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At one point early in his career he did a show in which the guitar was a prop, painted black. Not finished in black, just painted. After the show ended, he took the guitar to a well known shop in NYC to be refinished. He has played it without a pick guard ever since. Martin offered a celebrity model of it at one time.
Just a little...Read in Guitar Player that he gave it to Brownie McGee while both were working in a Broadway show together.
He aquired it, initially, when it was a prop in the movie A Face In The Crowd, where it had been painted black and covered w/ rhinestones...after shooting ended, he rescued it, sanded off the paint and had John D'Angelico refinish it, w/o the pickguard.
Martin Hails Andy Griffith With D-18 Signature Edition
From Mayberry To Matlock, Andy Griffith And His D-18 Have Played Their Parts Well
Andy Griffith, one of America's most beloved actors, comedians and singers, has been a life-long Martin player and enthusiast. His treasured 1956 D-18, in fact, has appeared in several of his movie, stage and television performances, beginning with his film debut in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd.
In that debut role, Andy played "Lonesome Rhodes," a guitar-playing Arkansas rascal who rises from hobo to corrupt media star and king maker. The prop department (who obviously knew and cared nothing about quality guitars) painted a new Martin D-18 completely black and glued sequins spelling out "Lonesome" and "Momma" on its face. After the film was completed, Andy "rescued" the guitar from the movie lot and set out to restore it, carefully removing the sequins and sanding off the black paint to the bare wood (it took him nine days and the loss of the scroll decal and the pickguard in the process). He then took the D-18 to a small guitar shop he'd stumbled upon on New York's lower east side and asked the shop's owner if he could refinish the instrument. The proprietor was none other than John D'Angelico, the legendary archtop builder who refinished the D-18 to its original beauty, but at Andy's request without a pickguard.
This guitar, Serial #148639, has remained Andy's favorite Martin ever since.
In honoring Andy Griffith and his contribution to acoustic, country, gospel and bluegrass music (as well as his classic performances on the Andy Griffith Show, Matlock and many other perennial favorites), Martin is proud to present the Andy Griffith D-18 Signature Edition Model. Based on Andy's 1956 D-18, this magnificent 14-fret Dreadnought combines many of the original mid-'50s design features with rare tonewoods and modern sound/playing enhancements. The back and sides are crafted of quilted mahogany, an extremely scarce and beautiful wood that occurs in only one out of 10,000 mahogany trees. The premium bookmatched top is made of heavily-figured bearclaw Sitka spruce and features the old style D-18 rosette. The forward shifted X-bracing pattern is scalloped to give the guitar a big, powerful Dreadnought voice, with distinct treble and resonant yet balanced bass
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I believe there was a Martin used in Face In The Crowd. It was a D-18 painted black so it would show up better in a b/w film. Maybe later on in the movie he gets a better guitar which is the D-18. He kept the guitar and refinished it and used it on The Andy Griffith Show. The Martin logo on the headstock was removed in the film and was never restored.