Limited John Sebastian Martin (June 28, 2013)
John Sebastian’s contributions – both as the leader of the Lovin’ Spoonful and as a solo artist – loom large on the American musical landscape. The unique fusion of rock, folk and jug band he created with the Lovin’ Spoonful helped return American popular music to relevance at the height of the 1960’s “British Invasion” and his influence continues to resonate across musical genres.
For all his success in the popular realm, Sebastian’s abiding passion remains roots music; an amalgam of folk, blues, country, old time, jug band and more. So when John took a serious and intense interest in Chris Martin's most recent "CEO's Choice" model – the CEO-6 – Martin's Dick Boak (a long time friend of Sebastian's) initiated the collaboration with John to design his namesake guitar. Sebastian opted for a 14-fret (to the body) "Dreadnought Sloped Shoulder" (hence "DSS") that pays homage to the heroes of his musical roots.
Limited to just 44 instruments (for his birth year, 1944), the Martin DSS John Sebastian Custom Signature Edition offers a unique combination of premium tonewoods and appointments personally selected by John Sebastian. In every way, the Martin DSS John Sebastian Custom Signature Edition is sure to impress: it sounds, plays and looks great.
The solid tonewoods he selected for the DSS John Sebastian Custom Signature Edition are superb. The top is Adirondack spruce, revered for strong fundamentals, subtle richness and extraordinary power from bass to treble. Scalloped 5/16-inch Adirondack spruce top braces enhance tonal clarity and focus. The back and sides are rare, highly figured koa. Koa blends pleasing bass, strong midrange and crisp trebles, and this honey colored, flame figured koa looks as spectacular as it sounds. The 1930s style belly bridge is black ebony.
As for the appointments, Sebastian’s choices are inspired: this is one handsome, sweet playing guitar. A Style 45 blue paua pearl rosette combines with fine herringbone top purfling, rosewood bindings, and a special amber sunburst top to complement the koa back and sides. Fine black/white purfling encircle the back, which is bisected by a fine herringbone center strip.
The genuine mahogany 13⁄4-inch (at the nut) Performing Artist neck, tight 12-inch radius on the black ebony fingerboard and jumbo frets provide exceptional playing comfort. The mother-of-pearl fingerboard position markers are unique: star, crescent moon and slotted concave diamond markers at the 5th, 7th and 9th frets. These pay homage to the inlays on one of blues icon Mississippi John Hurt’s old guitars. Two stars and a slotted concave diamond mark the 12th and 15th frets, leading to a mother-of-pearl spoon accented by a red heart between the 19th the 20th frets, symbolizing the importance of the Lovin’ Spoonful on Sebastian's musical career. The son of a noted classical harmonica player who frequently hosted many folk musicians of the day, among them Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives, at the family home in Greenwich Village, John Sebastian discovered his love for music early. After making his debut as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band - a group that also included Stefan Grossman, David Grisman, Steve Katz, Maria D’Amato (later Muldaur) and Josh Rifkin - in the early 1960s, he became a sought-after guitar, harmonica and autoharp accompanist in the Village folk scene. In late 1964, he joined forces with guitarist Zal Yanovsky, bassist Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler to form the Lovin’ Spoonful, which took its name from the lyrics of a Mississippi John Hurt song.
Driven by Sebastian’s singing and songwriting, the group’s innovative blend of rock and folk was an immediate hit. Beginning with “Do You Believe in Magic” in 1965, the Lovin’ Spoonful put an unprecedented seven consecutive singles into the Hot 100 chart’s Top 10, including “Daydream,” “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind,” “Nashville Cats” and “Summer in the City,” which quickly reached No. 1 on the charts and defined the summer of 1966. In addition, the group’s music appeared in Woody Allen’s first feature film, What’s Up, Tiger Lily and in Francis Ford Coppola’s second film, You’re a Big Boy Now. Soon after leaving the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1968, Sebastian wrote music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Johnny Shine and gave a legendary performance at the Woodstock festival. He released his first solo album, John B. Sebastian, in 1970 to outstanding reviews: it went on to reach the Top 20 on the album chart. Seven more solo albums followed. In 1976, he had a No. 1 hit as a solo artist with “Welcome Back,” the memorable theme song to the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. In the 1990s, he formed John Sebastian and the J-Band to get back to his first love: jug band music. In addition to touring, the group released two albums: I Want My Roots and Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost. In 2000, Sebastian was inducted as a member of the Lovin’ Spoonful into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and in 2008 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Recently, he joined forces with mandolinist extraordinaire David Grisman to record Satisfied, an album that mixed blues, jazz and a bit of the Lovin’ Spoonful, and reunited with many of his Greenwich Village musical cohorts for a concert in San Francisco, a recording of which was released in 2010 as Jug Band Extravaganza. In addition, he made several Homespun instructional DVDs for guitar, blues harmonica and autoharp. In late 2012, he toured with former J-Band member Jimmy Vivino and plans to tour with David Grisman in 2013.
The Martin DSS John Sebastian Custom Signature Edition comes equipped with Waverly® nickel tuners with snakewood knobs, bone nut and drop-in compensated bone saddle, and pearl dot-inlaid bone bridge pins and endpin. The guitar’s body showcases Martin’s classic gloss lacquer finish, while the neck receives a satin lacquer finish for playing comfort.
Each Martin DSS John Sebastian Custom Signature Edition guitar bears two interior labels: one personally signed by John Sebastian and numbered in sequence with the edition total (44) and a second label depicting Henry Diltz’s iconic photograph of Sebastian performing at Woodstock, back to the camera , wearing his now-famous tie die jacket that is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.