Fiddler Benny Martin (1928-2001) was a key player in the early years of bluegrass, an old Opry regular, and a fixture on the festival scene throughout the 1960s and '70s, as well as a highly valued Nashville studio musician... He backed greats such as Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe and Don Reno, recording prolifically during the 1950's golden age of bluegrass, and beyond. In the '70s he hung out with hippie-grass pioneer John Hartford, adding some lively fiddling to Hartford's already-eclectic musical stew. In the 1980s, Martin became ill and retired for many years before recording his final two albums with a slew of celebrity guest performers... Here's a quick look at his work.
Benny Martin "Star Of The Grand Ole Opry" (Cowgirlboy, 1994) (LP)
Benny Martin "Just Me And My Fiddle" (BACM, 2010)
Benny Martin "Bluegrass Fiddle: 22 Favorites" (Gusto, 2010)
Benny Martin "Country Music's Sensational Entertainer" (Starday, 1961) (LP)
Benny Martin "Old Time Fiddlin' And Singin' " (Mercury, 1964) (LP)
Benny Martin "Rollin' " (Lamb & Lion, 1974) (LP)
Benny Martin "Southern Bluegrass Fiddle" (Marathon, 1974)
Benny Martin "Tennessee Jubilee" (Flying Fish, 1975)
A touchstone album of the freakadelic wing of the bluegrass revival, with a freewheeling, ecstatic mix of bluegrass, old-timey and retro-country picking and plunking. Fiddler Benny Martin was a key player in the early years of bluegrass, an old Opry regular, and a fixture on the festival scene throughout the 1960s and '70s, as well as a highly valued Nashville studio musician (and recipient of numerous shout-outs from alt-grass oddball John Hartford.) Hartford helps organize and anchor this album, which also features Lester Flatt, who sings on several songs and picks throughout. Banjo and fiddle mix with pedal steel and some wicked guitar, in a dynamic jam session that has a lively, unique feel. Fun stuff!
Benny Martin "The Fiddle Collection" (CMH, 1976)
Benny Martin "... And His Electric Turkeys: Turkey In The Grass" (CMH, 1977) (LP)
Benny Martin "Big Daddy Of The Fiddle And Bow" (CMH, 1979) (LP)
Benny Martin/Pat Burton/John Hartford "Slumberin' On The Cumberland" (Flying Fish, 1999) (LP)
Benny Martin "The Big Tiger Roars Again, Part I" (OMS, 1999)
(Produced by Hugh Moore)
In the early 1980s, Martin developed a degenerative nervous disorder that paralyzed his vocal chords, and while he still sings a bit, the warm, husky voice of his youth has given way to a thicker, gurgling tone that many listeners may find a bit disconcerting. However, his fiddling remains stellar, and working alongside an all-star cast of pals and cohorts such as Vince Gill, Del McCoury, John Hartford, Buck White, Ricky Skaggs and others, Martin has crafted a striking set of late-period recordings. Even more impressive is the fact that all of these songs were written by Martin himself... and they are of a uniformly high calibre! Worth checking out.
Benny Martin "The Big Tiger Roars Again, Part II" (OMS, 2001)
(Produced by Hugh Moore)
Joined once again by a top-flight set of pals -- John Hartford, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Ronnie McCoury, the Reno boys, Buddy Spicher -- you name 'em! -- Martin's fiddling has never been finer. His vocals aren't so great; as mentioned above, age and health problems have slurred his diction and thickened his tone, and, sadly this was his last album -- Martin passed away the same year this album came out. But, man! Just listen to that fiddle sing! A nice coda to a remarkable career.
Hick Music Index