Whenever local musicians were called upon to help, friends say Richard Martin was one of the first to respond. Now his friends are calling on the community to support a concert Sunday in Greenfield to benefit Martin, another in the long list of Greenfield residents who have performed with country music greats.
It all started with a lump found while Richard was shaving, just three weeks after his wife, Carole, was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“Assuming it was just a swollen lymph node, Rich never gave it another thought,” Carole said. “His wife was about to have a robotic bowel resection to have 8 inches of her colon removed. He took some antibiotics and made it a priority to take care of his wife.”
A couple of weeks passed. Carole was slowly recovering, then Richard’s seemingly harmless lump appeared larger than before. Since that time he’s had surgery to remove a 6-plus centimeter tumor, his thyroid, and 51 lymph nodes. He is now recovering from radiotherapy and chemotherapy for anapestic thyroid cancer, and waiting on further test results.
“He has always, always been available. When we’d do these fundraisers, he’s the first on the list I’d go to,” said Don Adams, another of Greenfield’s country music standouts who will perform at Sunday’s concert. “I knew he was a professional who would do a good job.”
The concert is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22 at the McClain High School auditorium. Doors open at 1 p.m. Tickets are $15 for those age 12 and above and $5 for anyone under 12. Tickets are on sale in Greenfield at The Music Store, Merchants Bank, Trendsetters Salon and Community Savings Bank. There will also be a 50/50 drawing and silent auction.
Those scheduled to perform include the Martins’ son, Brad Martin, who once had a Billboard Top Ten hit with “Before I Knew Better.” Others on the schedule include Dave Hardin, Brenda Hardin, Don Adams, Darrell Adams, Farrell Adams, Gary Adams, Joe Adams, Wayne Hobbs, Melissa Martin Grate, Dan Cade, Chuck Anderson, Rod West, Bret Snively, Greg Smith, Jim Bristley, Ryan Grate, John Crabtree, Steve Marple, Faye Marple, Roger Lee Graves, Melody VanGundy and Michael Keith Whitley, a nephew of late country music star Keith Whitley.
“But, it’s not about anybody singing or playing. It’s about Richard and his wife,” Don Adams said.
Although Richard did not start singing seriously until his early 20s, his interest in music began in high school when he started a small garage band at age 15 or 16. That lasted about a month or so until he knocked his guitar over and broke the neck. That was the end of that venture.
By the time he preparing to graduate from high school the Vietnam draft was underway, so Richard joined the Army. As soon as basic training was over he married his high school sweetheart, the former Carole Cope.
Carole and Richard met when he moved to Greenfield from East Monroe in eighth grade. They started dating at age 15 and married at 18. He spent four years in the U.S. Army working as a radar operator on Nike Hercules missiles, including a tour of duty in Germany.
“He would sit around and play guitar and sing to pass the time away while in Germany with his buddies, and Merle Haggard was definitely his favorite of all artists,” Carole said.
Richard and Carole had four children and upon his discharge from the Army he went to work supporting his family. But he still had the love of music and played small shows and gigs on the side. He was invited to play at a local jamboree in Bainbridge one weekend and the show venue and audience applause hooked him.
“He began to travel around to several of the jamboree shows in the area, but still continued to play in several hometown bands as well and was lucky enough to win a Wrangler Country Showdown Contest, which allowed him to compete in the state level at Fort Laramie, where there were other big names sharing the stage including Moe Bandy and the group Atlanta. This really gave Rich the bug and he began to pursue music on a more regular basis,” Carole said.
In 1984, he auditioned for a new show on the The Nashville Network. He was picked as a contestant and went to the finals, but finished second. Later, the producer called Richard and said they were starting a new show called “Be A Star” and asked if Richard would be interested. He agreed and did well, but did not win.
He was later invited to sing on a new TNN show called “Country Today Magazine,” where songwriters and artists were asked to share songs they wrote. Later, Rich, son Brad, and daughter Missy were invited to sing as a family act on the TNN show “Charlie Daniels Country Roundup.” Overall, Richard appeared on national TV over 10 times and played and met with many country music entertainers. He opened shows for Ray Stevens, Johnny Russell, John Conlee, Little Jimmy Dickens, Connie Smith, Sheb Wooley, Ronnie McDowell, Tommy Collins, Melba Montgomery, Moe Band, Atlanta, Charlie Louvin, and more. Later in his career he was asked to do demos in Nashville for several country songwriters including Sheb Wooley at Sony Tree International, a news release said.
“Several of his demo’s were picked up by artists such as Neal McCoy, Eddie London and Johnny Paycheck, as well as many others, over the years. He also shared the stage with Jeff Cook of Alabama, Noel Haggard, and others,” Carole said. “His biggest accomplishment was getting to sing live on the Grand Ole Opry with his son, Brad Martin, on the Saturday televised night. Brad was scheduled to play the Opry and invited his dad to sing with him that night as a Father’s Day gift because he knew his dad had always wanted to just one time step out on that stage and sing a song called ‘California Blues.’ So that is just what they did.”
In addition, Richard’s daughter, Missy Martin Grate, who later sang backup vocals for her brother during his Sony career, sang back up vocals that night at the Opry.
Richard’s other daughter, Molly, learned to play the fiddle and do back up vocals, and his other son, Richie, sings gospel music.
As for Brad, he had just completed his second CD on Sony when new management came in to town and the label fell apart, letting most of its artists go. Brad went on to sign with Curb Records, wrote for the Curb Publishing Company for over 15 years, and was signed to the label as a duo known as Martin/Ramey, consisting of Brad and John Ramey. Brad still lives in Nashville and has landed a lead role in the musical “A Brand New Man.” He sings and acts in the play, according to the news release.
“I guess to some it all up in Richard’s words, ‘Music to me has always been a family affair,’” Carole said. “Glory be to God and his faithfulness during these trials, and on this journey we call life.”
Editor’s Note — Much of the information for this story was provided by Carole Martin.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.