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Thread: Carl Martin Interview 1977

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    wannabe mandolin wizzard bluesmandolinman's Avatar
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    Default Carl Martin Interview 1977

    maybe someone enjoyes this as I did

    Cadence - The American Review of Jazz & Blues
    Vol. 3 Nos 1&2 , August 1977
    Carl Martin: an Interview
    Taken by Mike Joyce and Bob Rusch Transcribed by Bob Rusch



    CARL MARTIN: I was born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, 1906 on April the 1st.
    CADENCE: Were your parents musically inclined?

    CM: My daddy was . They called him Fiddlin' Martin. Roland was my older brother by my father' s first wife. I had three brothers ,two were half brothers.

    I had taken up music from my half brother Roland Martin. He was known all around and when I met him I was around 16 or 17 years old, he was in his 40's then. He was older than my mother and he was blind. See my daddy was a slave he said he had been sold twice into slavery. So I guess I 'm the son of a slave. I had learnt to play a few numbers on the guitar by just listening to fellows that came around. Roland told my daddy, he said – WeIl, Carl can play a little guitar you ought to take him and teach him. He said "WeIl, there he is go ahead and teach him. I didn't want to play no music, I wanted to play around the streets, play with Dick, Tom and Harry. I couldn't whup my brother so he make me come in from school sit down and play the quitar. WeIl the guitar he had was a 12-strinq guitar, too big for me. So he got on a train and went to Ashville, North Carolina and he got a small guitar and brouqht it back. I practiced about a couple of weeks with him and then I was playinq with the band. Then I learnt the bass and he let me play that, but he wouldn ' t let me touch his violin, but I watch him all the time and finally learnt how to play it anyway. He had a mandolin too, and when I got ready to go into the army in the Iatter part of ' 41, a girl gave me a mandolin, it was Italian style and I learned to play it . I didn't get out of the army till ' 45, I went overseas to Hawaii and the Phillipines. They gave me a mandolin in the army, special service did , course mine got busted sticking in foxholes and water all runnin' in it. I used to play for the big dances and the lieutenants and colonels,although I was a mechanic in the special services . Everybody liked my playinq so I came back to Chicago and Mr. (Ted) Bogan was with me. We had been playinq and Mr. (Howard) Armstrong together since the early 30's. So we had retired from playing in '34, me and Armstrong we went back South and me and Ted strung around Chicaqo. We learned how to play different kinds of music in different neighborhoods. We didn't see Armstrong no more till '70, we got back together, when they wanted us back together for a festival and got his (Armstrongs) son to play bass. And we've been together ever since.

    CAD : When did you first met Howard?

    CM: When I first met Howard, my brother used to be a barber over in Lafollet, Tennessee. I didn't know him then but everybody there knew him and we would go around and play. I run into Mr. Armstrong over there he was a young boy. Hi was too young, his Mother didn't want him to leave and go on the road. But by us going up there pretty often than one day they decided to let him go. When he first left home he left home with me and we start out traveling like troubadours. He played the mandolin then and I played the guitar. We go from state to state hitchhiking; all over Virginia. West Virginia. Everywhere we go the man want us on the radio , we'd play requests. Came back home and a fellow came to me and wanted me to go to New York to make same records for Brunswick. We decided to go but he hadn ' t been home so long he wanted to see his parents first. We went home, but he got sick, they sent the ticket to Ashville , North Carolina but we wasn ' t there so he couldn't go on that trip. I met Ted Bogan in Knoxville , he was just on the road playing, I saw he could travel, he had the ability to learn, had potential and I say Okay, we get toqether. Armstrong came back with us and we had another boy played bass fiddle named Bill Ballinqer, l've never been able to catch up with him since we separated, but weve been going ever since.

    CAD: Playing for the radio was that for a white audience?

    CH: Yeah , white audience. and we play anything they call for . For my own enjoyment I like all kind of music. If I didn't know it id buy the piano score . I can read notes. I never did go to school to learn nothing. I used to sing in a choir when I was young and they made us sing the notes before the words so I knew the notes.

