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Info: Asa Martin

10 Sep 01 - 06:20 PM (#546615)
Subject: Asa Martin
From: shyattca

I'm looking for biographical information about the early, old-timey, country singer, Asa Martin. I recently found a mp3 of him playing a song called "Roving Moonshiner" out at an interesting site which deals with the history of moonshining ( I liked the song so much that I wrote down the lyrics, jotted down the chords, and tabbed out the interesting bass run guitar accompanyment Martin uses on it. I've found a couple of references to him here at the Cafe, but not really anything in the way of biographical info. Who was this guy, where was he from, when did he record, how popular was he, and that way--anybody know anything?

10 Sep 01 - 06:58 PM (#546634)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: Sorcha

Check this out.
Martin, Asa

b. 28 June 1900, Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky, USA, d. 15 August 1979. Martin learned to play guitar as a child (later adding musical saw) and gained his first professional work in vaudeville and minstrel shows. He recorded for Gennett with Doc Roberts and for some years from the late 20s, he worked as a duo with young James Roberts (Doc's son). Between 1928 and 1934, they recorded a mixture of old-time songs, new numbers and parodies, on some sessions being accompanied by Roy Hobbs (mandolin). Roberts tired of the music, in 1937, and joined the navy but later, he rejoined Martin, who had a band at WLAP Lexington on Martin's popular Morning Roundup. Amongst his musicians were Stringbean and the Amburgey Sisters; one of them, Irene, married Roberts and they performed as James And Martha ( Carson ). Martin, who also worked on WHAS Louisville and WLW and WCKY Cincinnati, made further recordings, mainly comedy numbers, for Vocalion Records in 1938. Throughout the 30s, Martin appeared on countless recordings for Paramount, Gennett and ARC. He once even recorded a sketch ("The Beer Party") with some friends to celebrate the end of prohibition. In 1940, he relocated to WCMI Ashland but during World War II, he withdrew from full-time performing and moved to Ohio, where he worked in a steel plant. He retired in the mid-60s and settled near Irvine, Kentucky, where he formed and played locally with his Cumberland Rangers. In 1971, Martin and Doc and James Roberts (the original Fiddlin' Doc Roberts Trio) were reunited to play a reunion concert at Berea College. In 1974, Martin and the Cumberland Rangers recorded an album for Rounder Records, but sadly, little of his immense recorded output is available, except for occasional tracks on some old-time compilations. He continued to make concert appearances with his group, sometimes beyond his own state and even, on one occasion, to Japan. Martin, a fine vocalist and a much respected rhythm guitarist, has helped many young musicians. In later years, his brilliant memory made him a source of knowledge on the early days of the music. On 15 August 1979, Martin, after spending the morning and afternoon fishing, returned to his garden to collect cucumbers for tea; his daughter-in-law subsequently found him dead, the victim of a heart attack.

10 Sep 01 - 07:09 PM (#546640)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: Joe Offer

Hi, - a good place to find biographical information about musicians is Here's what they say about Asa Martin.
-Joe Offer-

Born Jun 28, 1900 in Winchester, KY
Died Aug 15, 1979

Old-time Kentucky singer Asa Martin made many records during the '20s and '30s and was closely associated with the famed fiddler Doc Roberts, for whom he played rhythm guitar. In turn, Roberts frequently played mandolin on Martin's recordings; Roberts' son James even sang duets with Martin under the name Martin and Roberts.
Martin was born in Clark County, Kentucky and grew up listening to the traditional music presented in minstrel shows and vaudeville productions. Inspired to become a performer, he joined a traveling show or two and learned to play guitar. It was during this time that he met Doc Roberts, who had him sit in on a recording session in Richmond, Indiana. His first solo songs were mostly parodies, such as "The Virginia Bootlegger" and "There's No Place like Home (For a Married Man)." Martin moved to more traditional ballads after he teamed up with James Roberts in the late 1920s, including "Knoxville Girl," "Lilly Dale," and "Give My Love to Nell." Occasionally, the two also sang contemporary old-time style songs, such as "The Little Box of Pine on the 7:29." They continued to record together until 1934, when Martin became the host of the Morning Roundup in Lexington. He returned to recording in 1938, again focusing on comedy songs with the occasional ballad, like the haunting "Harlan Town Tragedy."

Martin quit music after the outbreak of World War II, initially working for a munitions factory in Middletown, Ohio. He retired in 1965 and moved to Kentucky, where he founded the Cumberland Rangers. In 1968, his early contributions were unearthed by music scholars Archie Green and Norm Cohen, who helped arrange a reunion concert between Martin and Roberts. In 1974, Martin and the Cumberland Rangers recorded an old-time music album, Dr. Ginger Blue. Sandra Brennan

11 Sep 01 - 01:08 AM (#546794)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: Rick Fielding

I think you'll also find that he may have been the first to record "Man of Constant Sorrow", which has become a "hit" in the new folk revival, after it's appearance in the film "Oh Brother...."


13 Jun 11 - 02:42 PM (#3170024)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Betty Marr

Asa Martin was my Uncle. He was my Mother's youngest brother. His Mother, Maude Martin, died of influenza when he was very young. His father, Rome Martin, married again. Asa's siblings were Bessie Martin Johnson who is the mother of Rome Johnson (Sons of the Pioneers fame). Other siblings included Myrtle Martin Grooms (my mother), Howard Martin, Linville Martin, Vance Martin, and Addie Martin Watts.

I can remember going to see Uncle Asa perform in Winchester and other places. His first wife was Eliza and they had four children, Walter, W.H. Henry Allen and Maude Marie. They lived in Powell County close to Clay City, Kentucky. They got divorced when Maude Marie was small.
She and I are about the same age.

