Larry Martin and the Blues

Guitarist Larry Martin is a well-known session musician, arranger and composer. In 1976, he decided to begin producing the great names in the world of Blues, a genre that had fallen out of favour in its country of origin, but was still surviving in a few specialised nightclubs where some of the music’s mythic names were ready to strum a note.

Larry began his catalogue with the recording of piano player Champion Jack Dupree in October 1976 for the Saravah/RCA label, and immediately defined what was going to be the style. The legendary veterans he recorded were exiled from their native roots, and found themselves in a European studio often surrounded by very young musicians. They gave a modern twist to their style that enabled them to express another side of their genius and inject a fresh burst of energy into it.

In parallel, thanks to Larry Martin Europe discovered the West Coast Blues neglected up till then, and he transformed unknown guitar player Luther Allison into a big star as well as resurrecting Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (Real Life 1983).

The producer has never leaked what happened during those sessions so we have to rely on the confidences of the musicians to find out. It seems that his influence was very strong during these recordings, rather different to the way things were done in that era for a style of music that was generally recorded in a passive manner.

However, the producer was not influenced by any particular dogma. In fact, he had no time for the specialists and other zealots of the Blues who abounded at the time. The recordings could go from the most sophisticated (Sonny Rhodes, SJ Hawkins) to provoked spontaneity or out-and-out improvisation in the appropriate situation. “Goin through the bushes” by Robert Pete Williams for example was recorded during a party to celebrate the completition of the artist’s disc. It was the same thing for a completely exhausted Lightnin’ Hopkins’ last recording – who knew his days were numbered – on the little tape recorder of the producer (a bass player at the time) during a family gathering in Houston, Texas. Champion Jack Dupree, a fabulous raconteur of American tales, was so reassured that he never recorded anywhere else than Paris with the same producer until the end of his life.

Over twenty-five years later the situation is very different. The great names of the Blues recorded in that era by an inspired producer have all disappeared, and are now worshipped throughout the world as founding artists. Their music is universally recognised and its followers are legion. The samples of the recordings that you will find here are recognised as classics, and bear a unique testimony to an era when some great artists almost disappeared into the maw of oblivion.