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Carolyn Martin: News

Why I Recorded "A Platter of Brownies" - March 13, 2014

I’ve always taken a rather broad view about what qualifies as “western swing.” I’ve recorded brand new compositions as well as songs from Broadway shows and beloved movies. I've recorded songs by artists from Hank Williams and Faron Young to Duke Ellington and Rosemary Clooney, as well as classics by those giants on whose shoulders all of us who make this music stand: Bob Wills, Spade Cooley and Cindy Walker.

For this project, the band and I decided we would tap into the roots of the genre – and that led us straight to the music of Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies. We had Milton’s complete recordings with us while we were on tour in Canada last summer, and once we decided to do the record, we discovered that our job was not so much finding songs that we liked but choosing which songs to discard – not an easy task!

In the end, the 16 songs on “A Platter of Brownies” are a fair representation of the Brownies’ varied repertoire. Our goal was not to duplicate the sound of the original recordings; our arrangements, which were group efforts done in the studio immediately prior to recording, were fashioned to suit our inclinations and musical tastes while trying to retain the energy and spirit of the Brownies’ wonderful versions. 

This album would not have been possible without the incredible musicians and singers who wholeheartedly contributed their talents to this project. Thanks to all of you. You swing hard!

Carolyn Martin

(Feb. 2014)

Who was Milton Brown? - March 13, 2014

Milton Brown – the Father of Western Swing

On the evening of September 19, 1932, Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies broadcast their first show on Fort Worth’s KTAT Radio. Brown had played his last show as a member of Fort Worth’s Light Crust Doughboys only two days earlier. Over the next four years, this group would create the style of music we now know as western swing.

 In 1932, the Light Crust Doughboys were Texas’ best known string band. Their daily noontime broadcast on Fort Worth’s WBAP radio and their numerous personal appearances throughout the state as representatives of the Burrus Mills and Elevator Company‘s Light Crust Flour brand had made them, in less than two years, a household name throughout the state. The Doughboys brought an exciting new sound to Texas combining Bob Wills’ breakdown fiddle style with the beat of New Orleans style ‘hot bands’ with its heavier rhythm and more contemporary sound. Most Texas string bands of the time were instrumental groups, so Brown’s smooth, sophisticated vocals were a major departure from both the string band tradition and the ‘dry and dusty sound’ of the original cowboy singers most often heard on local radio programs.

Despite the presence of Milton Brown and Bob Wills, there are a couple of reasons that the original Light Crust Doughboys should not be considered the first western swing band: a defining element of Western Swing is improvisation – and while Bob Wills was a fine breakdown fiddler who loved jazz, he could not improvise. (The Doughboys later developed into a fine western swing band, of course, and Wills’ later groups invariably included fiddle players who were adept improvisers). The other reason is that western swing is dance music, and the Light Crust Doughboys did not perform in bars or dancehalls. Their employer, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel felt that it would give Light Crust Flour a bad name if the group was associated with those types of places. (This didn’t mean that the members of the Doughboys didn’t play dances – it simply meant that they didn’t play dances as the Light Crust Doughboys. O’Daniel’s stricture against playing for dances was a bone of contention between the musicians and their employer, and O’Daniel’s edict played a role in both Brown’s decision to leave and, some months later, in Bob Wills’ departure.

The Musical Brownies built on the Doughboys’ string band tradition but added a number of seemingly disparate elements – old fiddle tunes, the popular music of the day, ethnic music from Texas’ German, Czech, and Hispanic communities, blues and jazz from the African-American tradition and above all, a strong dance beat – melding them into a unified whole. Above all, the Musical Brownies also added the element of improvisation, the lynchpin of western swing, to their performances.

The Musical Brownies developed not only the instrumentation that would characterize western swing as we know it, they developed the basic repertoire of the style. The Musical Brownies were the first string band to add a piano (Fred “Papa” Calhoun in the fall of 1932), the first to use twin fiddles (Jesse Ashlock and Cecil Brower by early 1933) and the first to use an electric steel guitar (Bob Dunn, in late 1934).

The songs that the Musical Brownies performed at their dances became the standard repertoire for the western swing groups who followed (and in many cases, emulated) Brown’s band, including “Right Or Wrong”, “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”, “Some Of These Days” and “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You.)”  According to Milton’s brother Roy Lee Brown, Milton and his Musical Brownies were the first western swing group to record these songs and dozens more. Even songs that folks today think of as ‘Bob Wills songs’ like “Nancy Jane”, “Bring It On Down To My House”, “Corrina Corrina” and “Yes Sir”, were recorded by the Musical Brownies before they were recorded by Wills and the Texas Playboys or by any of the other western swing groups that appeared in the early 1930s.

