Biography of Grady Martin

by Josh Martin


Even though he grew up in the small town of Lewisburg, Tennessee in the midst of the Great Depression, Grady Martin overcame adversity and followed his dream of being a successful musician. The youngest of four, Grady was spoiled as the baby in the family even though they were poor. Leaving home at an early age and cutting his education short started off his career and taught him to be independent. Grady gained a national reputation as a Nashville studio genius and played sessions on many number one hits. After his studio career, he joined Willie Nelson on the road and played for sixteen years touring all over the world. Of course, he wouldn't say any of this because he is a very modest man and is now retired. Grady Martin has been very successful despite many obstacles in his life and still lives to tell about them.

Grady Martin was born on January 17, 1929 in Marshall County, Tennessee. He grew up on a farm with his oldest sister, Lois, his older brothers, June and Bill, and his parents, Claude and Bessey.  One of his fondest childhood memories is of a horse which he named Trigger.  Grady remembers his dad as being a stern and harsh man and his mother being able to read music very well.  She influenced his music training significantly and showed him the basics that set the pace for him to become a phenomenal musician. His most memorable teacher was his eighth grade teacher, Mr. Higgins.  Mr. Higgins was a Baptist minister and always took a little time out of each day to teach something from the Bible.  Grady's worst subject was Algebra and he especially remembers a field trip made to Nashville to see a movie in fifth grade. Grady's reputation as a musician might seem ironic to some because he 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.  After much persuasion, his mother reluctantly let him go. This began his long career as a musician but one of his biggest regrets is dropping out of high school.

After a short time of working at the radio station, Grady made countless appearances on the Grand Old Opry and the Ozark Jubilee, a popular TV show in the 50's. This was an amazing accomplishment for a young guitarist who went pro at the tender age of fifteen. He began playing sessions and became very popular for his improvisation and his flexibility with diverse types of music. It was for this reason that he played on countless hits in the 50's 60's, and 70's.  By the late 50's, he was an in- demand studio genius backing artists like Little Jimmy Dickens, Red Foley, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and many others. He led the session group The Slewfoot Five for Decca in the 50'sand sessioned most of the 60's with artists like Joan Baez, J. J. Cale, and others. After trying his hand at publishing and producing, he began touring with Willie Nelson. After sixteen years of life on the road, Grady was tired of traveling so he retired and moved to his home town in Marshall County, Tennessee.

Throughout his life, Grady has experienced many things. He's been married three times, has ten children, and has spent nearly twenty years traveling. When asked about getting along with people, his advice is "tolerance." "What goes around comes around, so you say." He does not think very highly of the school systems today and thinks that the biggest problem facing our society today is crime. Regarding the most important and interesting person he has ever met. Grady replies, "Jesus."