Silver-fingered Grady Martin, whose versatile guitar playing ability has made him a sought after background player for many of the Grand Ole Opry stars, as well as other country artists, is also a recording artist in his own right. Star Dust, Sweet Jennie Lee, Night ‘n’ Day, and A Fool Such As I, on the Decca label, feature the guitarist’s nimble fingers together with the mixed talents of his “Slew-Foot Five” combo, and are among those of the recording company’s releases which sell almost as fast as they can be produced.
Grady who is 27 now, has had lots of practice at pickin’ the strings because he’s been at it ever since he was a wee kid. Already at the still gangling age of 15 his expert playing beckoned him out of highschool and into a professional spot in the country and western field. This happened with rather an unusual approach. A man who heard Grady play the guitar, came and took him from the classroom one day, unceremoniously carted the surprised youth home, and with much praise for the youngster’s talents, and many ovations about the profession, the interested stranger, who undeniably was a very kind person, convinced the boy’s startled parents to let Grady quit school and start playing the guitar for a living. The man, a stranger in the sense that he was not on “calling acquaintance” with Martin’s family, yet friend enough to be interested in the talented boy and his folks to take it upon himself to see that the youth’s ability did not become lost along the grapevine of the years to follow, took the kid to Nashville, with the consent of his parents. In the city of Country Music, Grady’s new and constant companion watched over him, coached him, and put him to work on radio. Since that time the guitarist has continued to perform professionally with more than a little success, and with 12 years of expert training and experience behind him, he has at 27, become an instrumentalist of noteworthy ability.
Martin’s more than six feet of the outdoorish kind of good looks are further intensified by his black curly hair and smiling blue eyes. But what’s perhaps most attractive about him is his constantly friendly personality – Grady’s the kind of fellow always fortified with a ready smile and greeting for any one, at any time. And no doubt it’s this pleasant attitude that helps to make his guitaring so delectable. The whole process of playing appears as entirely effortless when Martin handles the guitar. His nimble fingers zip over the strings with unbelievable speed and produce the loveliest of melodies while the artist, himself appears completely unconcerned.
The clean cut “Mr. Strings” has many thing in common with innumerable other country artists, outstandingly his boyhood on a farm, county school attendance, and the mile and a half walk each way, every day, to get an education. “Rough though it was at times to put up with some of the situations that comprise farm life, there’s no substitute for nature’s peaceful serenity” reminisces Grady, and perhaps it’s the pleasant memories of his boyhood background that reflect themselves so pleasantly in the artist’s smooth and relaxed playing of the electric Spanish guitar.
Martin appears on Grand Ole Opry each Saturday night both as a soloist and as accompanist. Besides these appearances, he often takes part in the Opry’s monthly TV shows, and fellow artist’s welcome the chance to work with him because of his expert playing, his quick smile and his keen sense of humor, facts not lost on such famed folks as Bing Crosby, Don Cherry, Roberta Lee, and Rosemary Clooney, who’ve also performed to the accompaniment of Martin’s unique playing.
The friendly fellow is a devoted husband and the father of two children, and they live in Nashville, Tenn. By living in the vicinity of his work, Grady has the chance to spend considerable time with his family, and who wouldn’t like that? As a matter of fact, with Singing the Blues, his newest Decca recording disked with “Slew-Foot Five”, going so well for him, the deserving young man might well do a little singing in reverse on the golf course or casting for his favorite fish, the sports he loves but for which there isn’t much time.
*Photo and original article published in the December 1956 issue of Country and Western Jamboree, pg. 34, 40.