"The Singing Logger," Buzz Martin was the poet laureate of the timber industry, exploring through song the trials and tribulations of the brave men who risk life and limb working the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He was born Lloyd Earl Martin in a tent outside of Coon Holler, OR, on September 15, 1928. A cataract condition left him blind at age 13 and he was sent to the Oregon State School for the Blind, where he began his musical education. An experimental surgical procedure later restored Martin's sight, but in the interim he lost both of his parents, so he spent the remainder of his childhood in the care of older sister Nellie, learning the logging trade from her husband Bill Woolsey, a self-taught musical instrument maker who handcrafted his own guitars, fiddles, and dulcimers. Despite growing up without electricity, Martin occasionally tuned into broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry via battery-powered radio, and eventually began writing his own country songs as respite from a series of logging jobs including cutter, high climber, and whistle punk. In time he was regularly performing at logging camps and local dances, building a repertoire of original songs that vividly captured the demands and dangers of the timber life. In 1963 Martin appeared on country singer Buddy Simmons' Portland-area television program Channel 2 Hoedown, so impressing Simmons that he later helped land Martin a record deal. The single "Whistle Punk Pete"/"Sick of Settin' Chokers" followed on Lavender Records in 1967. A year later Martin issued his debut LP, Where There Walks a Logger There Walks a Man, the first of six full-length releases on the Ripcord label, including A Loggers Reward, A Logger Finds an Opening, and The Old-Time Logger: A Vanishing Breed of Man. He also toured regularly with the support of the Chips Off the Old Block, a family band comprising his children and their spouses, and in 1972 appeared on Johnny Cash's network television show, an experience that inspired the song "The Man at the Top Reached Clear to the Bottom to Give This Logger a Helping Hand." Martin also headlined Disneyland in 1973, and three years later was selected by the Smithsonian Institute to represent Oregon at its bicentennial Festival of American Folk Life. Martin relocated to Alaska in 1980 in search of new logging opportunities, and continued writing and performing music until his death in a hunting accident on August 1, 1983; son Steve Martin later issued the CD Where There Walks a Logger: A Tribute to My Dad Buzz Martin.
Share this page