Joan Baez Guitar Highlights Freeman's Musical Instruments Auction
I think music has the power to transform people, and in doing so, it has the power to transform situations - some large and some small.
- Joan Baez
Every lot that goes up to auction has a story to tell. Freeman's sale of Musical Instruments on November 20 includes a guitar that's story is as captivating as the work of art itself. On its own, the circa 1880 C.F. Martin 0-40 guitar is a thing of beauty. Handsomely crafted, and with a sound that belies its age, the instrument will draw interest from collectors and musicians alike. But this guitar also has a unique tale to tell, during one of the most exciting periods of American music. From 1966-1968, this Martin traveled with legendary folk singer Joan Baez as she used it in performances and recordings across the globe.
Built in c.1880 by C.F. Martin Co. in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the style 40 model was just below Martin’s top of the line Style 42. Engineered with an X-brace above the bridge, the guitar was built with a clear spruce top with inlaid abalone purfling and rosette ring, Brazilian rosewood back and sides with an inlaid wood marquetry arrow pattern back strip, a bound ebony fingerboard and a two-piece cedar neck with a slotted peg head and fine engraved brass tuning gears with beautifully shaped bone knobs.
The tale now skips ahead nearly a century to 1966, when this special guitar was acquired by Joan Saxe of California. A student at the University of California at Berkeley at the time, Saxe was involved in the surging peace movement, and the music of the day that was its soundtrack. During summer music programs her attention was brought to the growing career of Joan Baez, who was then building recognition for both her talents as a musician and work as a peace activist. When Saxe's grandmother asked what she would like for a graduation present, she requested a new guitar, particularly a guitar like the one she had seen Joan Baez playing. So, in 1966 Saxe trekked to noted Luthier Jon Lundberg’s fretted instrument shop, the only one she knew of within walking distance of the campus. The guitar that caught her eye was the Martin 0-40, and when she took it off the wall she found the tone so beautiful that on that day it became hers.
Shortly after acquiring her new guitar, Joan Saxe met Joan Baez while attending her School for the Study of Nonviolence in Carmel Valley, which was at that time meeting in Baez's home. When Saxe noticed a bit of a string rattle in her 0-40, she asked Joan Baez to take a look to see if she could find a solution. As Saxe later recalled the encounter, “I wish I had a photo of the expression on her face when she started playing it. She was mesmerized.” Baez played the guitar and fell in love with its tone. The next day she came back and asked if the two could trade guitars, with assurances to Saxe that if she had misgivings the trade could be reversed.
Over the course of the next three years, Joan Baez traveled and recorded with the Martin 0-40. The instrument is prominently pictured on album covers such as the Japanese release of “David’s Album,” and press photos. It was also featured on extended play recordings released in conjunction with concerts in Japan, France, Spain and Italy. Despite its age and seeming delicacy, the Martin 0-40 toured the world and accompanied Baez’s commanding vocal presence throughout the next three years.
After receiving a certain amount of pressure from her family for trading away her grandmother’s gift, in 1968 Saxe had to explained to Baez that she needed to undo the trade. Good to her word, Baez then bid adieu to the Martin 0-40 and returned it home to its former owner. Saxe has been strumming on this beloved guitar ever since. Now that she is no longer playing, Joan Saxe is offering her guitar at Freeman’s Musical Instrument auction. In the same spirit with which she saw the 0-40 inspire people’s hearts and minds in the hands of Joan Baez, Saxe is confident that the great tone of this guitar will have even more to say in its next adventure.
For more information about the works being offered in the November 20 auction of Musical Instruments, please contact:
Frederick Oster, Consulting Specialist | 215.940.9830 | email@example.com
Whitney Long, Department Administrator | 267.414.1210 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: A C. F. Martin Guitar, Style 0-40, c.1880 used in performances and recordings by Joan Baez 1966-68. Estimate $10,000-15,000.