CMH releases classic Benny Martin album in digital form

CMH Records has made a digital version of another of their classic bluegrass recordings available online, this time an LP from almost 50 years ago from Benny Martin, one of the largest personalities in bluegrass and country music.

It’s his Turkey in the Grass record, which finds the “Big Tige” both singing and fiddling up a storm. Originally released in 1977, it includes 12 tracks of familiar country and bluegrass numbers, performed in Martin’s inimitable style.

Accompanying him in the studio were Buddy Blackman on banjo, Mike McBride on mandolin and guitar, Arthur Smith on mandolin and reso-guitar, Gregg Kennedy on bass and keys, Don Ange on piano, and Burt Hoffman on drums. Martin played fiddle and guitar, and sang the lead.

In his day, Benny played with nearly every influential bluegrass and traditional country act in the business, with stints as a Blue Grass Boy, and with Flatt & Scruggs, Don Reno, Johnnie & Jack, and Roy Acuff. He recorded as well with The Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin, and The Stonemans.

The tracks he cut with Lester and Earl in 1952 and ’53 are an important part of bluegrass history, so much so that contemporary fiddlers wouldn’t think of playing a song like Someone Took My Place With You or Flint Hill Special without at least referencing Benny’s solos. His aggressive fiddling style, and his similarly energetic stage persona endeared him to fans wherever he performed, and they never let him off the stage without doing his biggest number, Me and My Fiddle.

Benny became a Grand Ole Opry member as a solo act, and was a very popular performer under his own name. He made a number of albums during his career, and was part of country music package shows in the 1960s.

You still hear echoes of his fiddling in modern day players like Michael Cleveland, Jason Carter, Ron Stewart, and others, all of whom claim Martin as a major influence.

Here’s a listen to the title track from Turkey in the Grass, where he mixes the barnyard classic fiddle tune, Turkey in the Straw, with some tongue-in-cheek verses that would have been a bit risqué in 1977.

The newly remastered edition of Benny Martin’s Turkey in the Grass is available now from popular download and streaming services online. Radio programmers will find the tracks at AirPlay Direct.

Well done and hat’s off to CMH for making this vintage gem accessible again. More please!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.