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An Excellent Evening with Chris Martin of Martin & Co. at InDo in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

We had the extreme honor and utmost pleasure to be invited out for a very special Evening with Chris Martin of Martin & Co. held on Thursday, October 6, 2022 at InDo in Nashville. The long-time CEO of Martin Guitar announced that he was stepping away from his position in July 2021. But, that decision didn't mean a full retirement. He remains chairman of the board of the iconic company - and, as seen in Music City - is still an enthusiastic brand ambassador for his family's famous business.


Chris Martin at InDo in Nashville.

Martin indicated in Nashville that he has often delivered these kinds of talks before at a variety of industry events and dealer conventions. Now, with his recent acquisition of ample free time he is able to do them more often. In Nashville, he came equipped with many riveting stories about his 35 years at the helm of Martin & Co. while he showed off reproductions of some of their most significant models of six- (and four) stringed instruments.

Near the end of his presentation, Martin pointed out Nashville's own celebrity guitar seller George Gruhn in the crowd and described how the pair had lunch together earlier in the day. Saying that they agree to disagree on some points revolving around the acoustic guitar's revival in the 1990's - they both agreed that it owed a large debt to the popular MTV franchise "Unplugged" whether or not the guitars were actually plugged in and electrified. Chris said that since that high-point over 30 years ago business has not slowed down except for a couple of dips that coincided with more general economic downturns. In many ways Martin's presentation mirrored a private conversation we had with Gruhn just last year.


Clockwise: Seen and heard were Gordon Kennedy; Timothy James Bowen, Clare Bowen and Brandon Robert Young; Kate Richardson of Richlynn Group; Craig Thatcher and Vince Gill.

Gruhn Guitars has sold Martin products since they started in 1970. So, their founder George is quite keen on the master luthiers and their product line. Gruhn traced for us the company's founding in Germany, to their arrival in New York City and ultimate relocation to Nazareth, Pennsylvania. He also revealed how Martin's star began to rise when they started making instruments that borrowed heavily from a Spanish model already in existence.

Back at InDo, Chris Martin elaborated on the company's origin and - of course - made it much more personal since he shares the same name with Christian Frederick Martin who established the business nearly 200 years ago in 1833. Moving into the modern era, Chris took stock of his own failures including a pair of ill-designed acoustics and a solid body electric model that didn't hold up in the marketplace. But, there were plenty of successes, too, including the recent decade's Ukulele revival with Martin calling the melodious little four string piece of equipment the "gateway drug" citing the example of how Jimi Hendrix learned how to play on this smaller guitar before taking over the world in the 60's.


A wall of Martin Guitars at InDo in Music City.

There were celebrity sightings galore, too, in Nashville. Songwriter Gordon Kennedy took to the stage to sing "Change the World" - the song he penned for Eric Clapton. Another guitar god in his own right Vince Gill was relaxing after his busy season doing double duty with his solo career and flying high with the Eagles. Clare Bowen of Nashville fame, her husband Brandon Robert Young and her "big in Australia" brother Timothy James Bowen made for a fine looking trio as they made the rounds at InDo's cozy cocktail party. More musicians on the scene included AJ Smith; Nate Smith - new artist on Sony; New York City's Taylor Hogan; Liv Charette; Toyesauce aka Leon Toye; the Nashville duo Dallas Caroline and Justin Peterich; and, the perky Madison Hughes who is turning heads and turning chairs on the current season of The Voice.

Chris Martin arrived armed at the event - presented and hosted by InDo and the Richlynn Group - with a number of reproductions of his company's famous guitars and he had help from Martin employee Craig Thatcher in their demonstration. The one he was most proud of was the two millionth, five hundred thousand and first instrument that rolled off the line in his company's history. It was a cerulean blue acoustic with titanium strings and a titanium pick guard that was laser etched to show their original storefront's location in New York City. When he held it up to the lights the silver stars embedded in the body were reflecting over the shop as they would have in the night sky all those guitars ago. To see Chris Martin hold that instrument high over his head as a direct link and line to the past from the very present was truly awesome and awe-inspiring - as was this most memorable night in Music City.


An Excellent Evening with Chris Martin of Martin & Co.

Related Links: For more information on MARTIN GUITARS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Martin Guitars | Digging Deeper with George Gruhn at Gruhn Guitars in Nashville | InDo Nashville

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