Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Famous scratches on the back of a Martin D 18 guitar

I have been racking my brain for the last week or so trying to figure out what I'm going to write for the column today. For the life of me I couldn't dredge up a story about my musical adventure from the past until this evening, Wednesday, June 25. Sometimes stories come to mind from the most unexpected places like this one I'm about to recount to all of you.I was setting in my chair tonight trying to think of what to write when I glanced at the large photograph of Vern and Ray on the wall in front of me. Unconsciously I thought to myself,I wonder if Ray ever had the back of that Martin D 18 refinished to get rid of all the scratches? Voilą! There is my story! . So, with all the haste I could muster I fired up the old computater, and composed today's message for all you folks, as good as I could reckymember it.

Now when it comes to instruments, especially guitars, there are scratches of the ordinary kind, and then there are what is known as "famous scratches". I will get to the famous part in a little bit but first, some country music history.

Back in the middle to late 1950s, my buddy Ray Park had a country music television show on Channel 13 in Stockton, California that aired every Saturday afternoon around three o'clock. In all the years that program aired, I don't think I missed but two or three shows. Ray had an absolutely killer country band back then,and he usually featured a musical guest that was well-known in the area, or Central Valley of California. Maybe once or twice a year, a nationally known artist would stop by Ray's show to plug a local appearance. I will never forget the Saturday afternoon in late summer of 1957 when I turned the TV on at work to watch Ray's country music show. At the time I was working at Stockton state hospital as a psychiatric technician. We had a TV in a large dayroom for the patient's to watch, and right after I signed at 2:30 that afternoon, I headed for the dayroom to watch the show.

I switched that TV to channel 13 and got it all adjusted for the best reception. Right after the theme song was over, Ray announced; folks we have a special treat today, none other than the country music star Johnny Cash is with us here today to do a couple of numbers, and promote a local appearance. Man, what a surprise!! This was back when Johnny Cash was the biggest thing going in country music and he dominated all the music charts. If I remember right he started off with his smash hit "Folsom Prison Blues", then sang a couple of other numbers later in the program. As I watched the program I thought to myself, gee he plays a Martin just like Ray does, not knowing that he was playing Ray's Martin D 18 guitar. Fast forward 15 or 16 years.

I can't remember exactly where we were when this happened, but I think we were at Vern's house one Saturday afternoon playing music. It was just Vern, Ray and myself.. Ray was playing the fiddle, and I was playing rhythm guitar for them. Between songs, I got to looking at the back of Ray's D 18 Martin. I said Ray, how in the hell did you scratch this thing up this bad? Ray said, JD, those are some mighty famous scratches on that guitar, Johnny Cash, put them there, back in 1957. WOW, the lights went on in my brain immediately!!!

I said Ray, I seen him on TV when he was playing your guitar that day! .I thought that was his guitar! . I didn't know it was yours. Yep said Ray, them are some mighty famous scratches. At the time, I wanted to kill him for doing it, but looking back, I love him for it. There ain't too many people who can brag the fact that Johnny Cash scratched up their guitar.

And that, my friends, is the true story of how the back of Ray Parks, Martin, D 18 guitar got all scratched up, when two,very talented, country boys from Arkansas happened to meet in Stockton, California back in 1957.

Posted:  6/26/2014

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