Martin Doobie-42 (Tom Johnston) Guitar
- by Todd Stuart Phillips
Doobie Brothers founding member Tom Johnston has been honored with a Martin signature model that has pizzazz in its exterior and power under the hood. With a premium grade, Engelmann spruce top supported by forward-shifted, scalloped braces, this guitar sounds like the best D-42 I have ever heard in my life. And that is saying something. It is as fine an Indian rosewood dreadnought as one is likely to come across. The prototype I saw had a top with so much cross-silking and character in the grain that I would have bet money it was Sitka. It is actually Engelmann, known for its sophisticated tone. It even roared like Sitka, but with an added complexity that will only improve as it gets played in. It has beauty in its voice even as it is a rumblin', tumblin', thunderin' powerhouse dread.
The guitar is based on the D-42 model but has many customized features. The fret board has the Vintage Style 45 snowflakes found on the typical 42, but here they are made from the choicest abalone with an exquisitely rendered quarter note inlaid at the 12th fret. The body is trimmed with expensive abalone herringbone that is extremely difficult to inlay around the "fretinsula", where the fingerboard extends over the top. There is a band of the same pearl 'bone in the center of the Style 45 rosette and the headstock features one of the classiest custom inlays Martin has yet achieved. It has the Old Style Martin Logo over top of the Doobie Brothers' pilot wings logo, done in a mixture of argent mother of pearl and high-color abalone. Gold Waverly tuners in the butterbean style finish off the headstock perfectly.
Likewise unique to this model are the matching inlays on the bridge, each in the shape of a hand with its thumb and forefinger pinched together in the Doobie Brother's "Okay" signal. I am not big on cutsie inlays so you can take it from me, these look really good. Only the outlines of the hand are etched in pearl, allowing the black ebony of the bridge to make up the majority of the image. The effect nicely sets off the overall Beyond the Valley of the 42s feel of this instrument. This is a high-end guitar that looks and sounds much more expensive than it actually is. If the low profile neck was wider than the standard 1-11/16" I would seriously consider one myself.