Retrofret Stock # 8014. C. F. Martin D-28 With Bigsby Neck, Made for and owned by Zeke Clements Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1949), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 111453, natural lacquer finish, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, spruce top; maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case. In the late 1940s and early '50s, a number of country music greats including Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, Grady Martin, Joe Maphis, Speedy West, Billy Byrd, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Thompson, Tiny Moore and more had instruments built or modified for them by Paul A. Bigsby of Downey, California. "P.A.", as he was known, worked almost entirely alone running a virtual custom shop for the country scene of the day. As with his contemporary (and friend), Nudie the rodeo tailor, each of Bigsby's creations was custom-designed for an individual artist and each was handcrafted and unique, making authentic Bigsby instruments extremely rare. Some of the players who ordered full instruments or conversions from Bigsby were not as famous or successful, but in each case got an instrument to spur on their dreams, a Cowboy Cadillac of the highest order. With a Nudie suit and a Bigsby, you were as hip and ready for showbiz glory as it was possible to be in that time and place, and the instruments are still redolent with that history. Paul Bigsby is an extremely important figure in 20th century guitar history, contributing heavily to the development of the electric guitar and essentially inventing the modern the pedal steel. He built hot-rod solid body guitars well before Leo Fender but was not interested in commercializing them to any large extent. Instead, the vibrato unit he designed for Merle Travis became widely popular as an add-on accessory in the mid-1950�s and was eventually adopted by Gretsch, Gibson, Guild, Harmony, Magnatone, and Kay as standard equipment on their guitars. It is still a familiar accessory and widely used today.Bigsby was a trained as a patternmaker with a specialty in motorcycle construction, but through his friendship with Travis and steel player Joaquin Murphy became involved with guitars. Around 1947, Travis conceived a solid electric guitar and jokingly asked his cycle-building friend if he could make it. �I can build anything� replied Bigsby, and within a short time had made from scratch the instrument Merle sketched out on scrap paper. Travis� use of this uniquely flashy guitar caused a local sensation and inspired other country musicians to seek out Bigsby for custom jobs. Bigsby would do what the customer required, from a full guitar build to fitting his singular and fantastic-sounding pickups to instruments the player already owned. While Bigsby built only fully electric instruments, he would add custom necks and extra personalized decoration to existing acoustic guitars. His customers were overwhelmingly country & western artists and a Bigsby instrument was a mark of distinction, a status symbol among musicians announcing to the audience-and perhaps more importantly your peers and competitors-you could afford the very best instrument available. This particular guitar is a 1949 Martin D-28 fitted not long after it was made with a custom Bigsby neck for Zeke Clements, a country music journeyman if ever there was one. While Zeke never became a major star, he is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and enjoyed a long and varied career in Country & Western (both, actually -- when that distinction was still extant) spanning many decades, always with a guitar in hand. Singer, guitarist, songwriter, and yodeler Clements was born near Empire, Alabama in 1911, and spent much of his youth learning songs from amateur players in the region. In 1928 he got his professional break joining Otto Gray and his Oklahoma Cowboys, a very well-known touring and vaudeville act of the day (and incidentally major Gibson endorsers!). He appeared on the National Barn Dance, famously broadcast by WLS in Chicago. This led to spots on the WSM Grand Ole Opry in the early 1930's. In 1933, he became a member of Texas Ruby's Bronco Busters. "Zeke Clements & The Bronco Busters" became full members of the Opry in the 1930s. Over the next decade Clements appeared as a singing cowboy in quite a few films, including some of Charles Starrett's B-grade Westerns. During this time, he also was hired by Walt Disney to provide the voice of "Bashful", the yodeling dwarf in the all-time animated classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". This ensured his melodious yodeling would be facelessly enjoyed by generations unaware of his identity!Cartoon fame only goes so far, though, and in 1939 Clements formed "The Western Swing Gang" and was back performing at the Opry. As a songwriter he scored a major country hit with a song entitled (strangely enough!) "Smoke On the Water". This patriotic ode to America's eventual victory in WWII was recorded by an up-and-coming Red Foley in 1944; it went on to become the No.1 Cou
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