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A short interview with Jimmy Martin
conducted by Jim Moss 7-27-99:
Part 3 "The Opry" (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 would shout 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 was a REAL
Bluegrass Personality of Colossal Proportions. He was from the old school and
had 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 made 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: Who is in your band now?
Jimmy Martin: David Natz, been with me 11 years. and ahh... Larry Wallace... banjo player. David's a dobro player.
Ronnie Prevette (spelling correction from Amanda Rhodes).
Jim Moss: How do you spell that?
Jimmy Martin: ahh well... I don't know... ok. And bass players we've tried out 9 this year. and ain't a one
of them could play "Sunny Side of the Mountain". Not a one... Nine bass players. Some of em plays
with other groups.
Jim Moss: Well, maybe you should try a standup bass again.
Jimmy Martin: Huh? Well, we've been standup AND Electric.
Jim Moss: Them electric guys have been playing Rock & Roll. They don't know about Bluegrass.
Jimmy Martin: One of em's my son... plays electric bass and don't know his butt from a hole in the ground.
Can't play! If an electric bass, they know how to play it, you can play it in there just the same, but it will show
you up bad. You make a mistake on a dum electric bass it's really going to show you up.
Jim Moss: I have played in Country Swing and Country Western groups... using an electric fiddle... 800 watts
into a stack of Marshall cabinets... and not one of those musicians could begin to figure out the timing in a Bluegrass band.
They are use to waiting for the drum beat, then playing fills. They play between the drum beats. In a Bluegrass
band, all the musicians must work together to create a pulse... they all become, in effect, the drum! They have
to play tight. If the one beats are off the slightest amount, then the band sounds soft, like it has poor rhythm.
And at that point, it does! The musicians in a Bluegrass band must work together to create or replace
the job a drum would perform. I just let them play into a multi track with a finished tune on it and try to keep up.
That way they can argue with themselves about the timing. It can be brutal, but if there is a Bluegrass musician
inside them, it will bring it out. They call this process, well they call the studio "The Humilitron".
Jimmy Martin: I am going to tell you something... You put JD Crow with any group. ANY GROUP!
He'll shine out. Just like a red rose. You put Paul Williams with his mandolin... WITH ANY GROUP
He'll shine out like a red rose. You put Bill Emerson, he'll shine out like a red rose.
Now, I can't name anybody else! That's the three that knows that timing right there.
George Jones, need the guy singing the "race is on" down on Louisiana Hayride? He come in there
just with his guitar......... and do the Hayride show, you follow me? Paul had the mandolin back
there in the dressing room, cut loose and sung that with him? And George said GOD_ why
don't you go out there and sing that with me, Could Yee? Why Paul said Yeeaah.
He just got that mandolin come asked me, I said Shee No! I was standing there watching,
HIT IT PERFECT!
HIT IT PERFECT!
HIT IT PERFECT!
Jim Moss: Right...
Jimmy Martin: And he'll hit it the next time, the same dam way. But these guys!... they either do it
or they don't do it and some of them CAN do it, but they are so lazy they just can't do it everyday.
Jim Moss: Well, do they have other jobs or something? Why are they not concerned with getting
the right sound?
Jimmy Martin: Well, it don't make no difference if they got a job... when they first come with you
they pick good and if they got a job or not got a job. It don't make a man to go on the stage
and pick good if he ain't working! Or if he's a workin it ain't going to hurt him. He ought to be
glad to get away from there and not work. A lot more than what my boys said, its just like
going on a vacation, going with Jimmy. I said, well thank you. Its a job for me boy!
Jim Moss: So the band members play well when they join your band..
Jimmy Martin: Right...
Jim Moss: Then they fall off...
Jimmy Martin: Yeah. I have been talking to them in the last year. Boys your get sounding
worst all the time. You sounded better the first day you worked with me than you do now!
I tell them, boys I can't stay and argue with you and spend all the time on you. We will play
one show pretty good. You play the next one, its so rotten you can't stand to be on the stage.
The only way you can get it, is fire them, get yourself a new one for about six months or a year
and then maybe he'll come in there.
Jim Moss: Who was playing with you at the IBMA.
Jimmy Martin: Larry, but he ain't got the timing that JD's got. If he ain't got it he ain't got it, that's it.
