“Jimmy was always too much of a rebel. He was too strong, he was too pure, he was too real. He didn’t have enough sense to tone it down, Thank God!” Eulogised by Marty Stuart, responsible for an irresistible hybrid of bluegrass and honky tonk, Jimmy Martin died today in 2005,
Bluegrass legend James Henry Martin aka Jimmy Martin died, at the age of 77. Born in Sneedville, Tennessee, USA, Martin was inspired by listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio show and became a part time DJ on a radio station in nearby Morristown.
Successfully auditioning for his idol, Bill Monroe, in 1949, he sang lead vocals with his band The Blue Grass Boys until 1953 – aside from a brief defection to The Osborne Brothers in 1951. Forming the Sunny Mountain Boys in 1956, Martin signed for Decca and enjoyed a run of success with songs such as Rock Hearts”, “Widow Maker”, “Tennessee” and his superlative cover of “Free Born Man”
Regular appearances followed on both the Louisiana Hayride and the Wheeling Jamboree radio shows, although Jimmy failed in his quest to become a permanent member of the Grand Ole Opry, due in part to his outspoken views – although he once commented that being shunned by the Nashville Establishment had done his career no harm.
Aside from the Sunny Mountain Boys, Martin also raised his profile when accepting an invitation to appear on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1972 release “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and it’s Grammy-winning follow-up “Volume II” in 1989.
Forming his own record company and scaling back his live appearances, Jimmy indulged his hobbies of fishing and hunting with his dogs (who were named after country stars including Dolly Parton and George Jones). Diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2004, he died the following year.
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And here’s some footage of Jimmy in action: