Luther Kilin Reece traced the origin of the world’s most famous acoustic guitar, and it led him straight to a forgotten Hawaiian virtuoso.
Through his dogged research sifting through archives in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland—notably at C.F. Martin & Co. in Nazareth, Pennsylvania—Reece has uncovered a hidden history. “Mekia Kealakai was the first person to ask Martin to make a jumbo steel-string guitar,” he says. “He was one of only four people at that point that the Martin Guitar Company made a guitar for, and they called it the Kealakai model. Those templates were used to make the first dreadnought guitar, the most imitated and widely used acoustic guitar in the world.”