we also say farewell to guitar wizard Grady Martin who died on the 3rd
December 2001 aged 72. He had been in poor health for a number of years,
succumbing to congestive heart failure.
17th January 1929 in Marshall County, Tennessee into an impoverished
farming family, it’s hard to know which came first – learning to walk or
picking up the guitar. Which ever it was, by the age of 15 he turned
professional, working at a Nashville radio station, on TV shows, the Grand Ole
Opry and the Ozark Jubilee as well as playing on literally hundreds of studio
recordings from Hank Williams and Elvis Presley through to Bing Crosby. He
belonged to an elite team of Nashville studio musicians which included Chet
Atkins, Hank Garland, Floyd Cramer and Buddy Harmen.
distinctively fluid playing can be heard on Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’,
Marty Robbins’ ‘El Paso’, Johnny Horton’s ‘Honky Tonk Man’
and ‘Battle Of New Orleans’ and some of the finest rockabilly ever
cut with the Johnny Burnette Rock'n'Roll Trio. The list is endless - the cats
Grady worked sessions with reads like a “Who’s Who” of country and
Rock'n'Roll - Buddy Holly, Janis Martin, Lefty Frizell, Merle Haggard, Red
Foley, Conway Twitty.
Grady also signed to Decca as a solo artist in his own right through the 1950s until the mid-sixties where, by all accounts, he cut around 170 titles. 1978 would see him joining Jerry Reed’s band before becoming a part of Willie Nelson’s outfit with whom he would stay for fourteen years until ill health forced him off the road. Grady was honoured at the Ryman Auditorium on April 5th 2000 - although far too ill to attend the tribute concert, the names that were there to pay homage included his old boss Willie Nelson, guitar pickers John Fogerty and Duane Eddy and country stars Vince Gill and Marty Stuart. A giant of Americana has passed.