Friends and fans of Grady Martin celebrated the legendary guitarist's life and music at a small, informal memorial Monday afternoon (Dec. 10) at Nashville's Belcourt Theater, home of the Grand Ole Opry in the mid-1930s.
Bassist Bob Moore and his wife, Kittra, organized and hosted the tribute, held one week after Martin's
death on Dec. 3 of heart failure at age 72 (see related story). Formal
services were conducted Thursday (Dec. 6) in Martin's hometown of Chapel Hill, Tenn.
Martin played on countless country
and rockabilly classics, including Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman," Marty Robbins'
"El Paso" and Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter."
Original A-Team Nashville
studio musicians, Martin and Moore played on hundreds of sessions together in the '50s, '60s and '70s.
"Grady was like
my big brother," Moore recalled. "I was 16 when I met him. He had a car and I didn't. He'd come by and pick me up, along with
my bass, and carry me wherever we were working. At that point, we became almost brothers. He'd get a flattop, and then I'd
have to go get me a flattop. He'd get a pair of black-and-white shoes; I'd go and get some black-and-white shoes. He was my
best friend and we stayed close all our lives."
Fellow A-Team members Harold Bradley, Buddy Harman and Ray Walker and
Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires turned out to pay their respects. Vintage photos of
Martin with Bradley, Moore and others were displayed at the theater ticket booth. A pair of wreaths were hung in Martin's
honor on each side of the theater stage, where musicians jammed together in loose, mixed-and-matched groupings throughout
As is often the case in Music City, pickers and singers paid tribute through songs as much as stories
Grand Ole Opry star Billy Walker performed "Funny How Time Slips
Away" and "Charlie's Shoes," which he recorded with Martin in the early '60s.
Martin played on nearly every session
Walker recorded during the first 15 years of his career. Walker recalled Martin's musical mastery and joked about how terse
the guitarist could be in the studio.
"When Grady played on 'El Paso' it changed western music," Walker said. "I came
along and cut 'Cross the Brazos at Waco.' At the session that day, ol' Grady said, 'How do you want this damn thing played.
anyway?' You know he could be belligerent at times. I said, 'Well, Grady, just play it like you feel it.' He said, 'I don't
feel the damn thing!' But it turned out to be a smash anyway."
Country star Gail Davies,
who spent time with Martin in the late '70s when they were both on the road with Jerry Reed,
performed three songs: Johnnie & Jack's "Poison Love," Webb Pierce's "Back Street Affair"
and the Karl Davis-penned country standard, "Kentucky."
Chris Scruggs -- Davies' son -- performed Johnny Horton's "I'm a One-Woman Man" backed by Moore and others. Scruggs emulated Martin's guitar licks
featured on the 1956 hit recording of the song.
The jazzy, Django Reinhardt-inspired Hot Club of Nashville -- featuring
dazzling guitarists Bryan Sutton and Richard Smith -- opened the tribute with "Sweet Georgia Brown."
star Martha Carson, who turned 80 in May, delivered Merle Travis' "That's All" and
her signature song, "Satisfied." Martin's son, Tal, was called upon to back Carson on guitar.
Meeting Tal for the
first time on stage, Carson told him how much his father's guitar playing meant to her. "I had never before been brave enough
to sing a real slow tempo song until I recorded 'Just Around the Bend,'" she remembered.
"I was scared to death to
sing it until Grady's guitar introduction set me in the mood to sing it. What beautiful guitar work; he just set the stage
so much. I just [felt] every lyric in that song -- my bass voice doing the best it could with a slow song. I couldn't have
done that song without the Grady Martin touch."