Monday, January 3, 2011

Mac McAnally: Little Martha

One of the greatest little instrumentals of all time is found on the Allman Brothers’ LP “Eat A Peach.” Recorded just weeks before Duane Allman’s death in October 1971, “Little Martha” is just over two minutes in length and is what Leo Kottke has referred to as “possibly the most perfect guitar song ever written.”

Mac McAnally explains why he had difficulty learning this tune that was recorded in open E tuning (EBEG#BE) as he appeared on the Bob and Tom syndicated radio show.

The guitar Mac is playing is a Resolectric from the National Resophonic Guitar Company. According to National website, the guitar’s specs are as follows:
The current model uses an audiophile-quality Highlander preamp to mix both the magnetic and piezoelectric pickups. A Jason Lollar P-90 pickup sits in the neck position, and a Highlander piezo transducer is fitted under the saddle. The output of each pickup is controlled by independent volume knobs, with a master volume knob to control the instrument's overall output level. A 3-way toggle switch selects which pickups are active. The solid mahogany body is capped with a figured maple top bound in ivoroid. The figured maple neck clears 14 frets to the body, highlighted with a diamond inlaid, rosewood fretboard.

It’s a great sounding guitar that beats the original National Resophonics of the 50s and 60s to pieces. I know as I have one. Mine is from 1958 and I bought it during the summer of 1976 at B&B Loans in Charleston, WV for $85. I love my Resophonic, but alas it not electric and has only 12 frets to the body.

Allman Brothers’ Original

Played by Duane Allman and Dicky Betts, the title “Little Martha” was inspired by a grave at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, GA. It is the same cemetery that provided the inspiration for the Dicky Betts’ tune “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and the same cemetery where Duane Allman and Berry Oakley would be laid to rest.

Little Martha Ellis was one month shy of her 13th birthday when she died in 1836. A full sized statue of the little girl whose name would be immortalized a century and a half later stands watch over her final resting place in Macon.

It appears that the original pedestal for the statue was replaced at some time in the recent past. For more on her grave site, see her Find A Grave memorial.

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