April 02, 1984 12:00 PM

It’s beat-up and battered and splintered, but it’s priceless. Its sound cannot be duplicated. Perhaps the only guitar in the world that enjoys round-the-clock supervision by guys you had better not mess with, Trigger Jr. belongs to the pope of country music, one Willie Nelson. An acoustic Martin N-20 Classic of rosewood, spruce and ebony that went on the market in early 1969 at $475 retail, Trigger has been Willie’s beloved musical companion for more years than he cares to remember.

“The Baldwin company had given me a guitar with a pickup [a device to electrically amplify a guitar] on it,” Willie says, “but I dropped the Baldwin one day and busted it. So I got Shot Jackson in Nashville to take the Baldwin pickup out of the busted guitar and put it in this Martin Classic. The tone just knocked me out when I first heard it. I’ve tried putting other Baldwin pickups in Martins, but I can’t get an equal sound. Leon Russell was the one who told me that having someone sign your guitar was a nice insurance policy, so I had him autograph mine. Then, as I traveled around, I got everyone to sign it. It’s got as many names as it can handle right now. There’s no pickguard on the Classic because you’re not supposed to use a pick on it. So between the pick and my fingernails, it’s just about worn through. I don’t know what I’d do without Trigger. I think it’ll live as long as I will.”

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