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Jimmy Martin

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Jimmy Martin (August 10, 1927 – May 14, 2005) was an American bluegrass musician, known as the “King of Bluegrass”.

Born James H. Martin in Sneedville, Tennessee, beginning in 1949 Martin was lead vocalist for Bill Monroe’s “Bluegrass Boys,”. Martin’s high voice mixed with Monroe’s tenor came to be known as the “high lonesome” sound. His influence radically changed Monroe’s music from the fast-paced but smooth style of the “original” 1945 band with Flatt and Scruggs. Martin challenged Monroe to raise the pitch on many of his classics and to write new, “lonesome” songs. This band with Rudy Lyle (banjo) and Charlie Cline (fiddle) was one of the many high points of Monroe’s career. Martin’s lead was defining in “lonesome” songs such as “Sitting Alone in the Moonlight”, “Memories of Mother and Dad” and “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesone”.
Martin had a famously high-strung and exuberant personality, and inevitably clashed with Monroe’s equally stubborn temperament. He left Monroe and worked briefly with the Osborne Brothers until he formed his own band, “The Sunny Mountain Boys” in 1955. The classic lineup of this band, with J. D. Crowe and “Big” Paul Williams (stage name for Paul Humphries) defined his “Good ‘n Country” style, a commercially-oriented, crowd-pleasing bluegrass with simple harmonies, catchy melodies, and a strong rhythm propelled by Martin’s simple but effective guitar playing. Among his biggest hits of the 1960’s were “Hit Parade of Love”, “Sophronie”, “Stepping Stones”, and “Widow Maker” (a popular truck driver’s song).

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