton could join in if they knew which tuning she was using.
© Henery Diltz