His second wife was Ethel and they had one son. Uncle Asa went to work at Armco Steel in Middletown, Ohio and was a guard there for many years. He retired and moved back to Kentucky.

I do not recall anyone talking about his mother being a piano teacher; however, everybody in the family could play the guitar. Uncle Asa was a tall, slender man with brown eyes and a friendly, smiling face. He always had a positive attitude.

14 Jun 11 - 07:59 AM (#3170380)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Hootenanny

I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with Asa at his homes in Irvine just two years or so before his passing, hearing stories about his long career in music and going through his very large collection of archival material, recordings, posters, photographs etc. I have often wondered what happened to all that material. Hopefully the folks at Berea or some other responsible body managed to save it. I recorded our conversation but unfortunately did not have the time to do a thorough interview. His story of the song 'Hot Corn, Cold Corn' involving David 'Stringbean' Akeman and Flatt & Scruggs was just one of several interesting items.
I was in touch with Asa'a grandson a short time back and understood that some if not all of Asa's archive material was still around including his instruments.
Betty if you have any knowledge on this matter I would be interested to know only beacause I would like to be re-assured that it hasn't all been lost.
He was an interesting man and very welcoming to us.


23 Mar 12 - 02:20 PM (#3327782)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Josh Bearman

I am currently at Berea, researching Asa Martin in order to produce a radio documentary on his life and music. I would love to hear any stories that anyone might know. There is a fairly large collection of his recordings and interviews here, and I recently learned that Gilbert Thomas, former mandolin player for the Cumberland Rangers, might still be living in Richmond Kentucky.

I have also heard that John Harrod retains a number of recordings of Asa.

I will keep this thread updated as to my progress.


23 Mar 12 - 04:23 PM (#3327858)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Hootenanny


I guess that you do have access to a copy of a tape (or maybe two) of conversations with Asa made down at Irvine I believe in 1978. These were sent to Harry Rice at Berea from England. I will be very interested in your updates on your progress.


25 Mar 12 - 12:49 AM (#3328486)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Seth

I am Asa Martin's grandson from his second marriage(Eithel Hollon). Hootenanny I sent you an email. Josh, I would be willing to help you out with any information, or point you in the right direction. Betty, I would love to hear from a long lost relative. I visited Maud Marie (Martin) Townsend last spring and will probably make another trip this year. Asa may be indoctrinated into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame this year in Refro Valley, Ky. I'm glad to see that he is still being researched. Also, Earl Barnes has a web site at

25 Mar 12 - 07:36 PM (#3328855)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Gern

List this thread under "Great reasons to hang out at Mudcat." Few enough places give these performers the recognition they deserve, but to stir up relatives and acquaintances with first-hand stories... Great to hear that artists like Asa Martin are remembered.

28 Mar 12 - 03:06 PM (#3330242)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Josh Bearman

Hello All,

I am, at the moment, listening to the few interviews that Berea has with Asa - two from Raymond McLain, and one from Guthrie Meade. I'm additionally digitizing the majority of his commercial recordings that Berea has on tape.

I'd be very interested in speaking with Mr. Barnes. There's an email address listed as contact on his website. Anyone know where he's located?

Additionally, any other folks that it would be good for me to interview? I have read some . . . less than positive comments that James Roberts made about Asa, and I am curious as to their validity.

Seth, I never received your email, please resend to

Josh Bearman

09 May 12 - 02:05 PM (#3348769)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Betty Marr

Seth Martin. So surprised to learn Uncle Asa has a grandson from his second marriage. That means you are my 2nd cousin!   Glad you went to visit Maud Marie (Martin) Townsend. She is my 1st cousin and she would probably have a lot of information and memos. If you goggle Uncle Asa you will find all kinds of interesting articles as well as
you can listen to his actual songs. I live close to Middletown, Ohio. e-mail me and we will find a way to meet. You have lots of relatives I would love to have you meet.

11 May 12 - 02:33 PM (#3349647)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Seth

Betty, I sent you an email. I hope you have received it. I'm looking forward to your response. I have recently spoken to Deborah (Martin) Carmichael and she said you would remember her as W.H.(Dove's) daughter.

05 Jul 13 - 03:33 PM (#3534121)
Subject: RE: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Eric

Hello all....was looking for family tree and happened upon this. My great grandmother was Bessie Pearl Martin, she was my best friend and grandfathers mother, Walter Martin Johnson. So I guess that makes Asa my great Uncle. Very cool to know this and now I will have to listen to some music too.

Thanks Eric Linville Johnson

13 Feb 14 - 04:42 PM (#3601230)
Subject: RE: Info: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,BethDavisWilson

I was looking for information and happened on to this site. I am an artist creating murals for the Gennett Walk of Fame in Richmond, IN. I am looking for images of Asa Martin when he was playing with Doc Roberts. Both of these men are being inducted into the walk this year and I need images to draw from.

If you are willing to share, please email me at

Our website is If you go to our gallery and search for Gennett you will see what I have done so far.

Thank you,
Beth Wilson

13 Feb 14 - 07:34 PM (#3601264)
Subject: RE: Info: Asa Martin

Here's some footage of Doc Roberts with Asa Martin:

14 Feb 14 - 08:33 AM (#3601412)
Subject: RE: Info: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,BethDavisWilson

I received a message from Frank in the U.K. and a photo. He suggested I contact Seth. Thank you Frank! Seth, if you are willing, would you please contact me.


12 Dec 19 - 01:38 PM (#4023352)
Subject: RE: Info: Asa Martin
From: GUEST,Greg

I would very much like to learn more about Asa Martin, his life, music, musicians he worked with, his guitar style, other instruments he played, stories, pictures etc.. I would especially appreciate hearing from any of his family members who can help me learn more about Asa.

I can be contacted at