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"I'd just stand in front of the mirror with a string around my neck with that guitar and I'd try to look like Elvis."

updated Wed April 4, 2007

1969 D28 Martin guitar of John Prine40 Year Old Martin Tumbles - Breaks Neck

  It wasn't paradise at all when John Prine's 1968 Martin D-28 guitar, that "had never missed a show in 37 years",  took a tumble backstage during the encore of Paradise at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo, MI on Feb 10, 2007. Seeing how upset his guitar guru was ... John shrugged and said "Sh*t Happens, we'll get it fixed. "

  While unravelling the tale, Prine's guitar guru had to stop to compose himself when he got to the "it just snapped right off" part of the story.

  Sources close to the subject have reported that the Martin D-28 is in the "Guitar Hospital" and will soon be as good as new. Standing in for the Martin is Steve Goodman's guitar.

  Oh, and the guitar guru... he's still guru-ing for Prine. If it makes him feel any better - ET: see *notes below:


*The 1968 Martin D-28 has had the back of its neck shaved into a V-shape in the style of Martin Guitars of the 1930's

*John said that his favorite is the Martin that he plays in concerts his other concert guitars are 2 Gibsons.


What John Prine currently plays (2005/2006):
•Acoustic Guitars: 1968 Martin D-28 for fingerpicking. Two Gibson J-200s for rhythm playing, one tuned down a whole step. 1993 Guild JF-100, with Indian rosewood back and sides and Sitka spruce top, for writing at home.
•Strings: Martin phosphor-bronze mediums.
•Pickup: Ten- to 15-year-old Dean Markley ProMag soundhole pickup on the Martin.A big Prine Shrine thanks to Garry Fish, Billy Prine, H.P. Daniels, Carey Driscoll, Ed Wesselhoff, Eric T. and Skip "Don't Ride My Ass" Litz for their help on identifying these guitars ...

John Prine with his restored Silvertone 2005John Prine's first guitar, Kentucky Blue Silvertone Guitar like John Prine'swas a Christmas gift of a 1960 Kentucky Blue Silvertone acoustic with F-holes and a cream heart. Prine says he came back from the Army and his little brother had painted it purple in a Hendrix phase. Luthier Michael "Moses" Scribner  refinished it with a new blue metallic finish. He spent $400 restoring a $35 guitar. (Thanks William Bielby for the  photo of your guitar, (described in "A John Prine Christmas" on his CD of the same name)
From a John Prine Christmas: "Then there was the year that my mom and dad gave me my first guitar. Ah man it was gorgeous, I still got the thing. It was a like aqua blue. Kinda dark aqua blue with a cream colored heart. Was a Silvertone from Montgomery Wards. The model was called Kentucky Blue and man when I saw that sitting under the tree I just couldn't wait. First year so I didn't know how to play it, I'd just stand in front of the mirror with a string around my neck with that guitar and I'd try to look like Elvis. Then my brother Dave taught me a couple of chords, now I'm here in your living room singing and talking to you. It's funny how things work out."


River fest and John's Ernie Ball Music Man Axis John brought out this one in 2001 for his concert tour (I think it was his little big brother Billy's). Music Man is a company the late Leo Fender started after he had sold the Fender Company and wanted to get back in the business. (thanks E.T. for that info!!)  
 2. -  John is holding a Music Man Silhouette, not an Axis that was originally stated here (Eddie Van Halen's original signature guitar). The Silhouette is considered the 3rd generation Fender, following the Stratocaster. They were manufacturer with a swampash body like the telecaster originally, now made in alder, with maple neck and fretboard. Using all the benefits of modern electronics and design that alot of guitars don't, it weighs only 7lbs( half that of a strat which is 14lbs), perfectly balanced for use with a strap, 24-frets for a full range of access, not too mention a sweet tone that is hard to match. Possibly one of the finest guitars currently available, especially for Prine's style. "I might be a little partial owning one myself though. Maybe I should have just given you the short version. Anyways, love the site, thanks stupac aka Stuart" - and a Prine Shrine thanks to you too Stu for correcting my original thought that it was this Music Man Axis

John Prine Collings Guitar

When John appeared at the Library of Congress on March 9, 2005 he posed with his Collings Dreadnaught Acoustic guitar (no model # ?)  that was given to him by a fan. (when the fan gave it to him is yet unknown)

