Old Silvertone : Freddy Martin©2006JCMarion


Freddy Martin was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in December of 1906. As a young boy he was interested in music and his first led to the drums. He soon switched to the saxophone and concentrated on the tenor instrument. By the time he was in his teenage years and finishing up high school, he started his own orchestra playing big band arrangements. By the early nineteen thirties he was heard by the Lombardo Brothers who liked his style and offered encouragement and helped him find the way to break into the music field in New York. His orchestra played many of the top hotels in New York and Chicago, and Martin used a number of stage names during these early years such as Bob Causer, Ed Lloyd, and Alan Burns. He began to record for the Brunswick label with his first hit record called “Bless Your Heart” with vocal by Terry Shand. His tone on the sax led to his nickname among musicians as “Old Silvertone”. From that point until the end of World Wat II, Martin had amassed an incredible fifty seven best sellers for Brunswick, Bluebird, and RCA Victor records. The number one sellers he recorded were “I Saw Stars” in 1934, “Piano Concerto in B-Flat” featuring Jack Fina on piano in 1941, (which was adapted in a vocal version by Martin called “Tonight We Love”) and “Rose O’Day” with Eddie Stone’s vocal in 1942. The Martin band also was a frequent musical performer on many radio programs during the nineteen thirties into the early forties. The band also made some appearances in wartime movie musicals such as “The Mayor Of 44th Street”, “Hit Parade Of 1943”, “What’s Buzzin Cousin”, and “Stage Door Canteen”. By late 1945 Freddy Martin was a proven veteran hit maker, but some of his best musical moments were ahead of him during the Interlude Era.

In early 1946, the Freddy Martin hit machine was at full strength with a Clyde Rogers vocal on the tune “Symphony” on RCA Victor # 1747 which topped the sales charts in the country and spent more than four months on the best sellers list. This was followed by two top ten sellers “One-zy Two-zy” on # 1826, and another classic remake with Jack Fina “Bumble Boogie” (based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight Of The Bumble Bee”). The Martin aggregation scored with another huge hit shortly afterward that year with a tune from the Broadway show “Annie Get Your Gun”. The song recorded on # 1878 was called “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” and it peaked at number two in the nation. Freddy Martin and his orchestra hit again during the year with a number one million selling hit version of the song “To Each His Own” (also a hit for Eddy Howard) with a fine vocal by Stuart Wade on # 1921. The year 1946 was huge for Martin and they started the following year without any signs of slowing down.

“Managua, Nicaragua” (# 2026), again with Stuart Wade on vocal, hit the number one position in sales in the country which it held for three weeks. Following during the year were “Santa Catalina” featuring Stuart Wade & The Martin Men on # 2136, “Moon Faced And Starry Eyed” with Murray Arnold doing the vocal honors on # 2176, a cover of the Andrews Sisters “The Lady From 29 Palms” on # 2347, “Come To The Mardi Gras” on # 2288, and “Don’t You Love Me Anymore?” on # 2473, all making the top twenty best sellers in the country during the year. In 1948 the Freddy Martin Orchestra began with two recordings of movie songs that made the hit parade. First was “The Treasure Of Sierra Madre” on # 2473, and “Don’t Call It Love” (from the picture “I’ll Walk Alone”) on # 2590 each of which charted briefly. The next big seller for the band was when Martin returned to a popular theme that had proven successful in the past – big band arrangements of classical themes. This time it was Katchaturian and “Sabre Dance” which in the Martin version became “Sabre Dance Boogie” featuring Barclay Allen on RCA Victor # 2721 which was a top five seller. “The New Look” on # 2769 was a decent seller for the band but the next two 1948 releases by the band were big hits featuring vocals by Glen Hughes. “The Dickey Bird Song” (from the film “Three Darling Daughters”) on # 2617, and Martin’s version of a big song from 1948 “On A Slow Boat To China” (# 3123) were top four sellers in the country.

During the year 1949, Freddy Martin had only one charted record, but it was a big national hit record that featured a new singer that would achieve lasting fame in the entertainment field for many years – Merv Griffin. The song was a silly novelty tune called “I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Cocoanuts” on # 3554 which was a top seller for more than four months. In 1950 the Freddy Martin Orchestra hit with two covers – “Music Music Music” with Griffin on vocal on # 3693 covering Teresa Brewer was surprisingly a good seller for the band getting into the top five and lasting for three months. The other song was the movie theme song from “The Third Man” (a number one for Anton Karas on the zither) which was released by RCA Victor on # 3797. In 1951 a movie tune from the picture “Two Weeks With Love” called “Aba Daba Honeymoon” on #4065 was a top ten seller and was followed by “Never Been Kissed” (# 4099) and “My Truly Truly Fair” (# 4159) both with vocals by Merv Griffin were moderate hits. The final mark by the band during the year was a cover of Del Wood’s big hit “Down Yonder” featuring a vocal by Murray Arnold on # 4267.

In 1952 the band did not chart but returned in 1953 with a cover of “April In Portugal” on # 5052 which was a top fifteen seller. In 1954 another movie tune “Lonesome Polecat” from “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” on # 5833 briefly made the national best sellers. That was the last time the band had a decent selling record that charted. The orchestra under the leadership of Freddy Martin continued on during the rock revolution of the fifties and sixties doing hotel dates and Las Vegas venues, including appearing with Elvis Presley at his ill fated Vegas debut. A period of inactivity in the late sixties was followed by a reorganized band that played the nostalgia circuit in the early seventies featuring such musicians as Frankie Carle, Margaret Whiting, Art Mooney, and Bob Crosby. Martin continued to lead the band at sporadic intervals into the early nineteen eighties, until a short while before his passing in 1983 at the age of seventy seven.

Freddy Martin left a successful legacy of recorded music that spanned three decades at the top of his field. He totaled eighty five chart hits of which three got to number two and six others topped the American sales charts. That adds up to a major influence when the history of American popular music is contemplated. “Old Silvertone” in his way is certainly one of the giants of the industry.

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