Monday, February 27, 2012

Grady Martin: Decca Rockabilly Session Ace



His chops still resonate, even when we don't know it's him, from the opening guitar line in Roy Orbison's Oh Pretty Woman and the precise R&B comping on Brenda Lee's 1958 classic Rocking Around the Christmas Tree to the unique acoustic Tex Mex guitar sound he achieves in Marty Robbins' classic El Paso from 1960. To find a session guitar player with the range of experience possessed by Grady Martin is difficult, throughout the 1950's and 60's Martin was continually called on to provide the his innate sense of rhythm, precise playing and production experience to the widest range of material within the parameters of Nashville country music. In the post I would like to foreground a few of Martin's lesser know efforts as a consummate session guitarist in the rockabilly style for Decca Records during the 1950's.

The recordings I have selected here are all session pieces in which Martin provides superb rhythm backup and at least one solo. A few are actually not Decca recordings, a testament not only to the respect Martin carried within the genre but also among musicians in general. The majority feature his rockabilly style that most are familiar with in the songs he is featured on for the Johnny Burnette Trio recordings for in 1956. Grady's guitar work is easily identifiable on many of the songs recorded during these sessions, and Paul Burlison's role was minimal, well documented here. Martin's work with The Johnny Burnette Trio is so definitive that in many ways it might be said he creates a whole rockabilly guitar style that he also showcases on many of the recordings here. While not trying to diminish the contributions of James Burton, Scotty Moore, Cliff Gallup and Hal Harris, Grady is the most prolific force in the creation of a rockabilly guitar style.


1)Red Foley - Midnight - This is one of Martin's earlier recordings, well before his rockabilly style emerged some four years later. Nonetheless, a nice guitar break in a blues vein at 1:22.

2) Red Sovine - Juke Joint Johnny - This is the best example of Sovine's experimentation with a rockabilly style with a Texas swing flavor. Martin is flawless in his backup role.

3) Mimi Roman - Little Lovin is a completely forgotten rockabilly gem from 1956. Grady's style here is unmistakable and his break at 1:05 reminiscent of some of his work with with Johnny Burnette Trio.

4) Brenda Lee - Bigelow 6200 - Even though Grady isn't given much space on the break his intro licks are vintage on this excellent cut by Lee.

5)Buddy Holly - Modern Don Juan - superb solo here by Martin at 1:35 his sound is perfect on this, one of the few cuts he backed Holly on.

6) Ronnie Self - Big Fool - Another excellent break by Grady at 1:08 on the classic by one of my all time favorites, Missouri's own, Ronnie Self.

7) Johnny Carroll -Carroll's incredible Hot Rock is one a definitive rockabilly cut, inspiring many subsequent covers. Martin has two solos here but his intro shines. Crazy Crazy Lovin - is another rockabilly classic, as all the Decca recording Carrol recorded. Grady's solo begins at 1:00.

8) Tex Williams - Let's Go Rockabilly - Yes, just about every country singer recorded at least one rockabilly song in 56 or 57. Very nice solo by Martin at 1:14 who also finishes with a flourish.

9) Jimmy Lloyd -Where the Rio de Rosa Flows: While Grady and Hank Garland team up on Lloyd's better know rockabilly recordings I Got a Rocket in My Pocket and Your'e Gone Baby, Martin handles the solo alone here beginning at 1:33.

10) Chuck Bowers - Till My Baby Comes Home is a unique and somewhat hybrid song that combines elements of straight ahead country, rockabilly and commercial pop. Martin has a nice solo at 1:15.

11) Roy Hall - Diggin That Boogie - While Hall's fame comes from having recorded this Dave William song, Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On, before Jerry Lee Lewis this is a fabulous rockabilly effort and Martin blazes at 1:30 with a solo with a perfect amount of echo. Hall's Three Alley Cats features both Martin and Hank Garland, Marin solos at 1:18.

12) Don Woody - Bird Dog - Martin is in classic form here from his signature rockabilly intro to this fantastic solo beginning at 0.48.

13) Wayne Walker - All I Can Do is Cry is a from 1956 features Martin in more of backup role, but the overall sound is perfect for the song.

14) Johnny Horton- I'm Comin Home - Great cut by Horton that highlights Martin's low string work with a tasteful solo at 0.49.

15) Grady Martin - When My Dreamboat Comes Homes - Recorded in 1956 By Grady and His Slew Foot Five, this unique instrumental has a superb solo by Martin in rockabilly style beginning at 0.45.

3 comments:

  1. Great post man, I've been an admirer of Grady Martin for awhile and it's really great to see some of the session guys highlighted like this. Great work!

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    1. Thanks, Sam, for these comments. Grady was a remarkable player and recorded with so many different musicians it was a natural post. I have some interesting posts planned on 1950's guitar players so stay tuned. Take care, Bill

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  2. Check out Paul Burlison live "Train Kept Rollin"..in his seventies..G. Martin has never played the licks on "Train Kept Rollin" anywhere..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh9V2F6cxmU

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