Benny Martin

The National Fiddler Hall of Fame



Benny Martin

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Benny Martin (May 8, 1928 - March 13, 2001) Born in Sparta, Tennessee in White County, his father and two of his sisters played music professionally. From childhood, he learned the fiddle taught to him by Carl Alverson, Sr., of Sparta and ukulele, as well as the guitar and in his early teens left home to go to Nashville to pursue a full-time career as a country musician.

Martin was working at radio station WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee in 1948 when he was asked to replace Bill Monroe's fiddler Chubby Wise who was going to leave the Bluegrass Boys.[1] In 1949, he became a member of Don Reno's Tennessee Cutups. For the next seventeen years, until December 1966, Don Reno and Martin performed on and off together.[2] In 1950, Martin joined Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys on the Grand Ole Opry, staying with the group until the fall of 1951. During 1951, Martin appeared on all 20 songs at Roy Acuff's last three recording sessions for Columbia Records, playing fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo. In 1952, he joined Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys cutting eight songs.[3] On these recordings he played with a bluesy and jazzy flavour that complemented Scruggs' playing.[4] Following a tenure with Johnnie and Jack and the Tennessee Mountain Boys, he returned to Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1959, but left within a year.[5] In the 1960s, he toured once again with Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys.[6]

Martin was a member of Grand Ole Opry and had his own show, The Benny Martin Show.[7] Over the years, Martin performed and recorded with many different artists such as the Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Johnnie and Jack, and the Stonemans. He recorded at least four singles one for Gulf Reef, "Thinking About Love" and "The Man Next Door" and three for Starday "Hello City Limits" "I'll Never Get Over Loving You", "Pretty Girl" "Dimes Worth of Dreams"and "You are the One" with his wife Joanne "No One But You." He hired Colonel Tom Parker as his manager and eventually would work as the opening act for some of the early Elvis Presley concerts.

In 1997, after a long retirement and affliction with spasmodic dysphonia, an illness that affected his ability to talk and sing, Benny emerged to record a two part project entitled "The 'Big Tiger' Roars Again" (Parts 1&2) on OMS Records. Produced by Hugh Moore, the cream of contemporary Bluegrass and Country Music stars that contributed was impressive and included Vince Gill, Jerry Douglas, Ronnie McCoury, Ricky Scaggs, Terry Eldridge, Brian Sutton and Alison Krauss.[8]

Benny Martin died in 2001 and was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

Benny Martin was inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame in 2018.