    CAD : Whose idea was it to form the Tennessee Chocolate Drops?

    CM : We got together and we wanted to find us a name so that we could be recognized. So Hr. Armstrong he said we'll call it Tennessee Chocolate Drops. So we went by that name . Then we used the name the Wanderinq Troubadors and broadcast under that name also all around Knoxville . But you see at that time I didn' t make that much playin'. See a lot of the white fellows they wouldn't play as good as me but they get the jobs. So we just hit the road. We didn't have a quarter in our pockets. We walk across the mountains at night, lay down the side of the road, have a rock for our pillow. Get up early in the morninq keep going from town to town. We'd go to the restaurants the barbershops anywhere that we could get in out on the street and get a crowd, they throw us money. Go into the jail house and play for the prisoners, out there you don't have much choice. I love to play and make folks happy.

    CAD, Where did you meet Leroy Carr?

    CM, I met him in Indianapolis Indiana, met Scrapper too, in the early 30', I played with him every night for so long everybody was looking for me , the police came and said “Your people want to know where you at “We'd go out every night and ball, have a good time. There used to be another boy named Bill on quitar playing with them but they cut him out. They went for me from Knoxville.

    CAD, How 'bout Lonnie Johnson?

    CM, Oh sure , played with him right here in Chicaqo. When I used to go down to the studio and record they used to call me Lonnie Johnson. Oh yeah, cause we played so much alike. I don't know why we played so much alike.

    CAO : How have you seen Chicago blues changed?

    CM: Well. before Muddy Water they had a different style here. Well, I liked the style better than i do today. Fellows today can't play like we played yesterday . They play different. We had to pick the guitar to play the blues. Nowadays they use a pick or something like that and you don't play like we used to play. It's just a feeling you put in your music and you play it your way - you can't put it on paper.

    CAD: Did your brother record?

    CM: No, but he could play that fiddle , I never did hear anyone play like him.
    He ' s the one inspired Armstrong.

    CAD: Do you recall the Mississippi Sheiks?

    CM: Yeah, I'm one of the Mississippi Sheiks too. I recorded with them. I played the violin with them . Last time Walter Vincson recorded I recorded with them . He's dead now. Me and him and Ted Bogan and Sam Chapman recorded together.

    CAD: What do you like to play?

    CM: lt don't make me any difference - It's what the people like that's what I like to do, I play what they like. If they're happy l'm happy. If you can 't reach nobody you ain't nothin'. Music has to have variation to put the expression you want to put into it. You got to learn to play a piece and feel it.

    CAD: Before you resumed active playing what were you doing?

    CM: I was working for the Bureau of Electricity in Chicago . I worked for the city for about 15 years, pave streets, raise man holes, sanitary district , put up stop lights . I was playing now and then . But ill tell you I was working with those felllows. I didn't tell anybody I was a musician cause sometimes you tell people you are a musician they make fun of you. But around the first of April they gave a big partyso I said maybe Ill go home and get my instrument and play for the party. So I came downand got a box with a guitar and we sat down there.

    That day Mayor Dailey and big man from all over Chicaqo were there.So we started playing and they were surprised to know that I was a musician and that I could play like that. They came to me and asked me questions, this , that and another . Man, the next morning I com to work they bought me oour or five suits of clothes. And Dailey walked over to my bosshe said, look here, don't let him work, give him a job watchin'. I didn 't do a thing but sit down at the navy pier, way out at the end with beer and television.They didn 't need me out there because they had guards on the gate. A lot of brothers would have liked to have that job, all I do is put toilet paper in the bathroom, and sweep the floor and that ' s it - go out and fish, anything, wasn't anybody there but me. The boss took us out on the lake and play for parties and everything , we had it made. (Laughter).

    CAD : Are you writing much music ?

    CM : I don't do no writinq now, but when I want to make a piece 1 write a piece.