As western swing matured in the 1940s and 1950s other musical genres - the music of the big bands, western music as popularized by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and groups like the Sons of the Pioneers, pop music of the day and even the birth of rock and roll - had an influence on western swing, and western swing has in turn had an impact on those genres. While western swing groups recorded big band and pop songs like “How High The Moon” and “Across the Alley From The Alamo”, artists as disparate as Bing Crosby, Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley have recorded Bob Wills songs. Without the seminal contributions of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, western swing (or something much like it) would still have developed, but it would certainly have developed along other paths.

At the time of Milton Brown’s death after an April 1936 automobile accident, the Musical Brownies were Texas’ preeminent western swing band, and Brown was making plans to expand the group’s reach beyond its Fort Worth base. He had been working on a deal to make a number of short films (similar to today’s music videos) with the Brownies, and perhaps most important, he had been in negotiation with Republic Pictures about appearing in the upcoming Gene Autry movie “Oh Susannah!” (After Milton’s death, the Light Crust Doughboys were hired for the movie.) Though the Musical Brownies continued to perform and even recorded after Milton’s death, the group disbanded within a year. The loss of Milton Brown’s voice, stage presence and business acumen were too much for the group to overcome. Had Brown lived, it’s likely that the history of Western Swing would have been much different. Brown richly deserves recognition as “The Father of Western Swing”.

The most complete source of information about Milton Brown is Cary Ginell’s “Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing” (available through Amazon).

The complete recordings of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies can be found at www.originjazz.com

"A Platter of Brownies is here!" - March 13, 2014

My latest Cd, "A Platter of Brownies: The Music of Milton Brown" is in hand - to order your own copy before the official release date in April, go to the "Buy" page!

Carolyn Martin Live At The Station Inn Video - March 13, 2013

Hey, y'all, we just found this video; it was recorded in 2011 (and was most likely on Youtube, but I didn't know! Here's a whole hour of my swing band, with Rory Hoffman on guitar and accordion, Dave Martin playing bass, drummer Tommy Wells, Paul Kramer playing fiddle, and Chris Scruggs playing steel!

http://youtu.be/31ZLYlPGGN4

 

Western Way Magazine Review - January 14, 2013

Wow - a great review of Tennessee Local from Rick Huff in the new Western Way Magazine! Thanks, Rick!

"Carolyn Martin is one of contemporary Western Swing’s bigger draws, and her recorded product is always…always…spot-on perfection.

In Tennessee Local she once again ranges from Swing to Pop Jazz to Boogie to Ballad and blows the lid off of each with musicians that are her equal, led by hubby Dave Martin. From her great originals “Swing On” and “Talk To Me” through classics of the chosen genres like “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Beat Me Daddy 8 To The Bar,” “You’re From Texas” and others, Martin and company handle things with unarguable command.

Two other original songs from players on the project are also worthy of praise…Nora Jane Struthers’ “Cowgirl Yodel” and Chris Scruggs’ “Change Your Made-Up Mind.” If the so-called “bar” is set by artists like these, a pack of Western Swingers have some serious stretching to do to jump it!

New photos - June 5, 2012

We've added a bunch of new photos to the site, including some really cool images from a show at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Abilene, Texas - check 'em out!

A nice article in the Abilene Reporter-News - May 22, 2012

http://www.reporternews.com/news/2012/may/22/abilene-native-and-western-swing-hall-of-famer/

Abilene native and Western swing hall of famer performs tonight

Carolyn Martin's road to the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame began at Abilene's Ponderosa Ballroom.

It was there that she fell in love, not just with the songs themselves but with the sound and feel of Western swing music, with its high-stepping spirit and frontier charm.

"I loved the steel guitar, the sound of twin fiddles, the vocal style, the beat," Martin said. "It's happy music. It makes you want to get up and move."

Martin is returning to her hometown for a 7 p.m. concert tonight at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 1741 Sayles Blvd.

She graduated from Cooper High School in 1975 — her husband and musical collaborator, Dave, was an Abilene High grad. Martin sang around Abilene for a few years before moving to Nashville.

Success and recognition didn't come immediately, but her last two albums — 2010's "Cookin' with Carolyn" and 2007's "Swing" — won her accolades from both the Academy of Western Artists and the Western Music Association. She was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame last year.

Since her initial love affair with Western swing, Martin has become a student of the genre. Her performances pay homage to the classic swing groups of the '30s, '40s and '50s, while also drawing inspiration from big band jazz and Broadway show tunes.

