John Martyn, OBE (11 September 1948 – 29 January 2009), born as Iain David McGeachy, was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. Over a 40-year career, he released 21 studio albums, and received frequent critical acclaim. Martyn began his career at age 17 as a key member of the British folk music scene, drawing inspiration from American blues and English traditional music, and signed with Island Records. By the 1970s he had begun incorporating jazz and rock into his sound on albums such as Solid Air (1973) and One World (1977), as well as experimenting with guitar effects and tape delay machines such as Echoplex. He struggled with substance abuse and domestic problems throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and continued to release albums while collaborating with figures such as Phil Collins and Lee "Scratch" Perry. He remained active until his death in 2009. He was described by The Times as "an electrifying guitarist and singer whose music blurred the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues".
Mentored by Hamish Imlach, Martyn began his professional musical career when he was 17, playing a fusion of blues and folk resulting in a distinctive style which made him a key figure in the British folk scene during the mid-1960s. He signed to Chris Blackwell's Island Records in 1967 and released his first album, London Conversation, the following year.This first album was soon followed by The Tumbler, which was moving towards jazz. By 1970 Martyn had developed a wholly original and idiosyncratic sound: acoustic guitar run through a fuzzbox, phase shifter and Echoplex. (Read more at Wikipedia.)
Links to Peel
In his early days, John Martyn performed in folk clubs, alongside the Incredible String Band and Bert Jansch, fellow Scottish folk-based artists who were admired by Peel. He was one of the many acoustic, folk-based artists who made their Peel session début on Night Ride (in July 1968). His second session, billed as John Martyn and Harold McNair, was on the celebrated John and Yoko Night Ride of 11 December 1968. It demonstrated how his style was developing away from folk, mixing his own material with blues standards and incorporating jazz influences through the flute playing of McNair, best-known to Peel listeners as an accompanist to Donovan. In 1969 he began to perform as half of a duo with his wife, the singer Beverley. They made two albums before Martyn reverted to solo work, and further Peel sessions followed.
John Martyn proved to have more staying power than most artists of the era, doing further sessions for Peel until 1978. After that he disappeared from Peel's playlists (apart from a sole play in 1981) but later became a favourite of Peel’s colleague Andy Kershaw. Martyn was also associated with two artists who did sessions for Peel. Bridget St John described him as her "mentor" for guitar playing and said he encouraged her to make the tape which led to her being offered a Night Ride session; she recorded his song "The River" for her second Peel session (her version appeared on the rare BBC Records John Peel Presents Top Gear LP). Nick Drake befriended Martyn when they were both signed to Joe Boyd's Witchseason Productions company, and Martyn and his wife Beverley tried to help Drake by allowing the troubled singer to stay at their home. "Solid Air", the title song of one of John Martyn's best-known albums, is said to be about Nick Drake.
Festive Fifty Entries
Seven sessions. Official releases:
- Sunday's Child CD, bonus tracks on 2005 reissue (Island)
- In Session At The BBC CD, 2006, Universal
- On The Island Years (17xCD, 2013 (Universal 3742288)
- On Head and Heart, The Acoustic John Martyn 2xCD, 2017 (Universal 573 622-2)
1. Recorded 1968-06-13. First broadcast 10 July 1968.
- Come Along And Sing A Song Of Summer / The Gardeners / The River / Fairytale Lullaby / Memphis Blues
- Different From The Book / Jelly Roll Baker Blues [The Easy Blues] / Dusty / Hello Train / Flying On Home / Seven Black Roses
- Traffic Light Lady / Give Us A Ring / Road To Ruin / Tomorrow Time / Seven Black Roses (first broadcast 18 July 1970 repeat)
4. Recorded 1971-09-20. First broadcast 20 October 1971.
- May You Never / Bless The Weather / Inside Of Him / Singing In The Rain
5. Recorded 1975-01-07. First broadcast 13 January 1975.
- One Day (Without You) / Discover The Lover / My Baby Girl / The Message / Spencer The Rover
6. Recorded 1977-01-18. First broadcast 04 February 1977.
- May You Never / Certain Surprise/Couldn't Love You More / Over The Hill / One Day Without You
7. Recorded 1978-01-09 First broadcast 16 January 1978.
- Small Hours / Big Muff
- Tree Green
- Bless The Weather
- Would You Believe Me
- The Road to Ruin
Other Shows Played
- 07 February 1970 (& Beverley Martyn): John The Baptist (7") Island WIP 6076
- 21 February 1970 (& Beverley Martyn): Traffic-Light Lady (LP – Stormbringer) Island
- 19 December 1970 (& Beverley Martyn): Auntie Aviator (LP - Road To Ruin) Island
- 14 March 1970 (& Beverley Martyn): John The Baptist (7") Island WIP 6076
- 15 March 1973: Over The Hill (LP – Solid Air) Island
- 05 February 1974: I'd Rather Be The Devil (LP - Solid Air) Island
- 14 September 1981: Please Fall In Love With Me (LP - Glorious Fool) WEA
- Record Boxes: Pete Paphides
- Scotland: Sessions
- Cover Versions
- Gigography 1975
- Bridget St John
- ABC Of Beauty
- ↑ LP not released until 1 December 1968, so maybe JP had an advance pressing/white label. However, Wikipedia's page on the album  gives October 1968 as the release date