We’re talking about the first guitar he ever played in public. Originally belonging to his great uncle, the 1950’s rockabilly-era jazz guitar was given to Marty Dread by his cousins in New York after his uncle died. Marty then played the electric-acoustic guitar in Hawai’i’s premier talent show, Brown Bags to Stardom, when he was a junior in high school.
Soon after, Marty got a Gibson Les Paul—like the kind Bob Marley played—and retired his vintage Heit to the back of his closet.
Now Marty’s guitar is featured at the Hard Rock Cafe in Lahaina, along with other mementos from artists like Dave Matthews, Maroon 5, Sublime and Velvet Revolver. The autographed Heit guitar is currently mounted, labeled with a wooden plaque and hanging on the wall next to the kitchen door, between Jimmy Buffett’s acoustic guitar and a photo of Bob Marley.
It’s a big deal. And it’s an unprecedented move by the Hard Rock Cafe, who generally feature memorabilia from more nationally known Rock ‘N Roll’s Hall of Famers, Grammy Award winners and MTV-mavens.
Marty Dread—for all his accolades in nearly 20 years of playing music—is the only musician from Hawai’i ever to have something on the wall.
“I don’t think I’ve grasped the full monty of having people walk by and see it and be like, ‘Who’s that guy?’” said Marty. “Hopefully, this will lead the way for other Hawaiian musicians to get stuff on the wall, like Lahaina Grown—this is their hometown.”
The momentous occasion comes at an appropriate time for the prolific Maui entertainer who has filled the Lahaina Hard Rock Cafe’s only regular weekly live music slot for over five years.
His album Next Level was released earlier this month. At the end of the month, Marty embarks on a mainland tour opening for Willie Nelson. And he has two albums coming out July 4: one album he did with a band called Harmonic Tribes, featuring Nelson’s sons, that will be released on Nelson’s Lost Highway label, and another—a duets album called In Good Company—with Willie Nelson, Anthony B., Junior Reid and Fiji.
One of the songs off this album, “No Ice in Paradise”—a track produced by the Mad Professor that addresses the crystal meth problem in Hawai’i—will be featured in an upcoming episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter.
This summer also marks the first time Marty will perform at Jamaica’s annual Reggae Sunsplash—ironically, it will also be the first time Hawai’i’s Reggae Ambassador will set his bare feet on Jamaican soil.
It’s been a banner year for Marty. He admits that the attention now, followed by the high energy and pressures of the next few months, will be a good indicator of where his career goes next and how he handles the next level of notoriety.
“I didn’t think I’d embrace it so much,” he said. “But it’s not gonna be forever so I want to really enjoy it while it lasts. We’ll see, I guess.”
The addition of Marty’s guitar is part of a recent move by Hard Rock to update their stash of historical music goods. In the process, the restaurant’s three well-known, oversized clocks—telling time in New York, London and Maui—were pulled down and gotten rid of. That bothered Marty somewhat, since he now has no idea when to stop on his Monday night gigs.
“I guess I could get a watch but I don’t wanna break up my life into little pieces,” said Marty. “It kinda goes against my fabric! I’d rather let the sun set on my life in its own time.” MTW