Martin's other projects have included performing as a member of the Grammy-nominated country group Time Jumpers, as well as a recent stint paying tribute to Patsy Cline on the "Country Royalty" tour.

A suggested $10 love offering will be accepted for Martin's performance tonight.

To hear selections from the easygoing "Cookin' with Carolyn" album and learn more about Martin's career, visit www.carolynmartinmusic.com.

Texas Western Swing Hall Of Fame Show - May 19, 2012

Returning to San Marcos, Texas, to play for the 25th Texas Western Swing Hall Of Fame show was a pure delight! - It's always great to see old friends and make new ones, all under the wide open Texas Skies!

Carolyn at Music City Roots - May 16, 2012

We were honored to play for the Music City Roots show on May 16th; here are links to a couple of videos from the show.

"Columbus Stockade Blues" - http://youtu.be/e22zuZC7dl8
 
"Swing On " -  http://youtu.be/Gl6c4_F7xuo

A news article from Joliet, IL - April 25, 2012

Carolyn Martin closes out District 210’s Senior Series

Demand has been so great for Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210’s popular Senior Series that an extra show has been added to 2012’s season lineup.

The Carolyn Martin Swing Band, with its mix of classic western swing and big band swing, will perform at 11 a.m. May 2 at Lincoln-Way North High School, 19900 S. Harlem Ave., Frankfort.

“Carolyn Martin is a vocalist with a unique sense of musical style and a charismatic stage presence,” said Denise Adducci, performing arts coordinator for District 210.

“Her voice exudes passion and experience — the soulful elegance that is the very essence of music.”

The singer has been described as “a winning throwback to the days where emotion was measured and artful rather than loud and histrionic.”

She will be accompanied by guitar, piano, steel guitar, brushes, fiddle, bass, harmonica and the accordion.

Patrons can enjoy 75 uninterrupted minutes of classic western swing with influences from the big band swing era, Dixieland, Broadway and blues.

Attendees can expect to hear such classic tunes as “Dream,” “Crazy,” “The Nearness of You,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “The Very Thought of You” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

District 210 introduced the Senior Series three years ago to give community members — especially citizens who no longer have children in the district — an opportunity to experience the state-of-the-art facilities while enjoying a variety of world-class performing artists at extremely reasonable ticket prices.

Past performers have included the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians with Al Pierson and Dave Bennett’s “Tribute to Benny Goodman.”

The swing band’s performance on May 2 will be the seventh and final show of the district’s 2011-12 Senior Series.

A new series lineup for the 2012-13 season will be announced in the summer.

 

Performances typically sell out in advance.

Carolyn's WMA trophy! - January 8, 2012

Carolyn's official photo with the Western Music Association's Best Western Swing Album of 2011!Carolyn WMA

Cookin' With Carolyn wins WMA Best Swing Album! - November 21, 2011

Howdy, Folks - here's the big news!

Carolyn Martin’s “Cookin’ With Carolyn” CD was named the

2011 Best Western Swing Album

by the Western Music Association.

The award was announced at the WMA’s annual awards show in Albuquerque, NM on November 21, 2011.

Carolyn is thrilled by this honor, and would like to thank the WMA membership and especially the wonderful musicians who played on the record and made the project so much fun. Pictures of the WMA award will be added to Carolyn’s website as soon as we recover from the drive from Albuquerque to Nashville.

We understand that everyone’s in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations, but we wanted to share our good news with y’all; we had a great time at the Western Music Association convention, and the Best Western Swing Album award was truly the icing on the cake for Carolyn (well, considering that we were in Albuquerque, you might say that the award was the green chile sauce on the enchiladas)!

If you don’t have your own copy of “Cookin’ With Carolyn” or if you’re stuck for the perfect Christmas gift for that hard to buy for relative, please consider visiting http://www.carolynmartinmusic.com/products.html for a stress-free shopping experience.

There’s a lot more news this month, but we realize that you don’t want to stare at the computer all dang day; we’ll let you know the rest once the turkey is devoured and you’re all out of pumpkin pie.

A nice article from the Whittier Daily News - July 8, 2011

http://whittierdailynews.com/weekend/ci_18442532

Carolyn Martin puts the swing in western music

 

As perky and homespun as her songs, Western swing artist Carolyn Martin has been capturing a lot of attention from fans and fellow musicians over the last few years.

In 2008 and 2010, she won the Academy of Western Artists' Will Rogers Award for Female Western Swing Vocalist of the Year and this year, Martin was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.

Her most recent effort, "Cookin' With Carolyn," was produced by Martin's husband, Dave Martin and self-released in February 2010.

Martin will be making her first appearance at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena on Thursday, where she promises to have the audience humming along.