    CAD : When did you begin to use electricity?

    CM: I taken the electricity when I come out of the army . l'd go around club and taverns and they'd make so much noise you couldn't hear the mandolin much. So I just got me electric so you could hear me. Now I got a Gibson electric guitar .

    CAD: Did you ever get into 12-string?

    CM: I could never get use to it, too big for my fingers
    Carl Martin - Everyday I have the Blues

    My gear : 1927 A0/Ajr , JM-11 , Fender 346 white XH

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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    interview continued :

    CAD: What was the first music you ever remember hearing?

    CM : WeIl, one of them was “Oh, You Great Big Beautiful Doll" That was way back: and “ Wasn't it Sad When That Great Big Titanic Ship Went Down". My brother would play so many songs and a lot of that country music. Most of the musicians I saw would come out of the hills, most of the white fellas I say.Fiddlin' music was about the only music you heard. If you heard a man play a sentimental piece he was from up the road a little farther. I don't know how my brother learned or where he learned. He'd play that breakdown stuff tor 35 or 40 minutes. When I'd play l'd play anything that was called for. Now black people would mostly call for blues, that's their national anthem, the blues. If you can 't play the blues, they figure you ain't no musician . White people would call for a whole lot of songs like "Corina Corina" and "The Boston Burglar" and “Old Kentucky Home", those songs, they likedthem and I liked them too.

    CAD, Are you glad to be playing regularly again?

    CM: I didn't think l'd be as successful as I was, I never dreamed it would pay off . Music is one thing I don't take no back seat on. When it comes to playing music – thats me. l've had a wonderful time playing. People have been very nice everywhere I went, everywhere I went .

    Chicago June 1977

    This interview was made possible by a grant fom the National Endowment
    of the Arts, Washington. D.C.

    For further reading on Carl Martin check my website :

    Carl Martin
    Carl Martin - Everyday I have the Blues

    My gear : 1927 A0/Ajr , JM-11 , Fender 346 white XH

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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Thanks!
    2020 Custom Weber Yellowstone F-20-F octave mandolin
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    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    This is a classic, and underscores why the Cafe is the best website on the planet.What an amazing story! The perfect ending to this interview happened years later, when Steve Goodman recorded "Better Get It While You Can (The Ballad of Carl Martin)". It's an awesome homage.



    This is from Steve's 1980 release Santa Ana Winds, and features Jethro Burns.
    Last edited by Dave Greenspoon; Jun-19-2012 at 1:33am.
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Thanks all for sharing. As a college student in the late 70s we brought MB and A in for a concert. They stayed at our home and we played music all night. Carl will always be my hero!!!!

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    wannabe mandolin wizzard bluesmandolinman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Hey Gary
    Any more informations, stories, jokes or pictures from that night ? Would love to hear it.

    Those guys rock !

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Carl Martin - Everyday I have the Blues

    My gear : 1927 A0/Ajr , JM-11 , Fender 346 white XH

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    NY Naturalist BradKlein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Great interview. Thanks for posting. (and thanks, National Endowment for the Arts, too)
    BradKlein
    Morning Edition Host, WLVR News
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Never heard his song but my dad like him.

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    Joe B mandopops's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    I was doing a comedy act in the seventies in Chicago. My partner & I would sometimes play a place on Lincoln Ave. called Sylvestors. We shared the bill w/ Martin, Bogan, & Armstrong several times.

    Sat backstage (back stage makes it sound so fancy, hardly). Carl let me play his A4. I was just starting to play, so that was quite a treat to play an old Gibson Mandolin. There were great. I loved their music, stage banter and they were nice chaps.

    Good memories.

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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Thanks for posting Rene!

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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Armstrong made medallions that were very ornate. He gave us each one. I cannot find mine after all the years but I believe my buddy Doc stilll has his.