Jim Moss: JD has that cool bluesy sound.
Jimmy Martin: With JD, what you have to do it punch him in the xxx.
Jim Moss: hmm..
Jimmy Martin: Yeah, he's lazy.
Jim Moss: JD plays those great runs...
Jimmy Martin: Yeah, but he don't do that all the time. He may just play rhythm.
I mean, bump, bump, bump, bump.
Jim Moss: Well, let me continue this... I will try to think of more things to ask you.
Jimmy Martin: OK.
Jim Moss: You usually have Vernon Derrick on fiddle.
Jimmy Martin: That is the guy who can get it, but there ain't but one Vernon Derrick and he's Vernon Derrick.
He can't play nobody else's style but mine. That's where he learned. He wasn't worth a doodle of squat
when he come with me. He couldn't pick his xxx. Done messed up in the head. laughs
Jim Moss: Well, he's not playing now is he?
Jimmy Martin: He don't know what he wants to do. He's about my age and age in mind of about 14, 15.
A kids mind. Good little entertainer and twists around a lot.
Jim Moss: This will be great. People will love to hear what you have to say.
Jimmy Martin: On this web site, be sure and put this in there. That I want to help Bean Blossom
Indiana, be one of the greatest festivals in the world. Put this in there, that I said that.
Because Dwight Dillman is a good banjo player and he is a good friend of mine.
And he's want'n to make Bean Blossom big and I would like for it to be big cause I was
with Bill Monroe when he bought Bean Blossom. And now, Dwight Dillman's got it
and Bill Monroe's hall of fame and all. And I would like for that to be the biggest festival
in the world.
And anything I can do to help make it the biggest festival I will do my best.
And I want to thank you, and all the fans, everywhere, for supporting me... and giving me
confidence in myself. And I never will forget all of you. I will never forget you all as long as I live.
Jim Moss: You know I... I need to ask you this. I have a lot of tapes from Bean Blossom
over the years. All the way from 1954 to now. And I guess.. for a long time there.... I had a hard
time finding any Jimmy Martin shows from Bean Blossom in the 50s and 60s.
Jimmy Martin: Ahh, you never did ask me... This would be good to put in there too cause
lotta fans ask me, "Why can't we hear you on the Grand Ole Opry?".
Jim Moss: right...
Jimmy Martin: You ask me that.
Jim Moss: Jimmy, why can't we hear you on the Grand Ole Opry? ha ha ha
Jimmy Martin: laughs... Well, ok ah.. You know when I moved to Nashville,
Barbara was a booking me then. And Bill Monroe called her off and told her
to make me stay in Wheeling, if I moved to Nashville he was going to do everything
in his power against me.
Jim Moss: Why?
Jimmy Martin: Well... Then I done a few spots on the Grand Ole Opry as guest. Then Bob Neon
and the Williming Brothers, I was working through their office, they didn't have enough a power to
get me guest spot on the Grand Ole Opry anymore till Bud Windell got down there. Then I was
guest... and every time I was guest there I'd encore a few times and Bud Windell told me, personally,
that I would be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. That the Opry fans liked the way I entertained
and play Bluegrass music, and I would be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. BUT, some'en had come
up that Mr. Windell did not make me a member. And I did not feel hard at him. I know what
he was up against. I think everybody knows what Mr. Windell was up against. Cause, Roy Acuff
had already told me that Bill told him, that he would resign and quit the Grand Ole Opry it they
let me become a member.
Jim Moss: Really?
Jimmy Martin: You wanna put that on it?
Jim Moss: You want me to?
Jimmy Martin: YEAH!
Jim Moss: Ok...
Jimmy Martin: You asked me...
Jim Moss: Well, I have to say that it hasn't stopped you from becoming a legend, that's for sure.
Jimmy Martin: You make everything that I say in there like I am not trying to put nobody down.
Jim Moss: Well, that will be hard to do.
Jimmy Martin: Yeah, but.... Put this in there too. Me being a member of the Grand Ole Opry
is not gonna help me making money. The people has been good to me and the Opry has not ever
helped me one bit! Sung down there 5 years with Bill Monroe, and done all I could and it was
real hard to make a living back at that time. But now, it's never done nothing for me and if being
a member of the Grand Ole Opry wouldn't help me one bit to doing what I'm a doing.