The Nashville resident performs music in the style of classic western swing from the '30s-'50s, with influences from the big band swing era as well. She plays cover tunes and original material, which she is most inspired to write during long drives in the car.

"When I'm in the car, especially on an hour's long trip, I have time to just think," she said. "I turn off the radio and it's quiet and I wait until I am inspired by something that catches my ear. I have a notebook where I'll jot down ideas. Gosh, if I finished all the ideas in my notebook, I'd have hundreds of songs."

Just one listen to her tunes and you will realize Martin's strongest suit is her way with words. She loves playing with language, yet keeping her lyrics simple so they can be easily understood.

"I want

people to be able to relate to my songs, but also I like that little twinkle-in-the-eye wink thing," Martin said. "Western swing is so amiable to that because it is meant to be fun music. It was created as a distraction in the '30s. Those were hard times, so (this music) was created for people to go out on Saturday night and dance and forget about their troubles for a little while."

Perhaps that is part of the reason for the current resurgence of interest in the genre. Western swing and related bands are appearing more on the scene and their fans are the young crowd you would expect to see at a rock concert. Martin attributes part of this surge, as well as the music's survival over time, to its pure joy and how it makes people want to tap their feet and move.

"It's designed as dance music, and it naturally makes you feel better," she said. "It is infectious and it's absolutely as much fun or maybe more fun to play than it is to listen to.

"So much of it is improvisation on the spot. You say, `Steel player take solo' and the music just happens, it's not planned and that's when the magic happens for me.

"I couldn't tell you exactly what swing means, but you can feel it, and you know it when you hear it," Martin said.

The Coffee Gallery Backstage will be the first stop on a short tour of California for Martin, during which she will also spend some time visiting friends. The shows will feature Martin on guitar and her husband on acoustic bass and will include a repertoire of classic western swing, cowboy music and original material.

"It's going to be family- friendly fun music," she said of the concert. "We chose songs that lyrically, and musically, have integrity. Our mission is to spread the joy of swing music around.

"We try to have a lot of energy and I think it's something that's going to send people out the door smiling and humming a tune."

Carolyn inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall Of Fame - May 22, 2011

Singer Carolyn Martin was recently honored at the 19th Annual Texas Natural and Western Swing Festival in San Marcos Texas.

In a ceremony on May 21, 2011, Nashville based vocalist Carolyn Martin was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. A Texas born swing singer, Martin received the honor during her headlining performance at the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame Show in the San Marcos Plaza. Festival organizer Al Dressen, assisted by 2010 Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame inductee Billy Mata and former Asleep at the Wheel vocalist Maryann Price, named Martin an “Ambassador for Western Swing” and presented her with a Texas shaped plaque to celebrate her induction.

Martin was the recipient of the Academy of Western Artists’ Will Rogers Award for Female Western Swing Vocalist of the Year in 2008 and 2010 and received nominations for Song of the Year for her composition “That’s What I Call Cookin’” and for Western Swing Album of the Year for her CD “Cookin’ With Carolyn”. The Western Music Association also nominated Martin for Outstanding Female Vocalist, Western Swing Album of the Year and Song of the Year in 2010.

Martin’s success comes, she said, from her belief that “the only difference between big band swing and western swing is the instrumentation; big bands use trumpets and saxes while western swing features fiddles and steel.”

WMA 2010 VIdeo - November 28, 2010

We just returned from the Western Music Association's festival in Albuquerque, NM. Though we didn't bring home any awards this year, we had a great time! Here's what we do after the scheduled events each evening. (this was probably recorded between 1:00 and 2:00AM on Saturday evening).

Music City Artists to handle Carolyn's Concert booking - November 2, 2010

Charlie Ray at Music City Artists (www.musiccityartists.com) has added Carolyn to the Music City Artists roster - we're looking forward to working with Charlie and all the folks at Music City Artists!

AWA Names Carolyn Female Western Swing Vocalist Of The Year! - October 21, 2010

The Academy of Western Artists has named Carolyn the Female Western Swing Vocalist Of The Year!
The AWA, based in Gene Autry, OK, was founded to recognize and honor outstanding individuals who, through their accomplishments, preserve and perpetuate the traditions, values and heritage of the American Cowboy.

Carolyn is thrilled that the AWA recognized her in this manner.

October 12 update - October 12, 2010

Howdy, y'all!

