The legendary C.F. Martin & Co. might be best known for its big dreadnoughts like the D-28, but before that model was officially added to the stable in 1931 the OOO was the flagship—and if you wanted the top-of-the-line in its most elegant incarnation, the OOO-45 was the way to go. The model was introduced in 1906, but any pre-war example, like the luscious 1930 OOO-45 featured this issue, is an extremely rare bird. Only 21 were built by the Pennsylvania manufacturer in that year, and only 341 of its type have ever been made, making it one of the most collectible vintage Martins.
In Martin nomenclature, the letters at the front of the model name denote the body shape and size, while the number that follows indicates the style level and materials. Rising from the 13 ½” body width of the diminutive Model O (what we’d generally call a “parlor guitar” today) and beyond the 14 1/8” OO, the OOO was a full 15” across its lower bout. The Style 45 delivered it not only with a back, sides, and fretboard of solid Brazilian rosewood (a tonewood achieved once you rose above the mahogany of the Style 18-level instruments), but with Martin’s most elaborate inlays, marquetry, and purfling as well. The result was a guitar that sounded every ounce and inch as glorious as it looked. You could also argue that, while the D-45 is a more commonly seen rendition of the company’s most opulent styling, the beautifully rounded OOO body shape couches all that bling in a more elegant setting.
For many years, C.F. Martin’s showpiece-grade models peaked at the Style 42, which carried an ivory bridge for a time. But in 1904 the Style 45 added a bound headstock with abalone fountain inlay to the existing features on the 1, O, and OO models, and two years later the fancier appointments were offered on the larger OOO. The delicate mother-of-pearl snowflake position-marker inlays on the fretboard are a Martin classic, and note how the abalone purfling that runs within the body binding follows the entire fretboard extension, even cutting into the abalone soundhole rosette. Such luxury isn’t limited to the guitar’s top, either: Flip it over, and you see a multi-colored wood marquetry stripe down the middle that joins the two-piece back of Brazilian rosewood, in addition to more abalone purfling around its edges.
Whether strummed, fingerpicked, or flatpicked, the OOO-45 delivers a sonic elegance to match its appearance, and many players declare the 12-fret model like this one to have a tone even richer and warmer than that of the 14-frets-to-thebody models, which only became available in 1934. Internals features included Martin’s legendary X-brace top support, which allows optimal vibration from the solid Adirondack-spruce top, so it sings sweetly and with rich harmonic complexity. And while the big dreadnought designs might have been just on the horizon, this bounteous OOO-sized body packs more than enough acoustic muscle to get you heard in grand style.
Martin hasn’t offered an authentic reissue-spec OOO-45 for some time, but the OOO-42 Authentic 1939 in their current Authentic & Vintage Series gets pretty darn close—minus the bound headstock and fountain inlay—in a guitar loaded with abalone purfling and rosette, pearl snowflake inlays, and delivering rich, complex tones courtesy of Madagascar rosewood back and sides and an Adirondack spruce top.
> Smaller, rounded “OOO” body shape
> Solid Adirondack spruce top with scalloped spruce braces
> Solid Brazilian rosewood back and sides
> Brazilian rosewood fretboard
> Mother-of-pearl “snowflake” position markers
> Abalone body and headstock inlays
> Inlaid wood marquetry back center stripe