True Adventures with the King of Bluegrass, Jimmy Martin
by Tom Piazza
CMF Press/Vanderbilt University Press
Jimmy Martin was just twenty-two years old when Bill Monroe asked him to join the Blue Grass Boys. That invitation was the start of a fifty-year recording career, recently celebrated with Martin's induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Honor. At age seventy-two, he still regularly performs with his band, the Sunny Mountain Boys. Yet the man himself remains an obscure figure, compared with other bluegrass greats, such as Ralph Stanley or the Osborne Brothers.
Fiction writer and music critic Tom Piazza couldn't understand why Martin wasn't better known. So, on assignment from The Oxford American magazine, he drove from his home in New Orleans to Nashville to find out. Although aware that Martin had "a reputation as a heavy drinker and a volatile personality," Piazza found himself pitched headlong into a world he couldn't have anticipated. Martin's mercurial personality drew the writer into a series of escalating encounters (with mean dogs, broken down cars, and near electrocution), culminating in a harrowing and unforgettable expedition, with Martin, to the Grand Ole Opry.
Piazza captured his visit with Martin in supple, electric prose, and the result, when it appeared in the Oxford American, quickly became a word-of-mouth sensation among musicians and fans alike. Included in this keepsake edition are a new afterword by Piazza, an essay on Martin's recordings, and a timeline of Martin's career. True Adventures with the King of Bluegrass is a funny, scary, and powerfully poignant portrait of one of the living legends of American music.
The New York Times Book Review, Tom Graves
Piazza ... pulls the reader in so close to the action that one can practically smell the odor of whisky on Martin's breath.
1999 Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award nomination