Carolyn has spent the last few weeks on tour with a show called “Country Royalty”, a tribute to the music of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. The tour began in Greenville, AL and wound up seven states later in Bridgeport, WV. The fall Country Royalty tour was great fun and the performances were extremely well received. We’re all looking forward to the next Country Royalty performance (currently scheduled for February 2011 in Pell City, Alabama). If you haven’t seen Country Royalty yet, you can at least hear Carolyn singing those classic songs. To order “The Songs Of Patsy Cline”, go to: www.carolynmartinmusic.com/products.html where all of Carolyn’s albums can be purchased. 

 

Carolyn will be sticking pretty close to Music City for the rest of the month; on Wednesday, October 20, Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band returns to the legendary Station Inn for a 9:00PM show. The band for this show will include the fabulous Johnny Cox on the steel guitar, along with Rory Hoffman, Jerry Krahn, Billy Contreras, Tommy Wells and Dave Martin.

 

On October 29, Carolyn will bring her trio back to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts from 6:00-8:00. Come out, see the exhibits – including “Chihuly at the Frist” and the recently opened exhibition “The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay” (which includes the painting known as “Whistler’s Mother) – then come back down to the lobby and enjoy some fine swing music.

 

Looking ahead, Carolyn and the Swing Band will be playing at the French Quarter Café at 6:00 on November 5 – a convenient location for our East Nashville friends – and we’ll be leaving for shows in Texas (Nov. 13 in Weatherford at the Texas Opry Theater and Nov. 16 at Cowboy Gelato in Amarillo) and a few days of playing and singing with our friends at the Western Music Association convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

In other news, Carolyn has been nominated for the 2010 “Outstanding Vocalist Female” award by the WMA, while her latest CD, “Cookin’ With Carolyn” has been nominated for both Western Swing Album of the Year and Album of the Year. The WMA has also nominated “That’s What I Call Cookin’”, written by Carolyn and her husband Dave, as Song Of the Year! These nominations are in addition to the Academy Of Western Artists nominations, which are for Female Western Swing Vocalist, Western Swing Album and Song of the Year – Carolyn is thrilled that so many talented people like the new record and is both honored and humbled by the nominations.

 

Finally, we’re thrilled that the video from the September 1st Music City Roots show is online – to see Carolyn’s Swing Band, Erika Chambers, The Gypsy Hombres and the legendary J.D. Souther, go to: http://livestre.am/p41 and enjoy the show!

 

Until next time, keep on swingin’!

Western Music Awards Nominations! - October 1, 2010

The Western Music Association has announced the nominees for their 2010 awards; "Cookin' With Carolyn" is nominated both for Western Swing Album of the Year and for Album of the Year, and "That's What I Call Cookin'" is up for Song of the Year! Carolyn is also a finalist for Female Outstanding Vocalist.

Cookin' With Carolyn at the top of the Charts! - September 30, 2010

The new Western Way Magazine just came out and "Cookin' With Carolyn is the Number 1 Western Swing album - how cool is that!

Broken Spoke! - September 3, 2010

Tonight is the first of three nights in Texas with the great Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition. September 3 at the Broken Spoke in Austin, September 4 at the Swiss Alp Dance Hall in Schulenburg and September 5 at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera - y'all come see us!

Carolyn returns to the Lone Star State - August 29, 2010

Howdy, Folks!

Carolyn will be performing this Labor Day weekend with the fabulous Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition.

Friday, September 3 the show will be at the legendary Broken Spoke in Austin, Saturday the 4th, we'll be at the Swiss Alps Dance Hall in Schulenburg, and on Sunday the 5th, Billy, Carolyn and the boys will be holding forth at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera, Texas. Texas piano master Floyd Domino will be joining Billy, Carolyn and the band in Austin and Bandera.

Come on out and bring your dancing shoes (or boots, as the case may be)!

Carolyn on WSM - August 29, 2010

On Tueday, August 31, Carolyn will be visiting with Bill Cody on WSM 650 AM - if you're one of the unlucky few who can't hear WSM on your radio, you don't have to feel left out; tune your computer to www.wsmonline.com and listen on the internet!

Carolyn on Music City Roots - August 29, 2010

Y'all be sure and catch Carolyn on Music City Roots on Wednesday, September 1st; it'll be a great show!

Live In Studio C - June 7, 2010

Carolyn appeared on WPLN's "Live In Studio C" last week with a jazz quartet; while she's been concentrating on singing Western Swing recently, many of you remember her "Very Thought Of You" CD. Most of the material on the latest "Live In Studio C" is from that album. The show is currently availabl from WPLN's website; the link is: http://wpln.org/?cat=5 and it's well worth listening to. Carolyn and the band, consisting of pianist Rory Hoffman, drummer Tommy Wells, bassist Dave Martin and the lovely and talented Billy Huber on trombone, are on the second half of the show.

Enjoy!

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