Troy Martin

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Singer, comedian, record producer and music publisher who began his career as a comedian in medicine shows.
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b. Troy Lee Martin, 16 May 1911, Danville, Virginia, USA, d. 20 February 1977, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Martin’s involvement in country music has never been properly recorded but he ranged from being a singer and comedian to a successful record producer and music publisher. He had polio as a boy, which affected his left side, but it did not stop him working as a comedian in medicine shows by his mid-teens. He progressed to work in vaudeville and manage a Wild West show. In the early 30s, he recorded for ARC before becoming involved with setting up some commercial radio stations. In World War II, he worked in the entertainment branch of the Armed Services. In 1949, he was employed by music publishers Peer International in Nashville and when Don Law became head of A&R at Columbia Records, Martin also became a talent scout and production assistant for that company. He covered a wide area and over the next few years he was responsible for the discovery of future stars such as Carl Smith, Ray Price, Billy Walker and Marty Robbins. During this time he published ‘Lonesome Whistle’, the only Hank Williams’ song not on the Acuff-Rose catalogue. (He tried on many occasions to get Hank to record ‘Back Street Affair’ before it became a number 1 for Webb Pierce). Martin was also involved in the Perry Como recording ‘Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes’, that at the time was reckoned by most to be only a country song. (Como’s version proved a million-seller).

Martin was regularly at loggerheads with Ralph Peer regarding his salary and at one time, he became involved in adding his name as writer to some of the songs published. He used various pseudonyms including Jerry Organ, George Sherry and Shirley Lynn. It is reckoned that many songs written by Arthur Q. Smith were involved in his underhand practice. Martin, while still employed by Peer, also became a partner with Jim Denny, Webb Pierce and Carl Smith in Driftwood Publishing. Peer became suspicious and when his investigations were found correct, he terminated Martin’s employment with Peer. Martin moved to Gene Autry’s Golden West Music and in 1956, he was responsible for Johnny Ray’s million-selling ‘Just Walking In The Rain’. In 1958, he returned to Peer and regularly offered Driftwood published songs for Don Law. He produced Billy Brown’s original version of ‘He’ll Have To Go’, later a major hit for Jim Reeves. Disputes with Law saw Martin return to Autry’s organisation, where he made a major mistake when he failed to sign up the up-and-coming Willie Nelson.

In 1960, he returned to Nashville and sold his interest in Driftwood to form Troy Martin Music with Cohen Williams, the president of the Martha White Flour Company. They published a few successful songs including ‘Don’t Let Me Cross Over’ but the company soon ended acrimoniously. He worked with Hank Snow’s Silver Star Music until 1963, when he opened another publishing company that led to Jim And Jesse’s hit ‘Diesel On My Tail’. In the early 70s, he was involved with the Wilburn Brothers and Sure Fire Music. While Martin had a reputation as a drinker and a storyteller, he had the undoubted ability to select a hit song. They included ‘Mockin’ Bird Hill’, ‘If Teardrops Were Pennies’, ‘Kentucky Waltz’ and Kitty Wells’ hit ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels’. Several of the songs he chose did not become hits until some years after his death, these include ‘I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could’, ‘Crying My Heart Out Over You’ and ‘Steppin’ Out’. Martin died following a stroke, in February 1977, at the Baptist Hospital, Nashville and was buried in his home town of Danville, Virginia.