Meet the man at the helm
Marty Lanham has been playing and working on musical instruments for over thirty years. In 1972, he moved his family from Northern California to Nashville to pursue his passion for banjos, guitars and music. Music City was a natural place to go. “I was looking for a place to live where music was as much a part of the culture as it was to my life. It was clear to me that playing banjos and guitars, fixing and building them, was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Lanham didn’t know what to expect in Nashville, but knew he could always keep pushing east to his family’s homeplace. His mother’s large and musical family nurtured much of Marty’s cultural development. His grandpa led the church choir, an uncle played mandolin and several aunts played Appalachian gospel music on piano.
But Marty’s talents soon found a home at GTR (later Gruhn) Guitars. He was hired to work the repair shop by office manager Doug Green (a.k.a. “Ranger Doug” of NPR stalwarts Riders in the Sky). He worked at Gruhn’s for eight years, restoring hundreds of instruments and refining his building craft. “Gruhn Guitars is still the place to go to find vintage stringed instruments.”
Although their modesty and self-deprecating humor will never allow them to admit it, Marty and his wife Charmaine were instrumental — so to speak — in Nashville’s burgeoning bluegrass scene in the mid-70s. They helped open the Station Inn, which today is still Mecca for bluegrass fans from all over the world. Marty also picked up a regular gig on the Grand Ole Opry playing banjo with Wilma Lee Cooper from 1980 to 1984.
In addition to his musical reputation, Marty built a name as one of the finest banjo builders around. His clients are luminaries such as Chet Atkins, Earl Scruggs, Marty Stuart, David Grier, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Pat Enright of the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Johnny Cash and Steve Martin — Marty built the Florentine reproduction that Martin played during his stand-up years.
Nashville Guitar Company instruments are just what the name implies – guitars that sound and play like the pre-War classics. Marty uses the highest quality materials to produce custom-built, hand-crafted instruments that will stand the test of time.
Photo: Dan Loftin
- Master Luthier and proprietor, Nashville Guitar Company
- Co-founder of the Station Inn in 1974, the longest running bluegrass venue in Nashville
- Studied the traditional music of the Shetland Isles and its relationship to Bluegrass music; in 1989, Marty toured the UK, playing music venues throughout England and Ireland.
- Mel Bay’s Artist Interview Series Marty Lanham Interview.
- Marty performs regularly with the Dixie Cafe Band. They are regulars on a small radio show called The Sutton Store Old Time Music Hour which can be heard on “Smoking Bluegrass” internet live stream.
- Marty’s clients represent a diverse cross section of music stylists and personalities including country superstar John Anderson, longtime Tonight Show bandleader and guitarist Kevin Eubanks, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Keith Little, and comedian Steve Martin, guitarist David Grier, singer Pat Enright, fiddler Stuart Duncan, and contest champions Rolly Brown and Roy Curry.
- Marty maintains and restores Marty Stuart’s vast acoustic guitar collection.
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: Marty performed major restoration for the museum collection including restoration on the Martin ‘Ditson’ model called “Arkie” and Jimmy Rodgers Weyman guitar.
- Roy Acuff Museum at Opryland, USA: Marty restored historic pieces including Jimmy Rodger’s experimental model Gibson guitar which features an internal sound chamber and four f-holes in addition to the traditional sound hole.
Marty Lanham has been featured in articles in following books and publications:
- The Gibson Super 400 Art of the Fine Guitar, ‘Restoration of a 1939 Super 400N’ Chapter IV, pp. 79-90. Marty’s restoration work is featured in a chapter-long step-by-step pictorial of his major restoration procedures on this guitar which had been suffered severe damage in a flood. Thomas A. Van Hoose, 1991, Miller Freeman publisher.
- Martin Guitars; An Illustrated Celebration of America’s Premier Guitar Maker by Jim Washburn and Richard Johnston. Marty’s restoration of a vintage 10-string Martin is featured. The Martin Guitar Company, 1997.
- Hand Made, Hand Played: The Art & Craft of Contemporary Guitars by Robert Shaw, Lark Books, A Division of Sterling Publishing Co., New York; London.
- Custom Guitars A Complete Guide to Contemporary Handcrafted Guitars, by String Letter Publishing, David Lusterman, Publisher, 2000
- Vintage Guitars: The Instruments, The Players, The Music String Letter Publishing, 2001
- Hunter Museum of Art major exhibition: “Dixie Frets: Luthier’s of the Southeast” Sponsored by the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Joe Wilson, Director; Robert Cogswell, Ph.D., Director of Folk Arts.
- Acoustic Guitar Magazine, featured in multiple issues including the cover photograph and feature story in the March, 2009 issue.
- Bluegrass Unlimited, multiple issues.
- Banjo Newsletter, multiple issues.
- The Luthiers’ Art; Healdsburg Guitar Makers Festival Catalog,1996
- The Luthier’s Art, Healdsburg Guitar Maker’s Festival Catalog,1997
- The Luthier’s Art, Healdsburg Guitar Maker’s Festival Catalog, 2001
Workshops / Seminars / Presentations
- Produced and conducted workshops at Belmont University for the Nashville Bluegrass Music Association. Workshops featured Marty Stuart, Jesse McReynolds, Roland White, Alan Munde, Marty and others as instructors in 1984
- Nashville Guitar College, 2004: Marty produced a three-day guitar event featuring Nashville guitar virtuosos conducting workshops and performances. Instructors included Brian Sutton, Cody Kilby, Richard Smith, Robert Bowlin and other acoustic notables
- London College of Furniture, Lutherie Department: Master luthier’s seminar on instrument making from Baroque times to present with particular emphasis on 18th Century European woodworking techniques
- Healdsburg Guitar Festival
- ASIA Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans, symposium presenter
- International Bluegrass Music Association, workshop and seminars
Audio / Video
- Accutab DVD “Marty Lanham: Get to Know Your Acoustic Guitar”
- “Name Our Daughter Tennessee” CD album, Marty Lanham and the Dixie Cafe Band (2011)
Work with Bands
- Marty Lanham and the Dixie Cafe Band
- Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper
- Wilma Lee Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan, on the Grand Ole Opry and the road
- Styx River Ferry, San Francisco
- Buck White and the Whites
- Vassar Clements
- Benny Martin
- Original Station Inn Band