Jim Moss: You sure you want to say that?
Jimmy Martin: huh?
Jim Moss: Because, if somebody does want to make you a member of the Grand Ole Opry
you might torpedo it.
Jimmy Martin: I'm a just leave it like it is right there.
Jim Moss: Yeah, I think, you know, when it comes to... what you can be judged by is the
average Bluegrass band that learns a bunch of material, a bunch of Bluegrass guys out somewhere
in the United States, they're going to learn a percentage of Jimmy Martin tunes.
Jimmy Martin: Yeah...
Jim Moss: Because they are standards.
Jimmy Martin: Yeah... When I went to Detroit, you put this in there, when I went to Detroit with me
and the Osborne Bros, they told us that that music would not go over. Said, you better lay em down
get you an electric guitar. Well, when me and the Osborne Bros weren't there too long, till we was
number one all over the city. You follow me?
Now I mean number one on juke boxes, radio plays, all over!
Then when we separated, I had JD Crow and Paul Williams, we went and joined the Louisiana Hayride.
And a whole bunch of Bluegrass people had been there and starved out they told me. Said, you've come
to where this music will not go over. I said, why I been hearing that everywhere I go. Don't tell me down here.
Well, when we got through, at the Louisiana Hayride, we encored on every show we did, then they hired
me as a regular. And I stayed there and done good. And ok, then Gene Johnson called me and wanted
me to be a member of Wheeling West Virginia, and told me that my songs was doing good. That he already
had me 15 dates booked... and wanted me to come up there and join the Jamboree.
Now at the Louisiana Hayride, when I went and joined the Louisiana Hayride, I got paid more than union scale.
Which they told me, nobody on the Louisiana Hayride ever got paid anymore than union scale. Well, now
JD Crow and Paul Williams knows that we did get paid more than union scale down there. And I told
Gene Johnson... and I think $11 a man what the paid up there. And I said I will not come for scale.
So I made him pay JD Crow and Paul Williams $25 apiece. You follow me?
They paid me $50. And the last time I played Wheeling West Virginia I got $300... for playing back up there.
They wanted me to come back as a regular. And when I went to Wheeling, they said, were if you come you
are going to starve to death. And there was about 150 people in the audience. Time me and Paul and JD
was at Wheeling Jamboree within six weeks to two months there was standing room only in the whole time
I was there in Wheeling West Virginia. And I had pictures of em standing for blocks out in the street you know...
The got us on a 15 minute show up there each night. And advertised it real big... drawing big crowds
everywhere we went. I mean the people really listened to Wheeling and they told me I'd come there and
starve to death. I said, don't tell me that. They tell me that everywhere I go.
And when I encored down at the Grand Ole Opry with me and my group when I moved here, ah,
String Beans walked up to me said "Son, boy you really tore em up. You went over big. You shouldn't
have done that it may be awhile before your back on here again."
Now be sure and put that on there.
String Beans told me that.
And it was!
And it was awhile.
Jim Moss: But you get on there now don't you? You do go down to the Opry now?
Jimmy Martin: No.
Jim Moss: No?
Jimmy Martin: No...
Jim Moss: Well, your booking a lot, right?
Jimmy Martin: Oh, I'm booking. I'm booking about 20 or 30 shows a year. Something like that.
But I ain't playin much. I ain't gonna play. All I'm gonna do is this, I'm gonna try to play Bean Blossom
once or twice a year and try to help Dwight make Bean Blossom the biggest Bluegrass festival in the world.
And he'll do it too, cause he'll get any entertainer that the people want. He wants to make that park
and he wants to have good shows and everything.
Jim Moss: Yeah, as long as it stays Bluegrass.
Jimmy Martin: Yeah. Well, he put some Country music shows in there too.
Jim Moss: Well, so did Monroe, but I mean in the Bluegrass shows it was Bluegrass.
Jimmy Martin: Yeah, well he has got to have all kinds of shows you know.
To be continued
JIMMY MARTIN INTERVIEWS
Jimmy Martin "Tells It Like It Is!" (Part 1)
Jimmy Martin "Togetherness" (Part 2)
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