Martin GT-70

Martin was an old and well established company when it began flirting with electrified instruments in the late 1950s. Looking to get in on some of the amplified action that Fender, Gibson, Guild, and Gretsch were so enjoying at the time, Martin got with it by simply putting DeArmond pickups into some of its standard acoustics. The resulting D-18E, D-28E, and 00-18E models looked pretty strange with pickups—not to mention those big plastic knobs that the company must have gotten from a local electronics store. But these initial steps paved the way for the development of Martin’s F series thinline archtops (1962 to 1965), as well as the GT-70 and GT-75 models, which came to the fore in 1966 and lasted until 1968.

The GT-70 is a sweet-looking thing with its black lacquer finish, white pickguard, and big, flared headstock, and Martin thoughtfully used an overlay of rosewood on the peghead to bring some woody contrast to the mix. The funky shapes that jump out from the pickup covers and tailpiece are totally off the hook, and the entire perimeter of the guitar is stylishly trimmed in single- and multi-ply binding.

With its slim, 22-fret neck, the GT-70 is a nice player, too. It’s light and well balanced, and, dispite the timid cutaway, you can reach the high notes with no trouble. The Bigsby trem has a very soft action, which is great for working in subtle pitch bends, and the roller-style bridge (which resembles a Gretsch Space Control unit) and polished bone nut help keep the tuning stable. The controls include dual Volume and Tone knobs, along with a toggle on the lower bout for pickup switching.

Not surprisingly, the GT-70 has a good acoustic sound—it is a Martin after all—and the DeArmond pickups (which have adjustable polepieces) steer it in an early rock-and-roll direction when plugged in. These pickups are a little weird, though. For example, when running through the Brilliant channel of a Vox AC30, they sounded way too thin and bright, whereas their response through the amp’s Normal channel was night-and-day more balanced. In this mode, and at lower amp settings, the GT-70 sounded warm and sweet enough for jazz. And with the amp cranked up, this guitar can definitely kick it for blues and rockabilly. Interestingly, the GT’s Volume and Tone knobs only go to 9—and while you’re probably thinking that’s something Nigel Tufnel wouldn’t approve of, the pots actually rotate considerably beyond that mark.

Martin only made some 1,450 GT-70s, and these guitars can now be spotted selling for upwards of $2,000. That’s low for a vintage Martin, however, which makes the GT-70 attractive to players looking to sling something other than a Gibson or a Gretsch, as well as those who simply want to add a radically different kind of Martin to their collection.