The Martin 15 Series of All Mahogany Guitars

The Martin 15 Series

The Martin 15 Series of all-mahogany guitars took some time to get up and running. The first mention of the style was in 1935, when Martin made prototypes of two R-18 archtops and two 0-15 flattops, which, according to the log books, were either birch or maple. In 1940, the style formally entered the catalog with the introduction of the 0-15. Martin made 578 that first year, making it their most popular model by a long shot.

The 0-15 was the plainest guitar Martin ever made and it had no binding, the simplest soundhole rosette, and a thin, satin finish. But the all-mahogany construction sounded very good. It didn’t have the roar and rumble of a rosewood and spruce dreadnought like the D-28, but the 0-15 was balanced sonically and responded well to both fingerpicking and flatpicking.

Martin's catalog, which was almost as plain and unassuming as its least expensive model, had a line of small print at the bottom of the page which read "Many styles but one quality," and that certainly applied to the humble 0-15. A careful examination of the interior bracing of a 1940 0-15 compared to a pearl-bordered D-45 from the same year would reveal that the workmanship was the same, despite the fact that the D-45 cost ten times more.

The 0-15's reputation got a boost when it was adopted by Woody Guthrie, the singer and songwriter who wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in 1940 as well. Guthrie was photographed playing the model, cementing the idea of the small mahogany instrument as a guitar of choice for the Common Man. The 0-15 stayed in the catalog until 1961, when Martin discontinued its all-mahogany guitar models.

The Martin 15 Series returned to the line-up in 1997 with the introduction of the D-15M. The all-mahogany dreadnought was an immediate hit and Martin began introducing new models including OM, 000 and 00 variations. (Oddly, Martin has yet to reintroduce the original 0-15 back into the catalog.) Like the guitars of the 1940s and 1950s, the Martin 15 Series guitars are cosmetically very plain but they pack a sonic wallop. Our favorites are the StreetMaster models, which have a very thin finish that is lightly distressed by buffing through some of the dark stain on the mahogany top. The result is a warm, ready-to-get-to-work tone that would meet with Woody Guthrie's approval as long as you're playing any song that tells it like it is.

Tags: Guitars