John Prine Fender Stratocaster 1976Fender Stratocaster - 1976 - all stock 
- Here's an informed opinion from Tim Steil   "Looks like a 1976, has a maple neck/big headstock and black pickguard/pickup covers... I think they made one model year with those items standard."
- confirmed by Garry Fish, Prine's guitar tech/tour manager in 1979-1993


John Prine's FerringtonJohn Prine's Ferrington GuitarBlack with a heart and Oh Boy in pearl on it
excerpts taken from "Ferrington Guitars" by Danny Ferrington (1992):

-"...John really plays his guitars hard, and after checking out the wear patterns on his older guitars, I decided to put two pickguards on ..."
-"John's a real whimsical guy, and when I offered to put his name down the fretboard, he told me,  "Nope, put "Oh Boy!" At the time, he'd just started a music publishing company called "Oh Boy!" that was only going to record girl singers... "
-"John's was one of the very first guitars I ever made, and it's broken a few times since I gave it to him. Early on tried to make my guitars ... so that there was no more weight on them than there had to be. But ... because the guitars were so fragile that things tend to break when somebody like John played rough with them. It eventually got to the point where the neck on his guitar was bent so far back on the body that it looked as if he ought to play it with a slide. I got ... it back ... earlier this year (1992?), and I fixed it up and gave it a brand new shiny black finish"...


The Framus John Prine  used while Stationed in Germany picture is of John entertaining the guys in the barracks.
He bought a Gibson Hummingbird and took it to Germany, where the neck got cracked in the process ..... (now the rest of the story)
He bought a "FRAMUS" Acoustic guitar with a little amp...for about $60 as John recollects.
 Chuckles John's little big brother Bill Prine: "Bill Wyman of the Stones played a Framus they make good basses but lousy acoustics! I don't remember what happened to that guitar once John came back from Germany. He  had the Hummingbird repaired and probably sold the Framus....(or something)"  Thanks to H.P. Daniels for clarifying that it was a "Framus" and not "Frambus" as originally printed here.


A Gibson Hummingbird is the first guitar that John Prine bought with his "mailman money"  in approx. 1964-65.  He took to Germany with him in 1966 during his stint in the army. Somewhere either in transit or while in the army the neck had gotten cracked and John shipped it home to be repaired.  In the meantime he bought  "a really terrible off brand electric guitar and amplifier for $60" -see "Framus" for the rest of the story
Gibson J-200 awarded to John PrineSept 14, 2003 at the Americana Music Awards sponsored by Gibson/Baldwin J.D. May, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association presented Prine with a new Custom J-200 Elite from Gibson Gibson J-200 of John PrineGibson J-200
has silver metal tuners
John Prine's Gibson J-200Gibson J-200
natural color tuner buttons or (plastic or ivoroid tuners)
Either a J-100 or J-200. I know it's a Gibson, but it's not quite like the one on the right, John posed for 2005 promo photos with this one - and I'm awaiting any information at this time.


John Prine 1946 Gibson Super 400 guitar1946 Gibson Super 400 arch-top acoustic with F-holes.


John Prine guitarGuild 1979 D-35NT (used to belong to Garry Fish and was used as back-up to the '69 Martin D-28) It had one of the early Dean Markely Pro-Mag pickup's in it (modified by Alan Hamel) and Dean Markley strings on both. John Prine guitars Guild F-40 (probably). Note that Steve Goodman, on the right, is playing what is probably a Martin '000', which now belongs to John. John says he doesn't play it.



1969 D28 Martin guitar of John Prine*The 1968 Martin D-28 has had the back of its neck shaved into a V-shape in the style of Martin Guitars of the 1930's

*John said that his favorite is the Martin that he plays in concerts his other concert guitars are 2 Gibsons.

John Prine's Ovation GuitarLooks like an Ovation body shape and rosette (the area around the soundhole).


John Prine's coondick guitarThis is the Moses-repaired "coondick" guitar that Prine brought out to use when his voice changed after cancer surgery - he used this all stock black strat during the beginning of his 1999 tour, and told a wonderful story along with it. It is the "David Russell Young (Sonoma Ca) he brought back in '72.  It's a big dreadnought with a real thick neck that got broke by the airlines (Luthier Michael "Moses" Scribner repaired and customized it")

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