Thomas Grady Martin was born on January 17, 1929 in Chapel Hill, Marshall County, Tennessee,
USA. He grew up on a farm with his oldest sister, Lois, his older brothers, June and Bill, and
his parents, Claude and Bessey.
His mother was being able to read music very well and she influenced his music training
significantly and showed him the basics that set the pace for him to become a phenomenal
Grady didn't receive much education. In fact, he left school when he was only fifteen years old
to go play on a radio show in Nashville.
In 1946, he made his Grand Ole Opry (WSM, Nashville, Tenn.) debut, performing with the Bailes Brothers Band. His late 1940s and early 1950s work included backing Little Jimmy Dickens hits such as Country Boy and Hillbilly Fever, recordings that featured innovative twin-guitar lines he constructed with fellow guitar wizard Jabbo Arrington. While most of his legacy was built as a sideman, Grady Martin recorded instrumental singles and LPs for Decca Records, including a country-jazz instrumental LP as part of Decca's Country and Western Dance-O-Rama series.
Martin recorded many more Decca recordings as lead for the Nashville pop band the Slew Foot Five. Grady Martin played on sessions for Elvis Presley's recording (1962-65), Red Foley, Bobby Helms, Webb Pierce and Marty Robbins ("El Paso"). He also played on Buddy Holly's Nashville sessions, including "Love Me" and "Modern Don Juan", and the distinctive introduction to Johnny Horton's "Battle Of New Orleans". One of the most famous sessions was an accidental malfunction in mid-take when Grady played the distorted "fuzz" guitar solo on Robbins's 1960 hit "Don't Worry."
Though studio musicians in those days rarely received credit for their work, Martin's efforts didn't go unnoticed. Producers often designated him "session leader," which meant he led the musicians and directed the impromptu arrangements that became a landmark of Nashville sessions. In other words, he often became the de-facto producer in the process.
Martin continued to play sessions through the 1970s, working extensively with Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, and produced the country-rock band Brush Arbor. In 1978 Martin briefly joined Jerry Reed's band, making a living on the road for the first time in many years, before beginning a 14-year tenure (from 1980 to 1994) with Nelson's "Family" band.
In 1983 the Nashville Entertainment Association gave him its Master Award and invited him to join an all-star band. Martin declined, preferring to remain where he'd always been: in the background. "I'm not a star," he told The Tennessean. "Makin' a good record and havin' it accepted, just bein' part of havin' a hit record, that's what mattered to me."
Grady Martin died in 2001, December 3rd, Lewisburg, Tennessee, USA.
For more information see Official Website of Grady Martin.
"Grady Martin could play three or four notes, and they'd mean 100 times more than any other person that would play 100 notes," said Bob Moore, a lifelong friend of Martin's who played bass with him on thousands of recording sessions. "He'd just make so much out of everything he played - the best taste you've ever heard. I think he's the single greatest guitar player we've had here in Nashville."
"Grady was the best leader I ever worked for," says multi-instrumentalist Charlie McCoy. "He was like an interior decorator who could walk in, look at a bare room and visualize the final result."
"Grady's an old friend, and I'm probably his biggest fan," Nelson told at the tribute concert. "Grady has a touch on the guitar that you really don't hear from any other guitar player. It's a very distinctive tone. Players like Chet Atkins and Django Reinhardt have their own tones and sounds, and Grady Martin has his. It's a sweet tone; the notes are huge. I've tried to rip him off and I never could," Nelson joked, acknowledging that the subtleties of Martin's playing are hard to reproduce.