Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
There can be little doubt or discussion concerning the matter; Jimmy Buffett is an American musical icon and, well, a party icon as well. You know you're an icon in music when your fans even have a name for themselves. Jimmy Buffett is just that kind of entertainer, singer, songwriter, and musician.
Martin guitars have always been special. Since their founding in the USA in the year of our lord 1833, C.F. Martin & Company have been the premier acoustic guitar manufacturers not just in the USA, but the entire world. It's little wonder Jimmy Buffett plays a Martin guitar, and it's little wonder his signature series model Martin is one of the more desirable guitars on the market.
I don't think Jimmy Buffett would measure the worth of a man by how much money the man is worth, but if you're wondering how much money Jimmy is worth, well, I have that stat right here for you, and it is approximately $400 million dollars and rising. Jimmy Buffett is a humble guy; he knows he's not even the best singer or guitarist in his own band, but you sure know his name, and likely you don't know their names for some very good reasons. Jimmy just does a lot of very good things better than most other people.
Now were you to ask the question, "what kind of guitar does Jimmy Buffett play?" The most obvious answer would be, "any guitar he wants." Well, Jimmy Buffett has a lot of guitars; most of them are Martin guitars. Jimmy Buffett goes with Martin acoustic guitars like parrot heads go with margaritas, and aren't they all-American classics?
Many Reasons to Love the Martin HD-18JB
There are so very many reasons one should love the Martin HD-18JB that it's hard to know where to start with it all. I guess the major thing is this specific model Martin fills a niche that has been desired by many since the very beginning of production of the legendary C.F. Martin & Company dreadnought guitars. The D-28 and the D-18 were always and are always superb instruments. The thing about it all is, they have very very different types of wood used for the backs and sides.
The D-28 guitars are rosewood body instruments, the D-18 guitars are mahogany body instruments. The 28's cost more, so people mistakenly believe sometime those guitars are "better." Facts are, they were never better than 18' series guitars, and they still aren't better. Rosewood is only more expensive for being less common, and besides that, rosewood is more difficult to shape into a guitar body, so it takes more time and more cost to the manufacturer on two separate fronts to build a 28 series guitar than it does an 18 series guitar. Thing about it all is, the 28's and the 18's sound nothing alike, and a lot of people love the D-18's of this world more than the D-28's of the world.
To cut to the chase, the rosewood guitars, because the wood cost more and was and is harder to shape into a guitar body, those guitars cost more. Rosewood was never a better wood than mahogany, it's just a different wood entirely, and it sounds very different too. Because builders were already spending more time and money on a rosewood guitar, they from the beginning went ahead and made those guitars fancier with more inlay, binding, and even more time spent. Some persons simply prefer the very different sound that mahogany provides, and those persons have often wanted a mahogany 18 style dreadnought available which had all the herringbone trim and abalone inlay the 28 style guitars had. Well, this HD-18 Jimmy Buffett guitar IS THAT instrument so many people have always wanted, the D-18 guitar with all the dressing up the HD-28's have always had.
If you happen to wonder what "HD" denotes in the instrument's model, it means exactly herringbone dreadnought, and so the instrument has herringbone trim, something usually not found on an 18 series mahogany body Martin guitar. That herringbone trim is extremely attractive, and traditionally has ONLY been used on "high X" model Martin guitars, and this Jimmy Buffett D-18 is most certainly an attractive high X model guitar. For counterpoint, the D-28's produced for many years were NOT herringbone trimmed, and neither were they high X braced, and you can still get such guitars today, they are only very different in tonality, and probably will be considered less visually attractive too.
To clear it up further here, D-18's were always "high X" braced instruments in the years when Martin always used that bracing pattern and positioning. The years when Martin wasn't using the high X bracing on D-28's were also the years Martin wasn't using the high X bracing on the D-18's. This Jimmy Buffett D-18 is essentially a D-18 with HD-28 trim and rosette. Other than this guitar, the other signature series D-18 produced by C.F. Martin & Company which serves as a comparison would be the D-18GL. The D-18GL is the Gordon Lightfoot signature series D-18. The reason it has no H in front of its D is the Gordon Lightfoot D-18 has no herringbone trim.
The Martin HD-18JB is one of the finest mahogany body steel-string acoustic guitars ever designed and sold. The only thing which, in my opinion, could possibly make a more fine mahogany body dreadnought would be for this specific model to feature an Adirondack spruce top rather than a Sitka spruce top. This, however, is somewhat debatable.
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The best Sitka soundboards are likely better than medium-grade Adirondack soundboards. No two pieces of wood are ever exactly alike, and for this reason, every single guitar ever made has different tonal characteristics than every other guitar ever made. I'd recommend the person seeking out the single finest Martin D-18 guitars in recent years to look at this Jimmy Buffett guitar, the Gordon Lightfoot guitar, and a Martin D-18GE as well.
The D-18GE features an ever so slightly wider neck than either the Gordon Lightfoot or the Jimmy Buffett D-18's. If any of those three superb instruments doesn't suit you, then you're never going to find something satisfactory. Specifications are as follows:
- Mahogany blocks, traditional dovetail neck joint
- Solid Sitka spruce top
- Standard forward shifted "high X" X bracing, braces made of Sitka spruce
- '45 style rosette
- Solid mahogany back and sides
- Herringbone back purfling
- Grained Ivoroid end piece, back and sides with black/white boltaron inlay
- Grained ivoroid binding
- Solid mahogany neck
- Top inlay is herringbone style
- Bone nut and saddle
- Head plate of solid East Indian rosewood and gold foil decal
- Solid black ebony heelcap
- Solid black ebony fretboard
- Standard 1 and 11/16" neck width at the nut
- Fretboard positioning markers are 42' style inlay
- Jimmy Buffet signature inlay between 19th and 20th frets
- Polish gloss finish on back and sides
- Polish gloss with vintage toner on top
- Satin finish on neck with polished head plate
- Solid black ebony bridge
- Tortoise colored pick guard
- 545 tweed Geib style hard shell case
- Optional electronics
- Interior label signed by Jimmy Buffett
- Left-handed model available - no additional charge
- EVERY Martin guitar comes with a limited lifetime warranty to the original owner.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is the HD18JB available at GC? What should I expect to pay for it?
Answer: I found several dead pages where the guitar being sold was already sold. I found exactly one D-18JB for sale, and the asking price was a bit over seven thousand dollars.
© 2014 Wesman Todd Shaw
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 13, 2019:
Steven, I know what you mean. I used to own a D-18. I miss the thing daily. Hopefully I'll have another some day.
Steven McQueen from La Vernia, TX on June 13, 2019:
My preference is Martin mahogany. I love my 2012 D18 Vintage Series with standard modified v neck. If there’s better than this, for me, I haven’t found it.
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 09, 2014:
True Story! Thank You, Sir!
The Frog Prince from Arlington, TX on March 09, 2014:
Great review. Truth be known Jimmie could probably play a broom and make good music :)
The Frog Prince