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September 3

Bluegrass Essentials: Jam with 8-String Fiddler Benny Martin

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Benny Martin ((1928-2001) – A music prodigy gifted to Sparta, Tennessee. He’s one of the first and best in Bluegrass’ music world with his 8-string fiddling invention. Below is a sampler of his phenomenal performances.

Me & My Fiddle II Torch of Love – Benny Martin

Whoah! Multiple notes and look at that bow licks… Just splendid! Stands to reason he’s called the “Essential Entertainer” by Starday Records in 1961.

A Brief Look at Martin’s Legacy

A musician by blood and at heart, Benny Martin had been playing music since his formative years. At age 6, he had his first fiddle and upon reaching 8, joined his family band in their radio performances.

As an adult, recognition of his musical contributions followed him from the 40s to the 90s. Armed with his fiddle, this musical Spartan premiered the propagation of what we’ve come to know as the Bluegrass sound. He played alongside various Nashville figures including Roy Acuff, Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and the Stanley Brothers. Additionally, he was the man to go to in most Elvis Presley concerts. To sum it up, Martin opened for Presley 35 times.

Peer and admirer John Hartford once noted that he had never heard one put as much emotion into music as Martin. From childhood, Hartford idolized Martin. Even after making big in Nashville, he remained to be a loyal supporter and promoter of Martin’s crafts.

“I first heard Benny Martin with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in the early fifties and his playing opened up a whole new world to me of how the fiddle should go… [He] played these lush beautiful chords and slides that just hugged and danced and got up all around me and before the music was over I was bouncing off the walls.”

– John Hartford, “Benny Martin: The Genius of Music City, USA,” Fiddler Magazine, Fall 1999

The 70s as Benny Martin’s Hey-Days

Contemporary bluegrass musicians share a mutual fondness of Benny Martin. A voice disorder afflicted him which eventually slowed the flow of projects in the 80s. The 70s, however, was a golden decade for his music to be put into records including the following:

  • Tennessee Jubilee (1975)
  • The Fiddle Collection (1976)
  • Turkey in the Grass (1977)
  • Big Daddy of the Fiddle and Bow (1979)
  • The Great American Fiddle Collection (1980)
  • Slumberin’ on the Cumberland (1979)

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Benny Martin, bill monroe, bluegrass, Elvis Presley, Flatt & Scrugg, John Hartford, roy acuff


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