Mike Longworth | Luthier Profile
During the course of publishing the article about Gary’s 1-45 guitar, a bit of discussion was triggered about Mike Longworth. Most of us know Mike from his incredible book, Martin Guitars, A History. It has been an invaluable reference text and cotinues to make fascinating reading even all these years later. Luckily, luthier Kevin Hall knows much than I and has kindly given me permission to reproduce the text below:
“Mike is of course best known as the chap Martin hired in ’68 to show them how to put the D-45 back into production. He served as their principal front-man for years, as well as being deeply involved in the introduction of such models as the D-35 and reintroduction of the herringbone 28.
Mike was a fixture for decades at bluegrass festivals and other folk and old-timey events. He knew almost everyone who ever picked a guitar or banjo, and appeared on a couple of albums himself.
Mike compiled a history of the C.F. Martin company which has served as a reference for builders and restorers all over the world since the 70s. He came to public notice before he joined Martin, mainly by turning common-or-garden D-28s into D-45s.
That is a job which may actually be harder than building a new one from scratch. The demand for those conversions led to Martin reintroducing the model to their regular production offerings in ’68. He was also known for elaborate inlay jobs and for embellishing a few Martin ukes with style 45 type ab decoration. One of his conversions of a plain mahog. Martin concert uke to a pearl-bordered confection sold about 3 years ago for somewhere in the $20,000 range.
After Martins’ acquisition of the Vega Banjo co. in 1970, Mike was involved in trying to make that old line more saleable in the bluegrass-dominated market of that time. Coincidentally, I was given the same task later on in ’77. Neither of us managed to convince Martin management that it was possible or worthwhile. Neither of us knew of the others’ attempts until the topic came up in a casual phone conversation shortly before Mikes death.
After he’d left Martin he produced a small number of highly ornamented ukuleles which he built in the original Ditson molds which he had bought from the firm at one of their ‘yard sales’. Mike was a southern gent, and probably one of the most knowledgeable folks on the planet about American stringed instruments, particularly old Martins..
©2009 Kevin Hall
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