Southwest of Somewhere: A man and his guitar

Bill 'BK' Koetting and his Martin dreadnought D-18 guitar.

Photo by TOM WILLIAMS, Special to the Eagle // Buy this photo

Bill "BK" Koetting and his Martin dreadnought D-18 guitar.

Bill 'BK' Koetting and his Martin dreadnought D-18 guitar.

Photo by TOM WILLIAMS, Special to the Eagle // Buy this photo

Bill "BK" Koetting and his Martin dreadnought D-18 guitar.

Bill 'BK' Koetting and his Martin dreadnought D-18 guitar.

Photo by TOM WILLIAMS, Special to the Eagle // Buy this photo

Bill "BK" Koetting and his Martin dreadnought D-18 guitar.

Little Bar Restaurant

205 Harbor Place, Goodland, FL

Christian Frederick Martin was born in Germany in 1796. At 15, he began his career as an apprentice guitar maker. After three years of study, C.F. Martin knew he had found his labor of love, but the young Christian also felt frustration with the local politics regarding the manufacture of stringed musical instruments.

The German guilds that regulated the artisans and musical instrument commerce were in a constant quagmire of conflicting opinion.

Regulations were in place to provide quality control, but as a result innovative thinking and new designs were

not encouraged.

Dispirited by the guild regulations, and inspired by new and very private ideas, C.F. Martin immigrated to the United States in 1833.

He then opened a small guitar shop in New York and excitedly began experimenting with new guitar design. He invented the “X” bracing structure system responsible for Martin’s innovative resonate sound and with the new interior design Martin Guitars not only rang true but they were stronger and more warp resistant.

After five years in New York, Martin yearned for the rolling knolls of Germany and found a new home and a new site for his guitar works in Nazareth, Penn.

C.F. Martin passed away two years after the Civil War and the company continued under the direction of his son, C.F. Martin Jr.

The Martin heir ran the business until his premature death only 10 years later and subsequently handed over the tradition to his son Frank Martin who was only 22 years old at the time.

Frank later diversified the company and began making mandolins during the World War I. With the aid of master craftsman Harry Hunt, Frank Martin began developing a revolutionary new style of instrument he named the “Dreadnought” Guitar.

The “Dreadnought,” it turned out, was just in time for a new musical genre, and the “blues players” of the 1930s. With the Great Depression and hard times being a way of life for almost a decade, the dreadnoughts ruled and the blues became bona fide. The “Dreadnought” today remains unique in sound and style and is a favorite guitar worldwide.

When Bill Koetting (B.K.) decided it was time for a new guitar, he wanted a Martin Dreadnought and specifically a Martin D-18. As with most young musicians, favorite musical instruments are often priced well above financial range, and the new Martin Guitar was no exception.

In 1963, the new dreadnought Martin was priced at $350. Even one hundred dollars was a lot of money in the years that the average income was about $40 dollars a week, and before the days of credit cards, B.K. was compelled to have a friend co-sign to guarantee credit.

At the time, Martin guitars were famous for their sound and quality and to back up the extravagant price they were guaranteed for life. B.K. bought the classic Martin at McMurray Music Company in St. Louis Miss. and began traveling through love, life, and music, and settled on Marco Island in 1975.

Thirty-five years later, B.K. visited the fine folks at Martin Guitars in Nazareth, Penn. The old Dreadnought D-18 was in need of some work as the years of use and traveling had taken a toll. The guitar according to the original warranty was guaranteed for life but only with the original receipt or bill-of-sale. After more than 35 years, B.K. did not have the original sales document.

The old dreadnought needed a new neck, fret-board, some minor parts and some refinishing. The bill for the repairs and restoration was almost $1,000, but at the time, B.K. had no way to prove that he was the original owner. He did however, remember the name of McMurray Music Company where he bought the guitar and called the store to ask about a receipt.

The St. Louis music store was still in the same location but had changed ownership several times. According to the current proprietor, providing a copy of the original transaction was just not possible.

With the disheartening information, but also with the name of the McMurray Music Company, B.K. returned to Martin Guitars and told his story. The Martin folks were sympathetic and very helpful. They immediately began to search their records and found that a Dreadnought D-18 with the same serial number as B.K.’s guitar was shipped to the McMurray Music Company in St. Louis in late 1962. That was enough for the folks at Martin and all of the restoration work was done for free; no charge to the original owner!

B.K.’s dreadnought D-18, about 10 years after restoration, is still in great condition and used on a regular basis. Bill Koetting not only sings and plays guitar but he also plays the stand-up bass fiddle in a variety of musical venues. B.K. plays with the Wild Flowers that is a contemporary bluegrass group often appearing in Goodland at the Little Bar, but with B.K.’s amazing talent and seasoned years of experience, it only takes one strum on the old D-18 to understand the meaning of a very special man and his classic guitar.

---

Tom Williams writing has been published in Amsco School Publications; he is a local sailboat Captain and Marriott associate for 28 years. His debut action adventure novel is now under contract and will be published by ArcheBooks in the upcoming year. Tom is available at capttom@marcoislandtoday.com.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features