The Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale Discusses His New Martin Signature Acoustic

The Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale takes us behind the scenes of his new signature Martin.
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Kenneth Pattengale with his 1955 Martin 0-15 (serial #144667), performing at Take Root Festival 2013 at De Oosterport, in Groningen, Netherlands, on September 14, 2013.

Kenneth Pattengale with his 1955 Martin 0-15 (serial #144667), performing at Take Root Festival 2013 at De Oosterport, in Groningen, Netherlands, on September 14, 2013.

At the end of an interview that ran in the Holiday 2018 issue of Guitar Player, the Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale promised a new Martin signature was on the way. That promise has come to fruition in the form of the Pattengale Special Custom Signature Guitar. It is available only via Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, Tennessee, at a price of $2,150. Pattengale provides the following details.

What was the overriding design goal for the Pattengale Special?

My goal was to have a single 0 body-style guitar built entirely in Martin’s Nazareth, PA factory made with real woods and all of the essential quality components to achieving a top-shelf sound, at an end cost of around two grand out the door. It took about four years working closely with George Gruhn at Gruhn Guitars and Fred Greene, who is VP of Product at Martin, to accomplish what we set out to do. It’s actually built in the custom shop, but doesn’t cost a custom-shop price. The idea was not to replicate the 1955 Martin 0-15 (serial #144667) that I play with the Milk Carton Kids, although we did model the vintage C-shaped neck of the Pattengale Special after its neck. We wanted to create something akin to the purpose that the original instrument served when it was manufactured, which was essentially to be a workingman’s guitar or a student model with all the quality of a real Martin and none of the frills such as fancy appointments that drive up the cost. George’s expert consultation was crucial in making decisions about design elements. 

Can you cite some examples?

We decided that traditional X-bracing was absolutely essential to the vintage tone we wanted. On the other hand, going with a simple dovetail joint rather than a compound dovetail joint at the neck was necessary keep the cost down, and not deemed so tonally essential as to keep the project from moving forward. 

Joey Ryan (left) and Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids backstage during the Bluegrass Situation's showcase at the Americana Music Festival on September 18, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Joey Ryan (left) and Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids backstage during the Bluegrass Situation's showcase at the Americana Music Festival on September 18, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Can you shed some insight on the woods?

Although a vintage 0-15 is all mahogany including the top, my signature model has a torrified Adirondack spruce top with a dark stain. That’s technically an upgrade, although I understand why some may see it as a concession. The backstory on that would take a long time to tell, but the point is that it’s simply a different beast. I have around 65 vintage guitars, and many of them have spruce tops. Spruce delivers more high-end sparkle with more overtones compared to mahogany, which is more fundamental and beautifully balanced. There’s no substitute for wood that’s aged naturally over time, but torrified spruce sounds more like a vintage guitar when it’s brand new. My hope is that when a player that buys my signature model takes it out of the case in 50 or 60 years, the wood will have aged as gracefully and sound as wonderful as vintage Martins from the 1900s do now. 

Does your name actually appear anywhere on the instrument?

I didn’t put my name or signature anywhere on the guitar because I want it to stand on its own merits as an instrument, and I believe it does exactly that. I’m extremely happy with it, and very thankful to George Gruhn and to Martin Guitars for the opportunity and the association. 

CONTACT martinguitar.com

PRICE $2,150 direct

MODEL Pattengale Special

BODY STYLE Single 0 

NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", bone

NECK Mahogany with vintage “C” shape

FRETBOARD Indian Rosewood, 24.9" scale

FRETS 20

TUNERS Grover vintage-style

BODY Genuine mahogany back and sides, torrified Adirondack spruce top w/ custom dark stain

BRIDGE Rosewood with bone saddle

FACTORY STRINGS Martin Authentic Acoustic 

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