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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    What a great interview! I saw MB & A at the Mariposa Folk Fest in Toronto, 1975 or ‘76, a defining musical moment for me. The three of them(plus the younger Armstrong on bass) playing the most charming mix of blues, Tin Pan Alley, and whatever, that I’d ever heard. It was infectious, and the enjoyment of that blend has stayed with me ever since. In addition, Steve Goodman sat in with them, so I discovered him at the same time.

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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    I wished I had seem them in person too, especially Carl Martin
    Did you make any photos that day ?
    Carl Martin - Everyday I have the Blues

    My gear : 1927 A0/Ajr , JM-11 , Fender 346 white XH

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Thanks so much for posting that, nine years ago, before I'd heard of Mandolin Cafe. I also enjoyed Martin, Bogan & Armstrong at Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto in 1975. I didn't photograph them, but the festival recorded them. Scroll below to 57:20 for "Alabama Jubilee." During daylight tomorrow, I'll try to post some photos from the album cover and notes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HHo...l=INVIGORATION



    M,B & A are followed by The Original Sloth Band, Blind John Davis, Howard Armstrong on fiddle at the Old Time Religion Workshop, and Sweet Honey in The Rock.

    See also:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...mps-amp-Rags-8
    Last edited by Ranald; Oct-30-2021 at 7:35pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Photos of Martin Bogan and Armstrong from Mariposa 1975, taken from the album cover and liner notes of the record album, 1975 Mariposa Folk Festival, and (book head shot of Howard Armstrong) from Bill Usher and Linda Page-Harpa (eds.) For What Time We Are In This World; this photo is credited to Michael J. Jackson, who probably took some of the others as well. (These photos are displayed here for educational purposes only, with no profits or payments involved.)

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Carl Martin (mandolin) Ted Bogan (Guitar) Ralphe Armstrong (Bass) (Rita MacNeil, bottom right)

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    Howard Armstrong (fiddle) Carl Martin (mandolin)

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    Howard Armstrong

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    Howard Armstrong

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    Ted Bogan

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    Ted Bogan
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    I was privileged enough to meet them several time when they played here in Kalamazoo. Very interesting stories, fun chatting and listening.
    I was 18 and fascinated by their history. It was memorable to say the least.
    A couple of years later, I was at a festival at Kent State and stood out in the lobby of one of the venues and saw Carl sitting on a banquet table playing “Milk Can Blues” on an old Gibson that had many miles on it. I will remember that to my dying day. He was playing it up as raunchy as I think I’ve ever heard anything played!
    He was COOL!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Ted Heinonen
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    I'm posting these photos again as they fit better with this thread. Here are a few photos I took in the summer of 1976 when I went to the 2nd Annual Winnepeg Folk Festival in Bird's Hill Park. Martin, Bogan and Armstrong were one of the big hits that summer along with Steve Goodman, The Irish Rovers, Archie Fisher, The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makum, John Hartford... needless to say after 4 days of music that very warm July I was exhausted when I got back. Glad I was able to see them when I did.




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    wannabe mandolin wizzard bluesmandolinman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    thanks Ranald and theinone for the pics.... new to me and i am searching for a long time.

    9 years after starting this post i get rewarded ... awesome !
    Carl Martin - Everyday I have the Blues

    My gear : 1927 A0/Ajr , JM-11 , Fender 346 white XH

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    Ranald 

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    They were natty dressers!
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carl Martin Interview 1977

    Nice to see this thread resurrected & great pictures - I loved this band! In 1972-3 I lived across the street from a great (now closed) venue for live music in Iowa City, IA - The Mill. Martin, Bogan and Armstrong would come down from Chicago often to play at that bar/restaurant. The first time I heard them, I was disappointed because they didn't play "the Blues" like Muddy or Wolf, but by the end of the first set, I got on the bandwagon and would see them anytime they came through. If I didn't have the $2-$3 admission, I'd play the pinball machine around the corner outside the music room where I could hear them. It was an older machine that you could gunch enough to play all night on one or two quarters. Great memories!

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