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Merle Haggard is synonymous with great country music. In a career spanning five decades, he has chronicled a world of hard knocks, pain, love and triumph in songs that show a storyteller’s soul. His music reflects a personal integrity unswayed by trends: honest, heartfelt and deeply personal. After 39 chart-topping country hits and more than 70 albums, he continues to build on a legacy virtually unmatched in music, country or otherwise.

Haggard’s appreciation of tradition includes the guitars he plays. Over the years, Martins have taken center stage in his evocative songs, both in the studio and in concert. He particularly likes the unique sound and character of Martin’s 12-fret guitars, so much so that he has had several custom-built. Now Martin returns the compliment by introducing the 000C-28SMH Merle Haggard Signature Edition model, an instrument that speaks volumes about the man it honors.

Born in Bakersfield, California, Merle Haggard fell in love with country music early. He received his first guitar from an older brother when he was 12 years old and taught himself to play by listening to old records. In and out of trouble during much of his youth, an attempted burglary landed Haggard in San Quentin Prison for nearly three years (he would later receive a full pardon from Governor Ronald Reagan). After parole, he returned to Bakersfield, where he eventually was able to quit his day jobs to concentrate on his music.

During three years of singing in clubs in Bakersfield and Las Vegas, Haggard honed his version of the "Bakersfield Sound," a spare, driving, guitar-based country with elements of western swing and blues far different from the lush, heavily produced Nashville style. In 1964, his first recording for tiny Tally Records, "Sing a Sad Song," became a hit, reaching #19 on the country charts. Soon he was writing his own songs, and songs he wrote helped propel him to stardom. In 1966, he had three top ten hits, including his first #1, "The Fugitive," and was voted "Top Male Vocalist" by the Academy of County Music.

With his band, the Strangers, Haggard rewrote country music history, scoring 27 top ten hits in succession. Songs like "Sing Me Back Home," "Mama Tried," "Hungry Eyes," "Okie From Muskogee," "The Fightin’ Side of Me" and "If We Make it Through December" became instant classics. He won a total of six Country Music Association awards and topped those successes with a Grammy in 1984. Duets with Clint Eastwood, George Jones and Willie Nelson became hits in the 1980s. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994.

While the hits have slowed in recent years, Haggard hasn’t. He and his band continue to perform more than 100 shows a year. He has inspired a new generation of country singers, many of whom contributed to two recent tribute albums. Best of all, he continues to write and record great country songs: his "1996" album contains some of his finest work and his latest album, "If I Could Only Fly," has received glowing reviews.

Among Haggard’s musical heroes is Jimmie Rodgers, often called the father of country music. Haggard has paid his respects with an album of Rodgers’ songs, "Same Train, Different Time" and his own song "Blue Yodel No. 13." The Martin 000-28SMH Merle Haggard Signature Edition model reflects their special bond.

The 000C-28SMH showcases the same graceful body style as Jimmie Rodgers’ famed "Blue Yodel" Martin 000-45, only with a cutaway to provide easy access to the upper frets. Premium solid tonewoods contribute to this model’s spectacular good looks. Choice bookmatched Sitka spruce, prized for its full, powerful tone, has been selected for the top. Hand-scalloped braces add to its signature sound. East Indian rosewood back and sides contribute deep, rich timbre and outstanding volume. The rosette features Martin’s Style 45 pearl inlay of colorful abalone. Fine pattern herringbone top trim and grained ivoroid binding complement the light amber, aging toner-tinted top.

Fashioned from genuine mahogany, the modified V-shape, satin-finished neck highlights Martin tradition with its diamond volute and square-slotted, tapered headstock. The polished East Indian rosewood headstock overlay is inlaid with "Blue Yodel No. 13" in mother of pearl, in a style reminiscent of the headstock inlay on Rodgers’ guitar: C.F. Martin & Company is stamped into the back of the headstock, as on early 20th century Martins. Waverly W-16 side-mount nickel tuners are similarly vintage-inspired.

The wide (1 3/4" at the nut), unbound fingerboard of black African ebony is inlaid with Martin’s long pattern diamonds and squares abalone position markers. Merle Haggard’s signature is inlaid between the 19th and 20th frets. The black African belly bridge, and pearl inlaid ebony bridge and end pins, match the handsome fingerboard.

The body of the 000C-28SMH is finished in polished gloss nitrocellulose lacquer. The instrument comes without a pickguard, in the tradition of Martin’s original 12-fret guitars. Each guitar comes with an interior label signed by Merle Haggard and Martin Chairman and CEO C.F. Martin IV, and numbered in sequence. A vintage Geib™ style case protects each instrument. Factory installed electronics and/or a 1935 sunburst finish top may be ordered for at additional cost.

Orders for the 000C-28SMH Merle Haggard Signature Edition model will be accepted by Martin dealers and distributors for a limited time only. The size of the edition plus a list of participating Martin dealers will be posted on the Martin website.

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