SongTown USA: My First Love

My first date with a guitar was on my 11th birthday. I opened a beautiful, electric, brand you never heard of guitar. There was an instant attraction.

I played it until my fingers bled. Sometimes I would take my cheap little amp out on our front porch and blast the neighborhood with my “music.” If the porch was damp at all, touching the strings in a certain way would treat me to an electric shock that would make my whole body numb momentarily. Still, I was “in a relationship” with a guitar for the first time in my life.

As I played and got better, I experimented with different sounds from my amp. Somehow, I could not get the sound I wanted. I tried writing songs on my electric, but something didn’t fit. I couldn’t find MY sound.

One day, I asked my mother to take me to a music store. That’s where I fell in love. I picked up an Ovation 12 string guitar and strummed it. THAT was the sound I had heard on the John Denver records I loved. I went down the row, playing every guitar. I found the sounds I heard on James Taylor records and The Eagle’s records.

I realized that my sound was grounded in acoustic music. It explained why I couldn’t make the music I wanted on an electric guitar. As soon as I could, I traded in my amp and my electric, plus some Christmas money, for an old, beat up Ovation 12 string.

I kept that guitar for years and never changed the strings. I didn’t know how. I struggled to tune it because I had a cheap tuner that didn’t work well. But I LOVED that guitar. It became my voice as I wrote my own songs. It helped define who I was and who I wanted to be.

I moved on to a new Jasmine guitar. That was my weapon of choice when I got my first writing deal. I wrote a lot of songs on that one until finally the headstock broke off. My publisher felt sorry for me and bought me a Taylor 310 that was blemished. It was a part of the first hit song I ever wrote. I played my first songwriter show with it.

The love affair continues. Now, I have lots of choices. Yes, I spread the love around. The Big Baby Taylor, the Taylor 310, a Taylor NS-32 nylon string and a Batson Artist Series P21 are my go-to guitars. Occasionally the ’64 Gibson F-25 comes out of the old fake alligator case.

They are my companions, my business partners and my friends. They fed and clothed the kids. They paid for college. We have travelled many miles together and we have weathered 16 years of the ups and downs of the music business. They are as much a part of the songs I write as the words and the melodies. They provide the foundation on which my songs are built.

If you’ve ever fallen for a guitar, you know. Nothing can take their place. And you never forget your first love. Write on.

Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here:, at and at Twitter @SongTownUSA.

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