ROCK SUPERSTAR COMPOSED, RECORDED, PERFORMED WITH 1965 MARTIN D-35
By Robert Wilonsky
It looks like any other 1965 Martin D-35, more or less. Feels like any other. Plays like any other, which is to say better than most guitars ever made. The pickguard’s been changed out; the neck, dinged by use; the three-piece Brazilian rosewood back cracked a bit by age. But that just means the guitar, among the first D-35s ever made, has character. Experience.
Except this one isn’t like any other 1965 Martin D-35. This one, available in Heritage Auctions’ April 11 guitars and musical instruments auction, you’ve heard; this one, you know.
This one, Bruce Springsteen used on May 2, 1972, when he famously auditioned for talent scout John Hammond at Columbia Records’ New York City offices. This one, Springsteen held the night he played Greenwich Village’s Folk City to show Hammond he could hold an audience. This 1965 Martin D-35, Springsteen used during the recording of his first two records, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, which bookended 1973 and made a national star of the local hero from Freehold, N.J.
“He plays it on ‘It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City,’ ‘Growin’ Up,’ ‘Incident on 57th Street,’ ‘New York City Serenade,’ ‘4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),’” says Bob Spitz, who would know. There were other songs, too. Some released; some, still unheard.
The guitar belonged to Spitz, who was on Springsteen’s first management team in the 1970s. Spitz, who grew up in Redding, Pa., says his parents drove to Gibson’s factory in Nazareth to buy the guitar for the then-exorbitant price tag of $450. In time, others would play that Martin, among them Graham Nash and Phoebe Snow. But every time Spitz held that guitar, or just looked at it, he thought of that scrawny comer from Jersey.
“It brought back a wave of memories and took me right back to the early 1970s,” Spitz says. “We were in New York, and he was staying in my tiny studio apartment on the nights he didn’t go back to Asbury Park. Bruce was in the hammock I had strung across the room. He would have a notebook on one knee and the guitar on the other while he composed. Those are the memories I have.”
And soon, those memories will belong to someone else.
Often played by Bob Dylan in Suze Rotolo’s Greenwich Village apartment, this Martin D-18 was given as a gift to current owner Bob Spitz by Rotolo. Rotolo was Dylan’s girlfriend and appears on the iconic cover photo for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, released in 1963. Spitz is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include Dylan: A Biography and The Beatles: The Biography.
This article appears in the Spring 2021 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine.