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A short interview with Jimmy Martin
conducted by Jim Moss 7-27-99:
Part 2 "Togetherness" (more to follow)
Please understand that Jimmy Martin is a larger than life personality, a fact that
is apparent from the minute he picks up the phone. Jimmy Martin shouts all of
his words at you. It is somewhat like interviewing Foghorn Leghorn. I called
Jimmy in the early morning before he had a chance to get involved with
anything... around the house... like chores.. I think Jimmy Martin is a REAL
Bluegrass Personality of Colossal Proportions. He is from the old school and
has no problem speaking his point of view. Although I felt that at any point
Jimmy could have become angry with my questions, I was constantly aware
that I was talking to the person who had created much of the hardest sounding
Bluegrass ever written. This is a guy who makes no compromises.
I have found something interesting happening. Some people, upon their first
reading of this interview, reacted to things that they thought Jimmy had
said, but had not. This is quite interesting. JM
permission to reprint this is granted by owner, each part must presented
in its entirety with the "by line" and URL "www.candlewater.com"
Jim Moss: but when you look at video tapes
of the Opry back in 1957.. Monroe
is there and a lot of other country acts are there.. and most of them are playing
acoustic instruments.. Much of it sounds pretty much like Bluegrass.
Jimmy Martin: Well it didn't sound like Bluegrass
of Bill Monroe's. Bill Monroe's
sound so much different from the rest of them down there at that Opry its pitiful.
Jim Moss: Well.. what I mean is...
Jimmy Martin: I'm tellin you he did now.
Roy Acuff and them never had no bands
come close to it!
Jim Moss: But the harmonies... and all acoustic guitars..
Jimmy Martin: Hell no! Hell no, not the
harmony either. Not with them Bluegrass Quartets
and all that...
Jim Moss: Well.. not quartets.. but the duets and some trios...
Jimmy Martin: Now..! Now wait just a minute...
The duets... Delmore Brothers and
stuff like that, the duets was not even close to Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe. I'm just
telling you now.. It's different! That's the reason why its stuck so long.
Jim Moss: Right..
Jimmy Martin: You ain't gonna get me to go along with that now!
Jim Moss: OK.. ha ha
Jimmy Martin: No Sir! Nothing would
touch Bill M.. Well, lets make it the other way...
Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Chubby Wise, Cedric Rainwater... AND BILL MONROE!
That's it right there. There was nothing on the Opry that would touch that. You can put
that in your COM. Pop it right in there that I said that.
Jim Moss: I will, I will... You know on your
Jimmy Martin: Hey! Don't give... Don't
give... Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs
and all of them the greatest... put this in there... that I said too... or you can say it...
That Jimmy Martin and JD Crowe... Paul Williams..
had one of the best bluegrass band that
ever hit this country.
Jim Moss: That's for sure!
Jimmy Martin: Now you can put that on there can't you?
Jim Moss: Well I believe it! That band was
hot! A killer band and everyone should know it.
I'd like to make a...
Jimmy Martin: I'll tell you another thing!
Jim Moss: Yeah..
Jimmy Martin: You can put that I said this right
That me and Bob and Sonny.. the Osborne Brothers had one of the greatest trios and
the greatest bluegrass band in the business.
Jim Moss: Now are you on the....
Jimmy Martin: Tell em Jimmy Martin said that.
It was hard to beat me and Bob and Sonny
with banjo, mandolin, and guitar and our singing together. Put it like I said it right there.
Jim Moss: all right...
Jimmy Martin: That Jimmy.. Jimmy Martin
said it was hard to beat. And I ain't heard
nobody come up with it yet.
Jimmy Martin: Me and Paul Williams, Bill Emerson..,
Herk Hazerd (?), and Lois Johnson.
We played the Golden Nugget for 2 weeks and they wanted us to come back as regulars...
and put it like this... and Jimmy Martin said it was too rough playing out there in Vegas
cause its too hard... ahh.. We had to play six shows a night... and I didn't go for that.
Jim Moss: Ah hah.. They made you do that too?
Jimmy Martin: Yeah, but they wanted us as regulars.
We had big crowds. That was one of
the best groups that I ever had.
Jim Moss: Now who was Lois Johnso...
Jimmy Martin: Now let me come back now... and
say.... that me and Bob and Sonny
as far as guitar, mandolin.. and banjo.. and our trio... was as close together and as good
as any trio that you'd ever put in bluegrass music.
Jim Moss: Ok...
Jimmy Martin: We gonna give you something good to put on that web site...
Jim Moss: You bet! and I have got plenty of room
too.. and I like to make it
informal and conversational.... and..
Jimmy Martin: and I'll tell you another thing.
Jim Moss: ah huh..
Jimmy Martin: Tell you another thing you can always
say. One of my closest
friends... that has always been nice to me... as a bluegrass entertainer...
that I highly respect... very much and count him my friend... is Ralph Stanley.
Jim Moss: Ah Huh!?
Jimmy Martin: Ralph is.. Ralph is..
Put it like this.. Ralph is always spoke to me
and asked me "How you doing Jimmy". Me and him... Me and him... ahh... I think
the world of Ralph Stanley.
Jim Moss: Well, Jimmy lets talk a little about
the harmony and how you built the harmony
stacks up in the various bands. It seems like when you were with the Osborne Brothers...
Jimmy Martin: Well! When we was the Osborne
Brothers.. We'll put it like this in there...
When the Osborne Brothers was with me!.. or we were together... ahh... (...edit...)
We rehearsed every Tuesday and Thursday... from one o'clock in the day to about five.
Showin' them the parts and getting everything down... good and tight so we could record...
cause I was already offered a contract with Decca Records and RCA Victor Records.
I needed somebody that could sing and play with me... and me and the Osborne Brothers
went together and we started rehearsing... every... every Tuesday and Thursday... from
about one o'clock in the day to four.. five in the evening... 'til we got it down real good.
Course we played every Friday night an hour's TV show on CKLW TV in Winsor, Canada.
We played a barn dance show there and WJR Barn Dance in Detroit... every Saturday night.
So we was gettin plentya rehearsing and plentya pickin.
Jim Moss: Now you were driving around in a...
Frank Wakefield said that when he was
with you that you drove around in a Cadillac.
Jimmy Martin: Yeah, we drove around in a Cadillac
with Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers
wrote on the side of it. He told you that didn't he?
Jim Moss: Yeah...
Jimmy Martin: Yeah.. You can put this
in there... I did rehearse the Osborne Brothers a lot
and it was... it showed that it was doing good cause we had it down.. what.. If is anything
ever perfect, me and Bob and Sonny had it down like that.
Jim Moss: Now the Osborne Brothers are famous
for that more modern style of stacking the
harmonies up... right?.. where they take the ...
Jimmy Martin: That is cause Bob had a high voice
and he can get up there higher than
anybody and sound good.. and I heard him on Wheeling one night sing ah.. "Once More
To Be With You"? and they were talkin to me. and I said boys.. You put this in there too.
I said boys! You got a style of your own... for the Osborne Brothers... If you'll just
hold to your trios... like you've got it... Bob singing that high... high harmony. I said, you
got ah.. something for bluegrass that nobody else has got. And they went ahead and did it.
Jim Moss: ah huh.. but you weren't doing anything like that when you were with them?
Jimmy Martin: No, I wasn't doing anywhere like
that. Well... I just done the style that..
the way I done it. That's the way we was doing it then, but they went up there and
when they got that "Once More To Be With You"... ah really... where the style really
come from... is The Browns.
Jim Moss: The Browns?
Jimmy Martin: That's where the style come from.
Jim Moss: Who where The Browns?
Jimmy Martin: The Browns kinda sings on that order
too, you know what I'm saying?
Jim Ed, Maxine, Bonnie. So you put that in there. That's where the Osbornes and
them kinda sounds a little alike, only Bob has got that real high voice and handles it
good.. you know.. and Sonny is one of the best baritone singers as has ever hit bluegrass.
You can put that in there if you want too.
Jim Moss: I will...
Jimmy Martin: Sonny Osborne is one of the best...
and got a best voice... to sing baritone...
can really sing it high or low, it don't make no difference.
Jim Moss: Ah huh.. Well you guys had a pretty good edge with Paul Williams...
Jimmy Martin: Oh yeah..
Well now, me and Paul Williams and JD Crowe... as far as the
style... we were together longer... and got more popular... and my records got up highly
in the charts... and as far as selling records... ahhhh.... anybody that I've ever recorded
with... has not even come close.. to compare.. the group of me and Paul Williams
and JD Crowe. Nobody has ever... otherwords.. been with me... and helped me even
get the name that peoples still talk about JD Crowe and Paul Williams everywhere I go.
Jim Moss: Yeah, it was a killer band.
Jimmy Martin: You can put an album of me and Paul
and JD with our pictures on it
with everybody that I've ever played with and put theirs on the table... and everybody
I played with... and they will still take Paul Williams and JD Crowe... thats who they like.
Jim Moss: And it's funny, JD don't really play that way anymore.
Jimmy Martin: Well.. Tell you why he can't
play that way anymore because... you can put
this in there... Reason why JD don't play that way because he aint got nobody to play with
him that way. I've answered your question, right there.
The reason why JD don't play that way because
he aint got nobody to play that kind
of timing with. You hear what I say? Put that in there! He got nobody that can
play that timing that me and Paul Williams played with him. And I haven't had nobody
that can play that timing since I lost Paul and JD. Put that in there too...
But now the Osborne Brothers... do this
now... when your talkin about the Osbornes
put this in there... Now the Osborne Brothers had that timing. And they still got it.
Jim Moss: Well now.. the timing.. you had an acoustical bass back then right?
Jimmy Martin: Yep!
Jim Moss: You have an electric bass now don't you?
Jimmy Martin: Yeah, but.. ah.. electric bass don't have nothin to do with timing.
Jim Moss: Has a lot to do with timing..
Jimmy Martin: No.. not if you play timing...
Jim Moss: the electric bass resolves different...
Jimmy Martin: Noooo.. put it in there.. let me explain this right here.
Jim Moss: ahh.. alright...
Jimmy Martin: Electric bass has nothing to do
with the timing. Its the man that's
a hold of that thing. That's it right there. Now if he.. If the electric bass is in there...
and he aint got enough professional about him.. and turns it up too loud.. well hell he
don't know how to play.
Jim Moss: Well you know the sustain...
Jimmy Martin: Ahh, he don't know how to play!
he'd turn it down. Your suppose to
blend the music. The bass ain't spose to be too loud, nether is the fiddle nether is the banjo.
Its all spose to be together. But most of these places, all you can hear is electric bass
cause it's four five times too loud.
Jim Moss: but what about the...
Jimmy Martin: if he can play it... and turn it
down... like a man should.. it will work.
Yeah hear what I'm saying?
Jim Moss: I hear you.. but ... Jimmy..
Jimmy Martin: It will work, but he won't work
if its five times too loud!
Now put this in there.. A banjo five times too loud!.. ain't gonna work. \
a mandolin five times too loud ain't gonna work. And! the bass five times
too loud is not going to work... Its got to blend and work together!!!
Your music's got to blend just like the harmonies. If you get the harmony
and the guys blends the harmony you got the same thing in the music.
JD Crowe and Paul Williams.. played the same instrument just as loud
as the other. When Paul come in on the mandolin, get up to the microphone
his mandolin break was just as loud as JD's. And we had one microphone
and the banjo when I'd step in and sing.. the banjo was playing loud enough
he'd come over the air, just like it was mixed.
Now a days, you have a weak banjo player, they
turn up his mic up but
he's weak! And he'll miss a lick and he'll hit a lick.. miss a lick, And you
can't do that, it won't come out! It's got to go back to what I's saying
its all got to be in there together.
Jim Moss: Now can I ask you specifically.. a question...
What is it that is missing
out of the rhythm that you find in ....
Jimmy Martin: All of it!! All of it!!
Jim Moss: All of it....
Jimmy Martin: Every guy I've got! don't
know the timing like JD Crowe and Paul does it.
They may do it, but they don't do it when they hit the stage. and it shows.. and the people
knows.. and the people tells me... they just ain't done it. Then when I go on stage with
JD or someone like that.. Jesus Christ.. how good you sound!
Jim Moss: Yeah, you guys sound good at Bean Blossom..
Jimmy Martin: Well, because JD was up there.
Doyle Lawson done pretty good.
You will have to go along too.. that Audie Blaylock song "This World Is Not My Home"
didn't do bad. Did you like his singing? huh??
Jim Moss: Yeah... Now let me ask you
a question... if I can remember it..
It seems to me that your rhythm, it's different than most bluegrass rhythms..
Jimmy Martin: My rhythm that I play on my guitar?
Jim Moss: yes..
Jimmy Martin: There is no rhythm like it.
Jim Moss: but I am talking about the band rhythm...
Jimmy Martin: That's where the problem is... that
they think they can play with
me, but my rhythm is absolutely different than anybody in bluegrass.. Like Bill Yates said
one time.. I've got a rumble rhythm kinda like a drum lick.
Jim Moss: It kinda prances..
Jimmy Martin: yeah.. yeah.
Jim Moss: Sort of like Rock-a-billy...
Jimmy Martin: There you go! There you go..
its got something in it. Its not just playing
the same old thing. I learnt that rhythm from listen to drums and from listening to timing.
I can hear the difference in Earl Scrugg's timing on Lester Flatt and him when they were
together... as much a difference as daylight and dark. And the closest to him.. the closest
to Earl Scrugg's pickin.. as far as the roll... is JD Crowe and Sonny Osborne.
If you notice... both of them has been with Jimmy
Martin. OK.. and I don't say copy Earl,
you don't have to copy Earl playing, but don't play it every way... you got in timing.
You got the timing .. Earl Scruggs got the timing. And when Lester sings.. that banjo
is in timing with Lester's voice. It's right in there.
Jim Moss: Yeah the 1954 version of that band was tight.
Jimmy Martin: There ain't a band as tight right
now.. There ain't a band like me
and the Osborne Brothers were tight.. like me and JD Crowe and Paul Williams was
tight. Bill Emerson, that group was tight. other words... but I kept it tight...and we
lived in the same town together.. we traveled together. Now we don't travel together,
there's no family, no nuthing... just separated.
Put this in there... The artist his band
and everything are separated... its no togetherness.
And how can you play music together when your band is not with you... not nothing together.
Jim Moss: Makes sense...
Jimmy Martin: I bet yeah I don't say 15 words....
15 words to neither one of my band
in ten summers. and that's negotiating with them. They don't have nothing to say to me...
or nothing. They sitting around waiting till they get their money! When they get their
money there gone. And when they come up to a festival, I'm sitting on the bus... sitting
there by myself. neither one of my bands is sitting there talking to me. Now use to be
we'd talk together. And visit together... be together... but there is no togetherness anymore.
Jim Moss: Well, what do you think causes that?
Jimmy Martin: There ain't nothing you can do about
it. What's causing everything in the
United States? Its all separated! Families are not together.. the bands are not together...
You get on one of your musicians and say, "Man, you got to try a little bit harder, make this
show better". He'll quit! Makes no difference how much your paying him a day, he'll quit.
He'll go to work for somebody else cheaper.
If there is anything I hate to do..
Put this in there somewhere....
If there is anything I hate to do.. is play bluegrass and sound bad.
I want to push bluegrass, all I can.. and I give
it all I got... every time I'm ever
on the stage... to make it sound good... cause so many people
are trying to throw off on it. "I just don't like bluegrass..." this that and the other...
and well.. I don't like the way a lot of it's played either. I don't like the way I
sound a lot of times.. but I'm a doin my best. and my band is not a doin their best.
Jim Moss: Do you still do your songs in the same keys as your records?
Jimmy Martin: Yes... well, I'd like to..
a lot of my songs I don't do because my band
don't know it. and if they do.. sometimes starting on a new song.. just be playing it back
stage, lord I say, you all doing that so good, lets get out there and do that one..
They will do that one perfect. Then they get on one they been doing for the last eight
years and they can't do anything with it. Now, they could if they try, couldn't they?
Ok.. what it is they are not puttin their heart in it, are they? yeah see.
Jim Moss: Do they play in other bands too?
Jimmy Martin: Huh? Well, they just get around and jam. ya know? just get around
and jam... just play everybody. Everybody say "Man what a good banjo player you are",
then you go on stage and miss and hit.
Well, I'll tell you what... In the bus..
put this in down.. all I hear is I'm gonna go back
and get in the bed and sleep. I sit up with the driver. I SIT UP! WITH THE DRIVER!
They go to bed! I SIT UP WITH THE DRIVER! Do you think that's right?
Jim Moss: You should be working out harmonies..
Jimmy Martin: Snoring harmonies... in the bunk..
Jim Moss: Can I put that in there?
Jimmy Martin: yeah, SURE! Today on
the bus, snore harmony.. and most of them
are not even on the bus. They bring their own car and meet me at the festival.
We do not rehearse together... We do not sing together 'til we go on the stage.
To be continued
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