Martin Style 20 Mandolin (1930)

MARTIN ENTERED THE MANDOLIN MARKET in 1895 with a line of four bowl-back instruments (G series). In 1898 the series was expanded to include seven models (numbered 1 through 7). In 1914 a line of flat-back mandolins was introduced (styles A through E), but it wasn’t until 1929 that Martin jumped rather belatedly onto the carved-top bandwagon that had worked so well for Gibson. Two models were introduced, style 15 and style 20, both with carved spruce tops and an oval sound hole. The style 20 had two points, much like the Lyon & Healy styles A and B, and highly flamed curly maple back and sides. In 1936 styles 15 and 20 were replaced by the styles 2-15, 2-20 and 2-30, all of which had “f-scrolls,” as Martin called them. The Style 20 was perhaps the most successful in capturing a full sound, and was taken up by Bill Bolick (pictured) of the famous country brother duo, the Blue Sky Boys. All of the carved models were extremely well made, but lacked the cutting power and depth of the Gibsons. Although the 2-15 remained in production until 1964, Martin never made any substantial impression on the mandolin-playing (and buying) public.

Track 5: Mood Indigo
(from Tone Poems CD booklet , used by permission)

Photography by D. Brent Hauseman