I first met this guitar in 2005 when I attended Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamp in Tennessee. It belonged to Dave Skowron of Red Bear Trading, and he was the reason I was at Kamp. We became friends at Little Brother’s Acoustic Jam in September 2004, where I heard bluegrass and flatpicking for the first time. Dave had been to Kamp before and said that I would love it. He was right!
I wasn’t familiar with Martin’s Golden Era line of guitars before then, but as you’ll see, there were quite a few at Kamp! A very popular model in the flatpicking world.
The Golden Era guitar is based on what some consider to be the holy grail of the flatpicking world, the 1934 D-18.
That’s Dave on the far right.
I played a bunch of ’em and they were all great. At that time I didn’t know I loved mahogany dreads as I didn’t yet have my SCGC Vintage Artist. It came soon after, in December 2006. I did say to Dave that if he ever thought about selling the GE to let me know, and that’s precisely what happened.
This particular model is from 2002 and has been ‘Kimseyfied’, where luthier Bryan Kimsey removes the popsicle brace. You can read all about that on Bryans’ site here: Popsicle Braces. Bryan also shaved the back braces, plugged and redrilled the tuner holes at 1/4″ and slotted the bridge pin holes. The bridge has also been removed, the glue scraped off and re-glued with hot hide glue.
It has a slight V-shape to the neck, which I find to be very comfortable. What blows me away is how light the guitar is. I have the Vintage Artist to compare it to, so whenever I pick up the Martin, I’m always surprised, even though I know in my head that it’s light.
Tonally speaking, it’s everything I remembered it being and more. Bear in mind that I hadn’t played it since 2005, so it’s had another bunch of years of playing time. I know Dave didn’t play it much in the last couple of years because of shoulder pain, but I bet he did play it a lot before that.