I've looked it over on the Martin site again and again and everything about it seems to be just about perfect, from the size and shape to the materials and inlay. It is like most other Martins in terms of understated elegance. Reports on some of the guitar web sites say it sounds just as good as it looks. The closest one to me is up in Lexington at the Music Emporium. I am way over due for a visit to that Mecca of fine guitars but knowing that Jorma was in da' house makes the financial warning bells go off. There is no way on God's Green Earth I can afford that guitar right now. Or maybe ever. Guitar lust is an evil thing!
It did get me to wondering about something else though. How much does a celebrity endorsement affect our buying decisions? Jorma was one of my favorite players back in the Jefferson Airplane days and he continued to be when he went back to all acoustic with Hot Tuna, and he remains one of my top five favorite finger style guitarists. I hope that I'm past the juvenile outlook of wanting to play the same guitar as my heros - I can say with certainty that I am - but there is no doubt that seeing Jorma's name associated with a certain model of guitar caught my eye.
There must be something to this marketing strategy because based on what I saw on the Martin site, they have made or currently make well over 100 "signature model" limited edition guitars. Some people like Laurence Juber have 5 or 6 models with their name on them. Without being a fly on the wall during marketing meetings at Martin I have no way of knowing what value is placed on a name or what the results are in sales. But it must be substantial.
Which leads to another question: do the people whose names are on the instruments really use them? In some cases, yes. The very popular Eric Clapton OM model is what Eric is always seen with when he picks up an acoustic (this is a little cagey on Martin's part though - there are TWO versions of this guitar, one that sells for about $2500 and is made of East Indian rosewood, and one that sells for about $8000 that is made of Madagascar - which one do suppose Slow Hand uses?!?). However, take the beautiful and very rare Merle Haggard OOO. This slot-head, rosewood cutaway is a spectacular instrument and I'm sure the Okie from Muskogee has one or two tucked away in a closet somewhere but if he's not playing his old Telecaster you will always see him banging on a beat up old Gibson J-35. I think Merle's choices are much more common among celebrity guitar players than Eric's.
None of this matters all that much to very many people, I suspect. From the manufacturer's perspective it is an easy and concise way to showcase one of their designs with a variety of features not found on standard models. It's a win in that a special model will be produced in limited numbers and yes, implied exclusivity when someone purchases a celebrity branded guitar. I know this guitar won't turn me into Clapton but hey, Eric and I are at least bonded in terms of what we like in a guitar. This marketing strategy works, without a doubt.
Sometimes the plan backfires though. These days Dave Matthews is inexorably identified with Taylor guitars to the extent that if you asked ANY guitar player to name an artist who uses Taylors, Dave's name would be mentioned first in close to 100% of the cases. However, believe it or not, back about eight years ago Martin had, you guessed it, a Dave Matthews model! Does that mean that Dave suddenly discovered Taylors are better than Martins? Or was there, shall we say, a more pedestrian or practical business reason? Hmmmm......
It's doubtful that Jorma is in my future. I just don't have the money. And besides, I love my quad-O. But lets see...if I just sold those two other Martins and I could pick up another few students next month...... AAARRRGGHHH!!!!!