The Current's Guitar Collection: Mike Doughty, Martin OMC

Mike Doughty
Mike Doughty tunes his Martin OMC guitar before a session in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
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Just before Mike Doughty began a live-to-air session with Bill DeVille, Doughty was working to record a riff on his smartphone — it was an idea he didn't want to let slip away. Moments before the red light switched on, Doughty got the idea recorded and saved in his idea folder.

For someone as prolific as Doughty, saving those ideas is vital, and it's important to have a method for capturing them. Doughty keeps two guitars on stands at home, just so there's always one at the ready if an idea strikes him.

One of those guitars accompanies Doughty on tour, and he recently talked about it, including some of the decals he's applied to personalize the instrument.

Is this a Martin?

Yeah, it's a Martin OMC. I have these stickers that I put over the logo because I thought they were funny. They're like garage sale stickers: ten-cent and one-dollar stickers, and another one that says, "Make offer."

How long have you had this guitar?

I guess I've had this guy five years, maybe six years. I went through three of these guys; this model is just like an off-the-rack guitar, kind of the second-least expensive Martin electric-acoustic.

The first one got busted by airport security; the second one, there was a steam pipe burst in my apartment and it got wrecked from that, so this is the third of those guys, and I don't quite remember when it was when I got it.

Is there a place or a person in New York you tend to go for guitars?

I used to have a guy, but he kind of vanished. I now go to a bunch of people that are just not as good, basically! (laugh)

I don't know where my usual guy is; I don't want to blow up his spot, because maybe terrible things have been happening with him, but I don't know.

Clearly you're touring with this guitar; do you record with it, too?

Yeah — this is the one. It's pretty much been my only guitar until recently. I started bringing out an electric bass and a couple of electric guitars, and I have a banjo, and lately in my show, I've been switching between five guitars. But for years, it was just this guy, just this guitar. I don't think it's not been on tour with me for years. I don't know if I've done a show in the past number of years in which I haven't played it at least for a song or two, so it's been on every tour for however many years I've had it.

And when you're not touring, is this on a stand in your living room?

Yes — when I'm not on tour it's sitting at home. I have another one that I keep out, too; I usually have one on the other side of the house so I don't have to walk too far if I have an idea. But yeah, this is basically the guitar of preference for picking up in the morning and picking out riffs and writing on.

You've got a lot of decals on there. Are you comfortable talking about them?

Sure — on the back, in those mailbox-style adhesive letters, I wrote "Thanks," as in the old Ernest Tubb shtick, where he would write "Thanks" on the back of his guitar and lift it up after his TV show, so it's a reference to that.

On the front — also in mailbox letters — it says, "Im Anfang war das Wort," which is, "In the beginning was the word" in German. I have them arranged in such a way that you can't really read them, it just looks like a jumble of letters.

People are always asking me what it means, and depending on my mood, I'll either just tell them it's a secret code or I'll answer the question. It's a phrase that I find to be one of the most psychedelic in Western culture — "In the beginning was the word" — in other words, existence begins with language.

Resources

Mike Doughty - official site

Martin Guitar

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3 Photos

  • Mike Doughty's guitar stickers
    Mike Doughty used some garage-sale stickers to decorate the machine head on his guitar. "I thought they were funny," Doughty says. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
  • Mike Doughty thanks sticker
    Taking a page from Ernest Tubb, Doughty has "Thanks" on the reverse of his guitar so he can flip it over to show to audiences at the end of shows. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
  • Doughty guitar phrase
    Mike Doughty has encoded one of his favorite phrases on his guitar. In the interview, he describes what it says. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)

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