Martin Discography - Word doc (47 kB)
Martin Discography - RTF file (31 kB)
Martin was one of the biggest names in British popular music
during the 1950s. He conducted his orchestra regularly on
radio and television, and was also an Artists and Repertoire
Manager at EMI’s Columbia label, where he produced many hit
records by their top contract stars. But today he is fondly
remembered for his numerous recordings with his own orchestra,
many of which were big sellers. His own compositions proved
to be some of his greatest successes, such as Marching
Strings and Begorrah. To the confusion of discographers
he used various pseudonyms, among them Marshall Ross, Chris
Armstrong, Buddy Cadbury, Hans Gotwald, Gus Latimer, Harry
Nelson, Lester Powell, Tony Simmonds and Ricardo Suerte ...
there are probably many more.
in Vienna, Austria, on 11 October 1918, Ray Martin studied
at the Vienna Academy of Music and Dramatic Art from 1933
to 1938, then came to Britain in 1938, touring with the famous
Jack Hylton band in "Band Wagon", and also Carroll
Levis as a solo violin act in his "Discoveries".
the outbreak of war a year later, he joined the Intelligence
Corps, and eventually served in Germany where he conducted
a radio dance band on the British Forces Network (BFN). He
wanted a larger, full orchestral sound, which he achieved
through his ‘Melody From The Sky’ orchestra, which comprised
members from the 30 Corps Orchestra (mainly American musicians)
with the strings from the Hamburg Philharmonic. Gerhard Gregor
was featured on the electronic organ.
Ray Martin was also in charge of the Variety Department at
BFN, where he worked with the likes of Paul Carpenter (one
of the singers with Captain Bob Farnon’s Canadian Band of
the Allied Expeditionary Forces), Ian Carmichael (who became
a top British comedy actor) and up-and-coming stars such as
the comedian Frankie Howerd. He also booked Helmut Zacharias,
the talented German violinist who later gained international
acclaim with his ‘Magic Violins’.
his discharge from the Army in 1946, Ray Martin returned to
England where he wrote arrangements for Mantovani, Geraldo,
Stanley Black, Peter Yorke and Billy Ternent, among others.
He used his composing skills by contributing several pieces
of mood music for Charles Brull’s Harmonic Music Library.
1947 he was given his first BBC Radio series "Reprise"
featuring the Ray Martin Singers. The following year he was
musical director for the Jessie Matthews stage revue "Made
to Measure" for which he and colleague Johnny Brandon
contributed several songs. Their number Once Upon a Winter
Time was accepted by Vera Lynn for a Decca 78, with the
benefit of a fine Robert Farnon arrangement. The backing was
You Can’t Be True Dear, which became Vera’s first big
seller in the USA.
was chosen to conduct Danny Kaye’s UK tour. Also in 1948 he
formed the BBC Northern Variety Orchestra, and held the post
of conductor until 1951. His many broadcasts included "Fanfare",
"Waltz Time", "Top Town", "Morning
Music", "In the Still of the Night", "Mr.
Music" and "Music in the Ray Martin Manner".
Martin’s recording career began with Columbia in 1949, accompanying
Steve Conway. Soon afterwards with his ‘Melody From the Sky’
orchestra he made his first orchestral 78, a selection from
"Brigadoon" on DX 1652; he also cut two 78s for
the small Polygon company, initially only for release in the
USA. Very briefly he moved to Decca in 1951, and the following
year he and Norrie Paramor were appointed joint A & R
Managers at Columbia, replacing Norman Newell who had been
recruited to run the new Philips label, which issued its first
78s in January 1953.
beckoned with popular shows like "Quite Contrary",
"More Contrary", "The Toppers Show", "Ray’s
Half Hour", "Roof Top" and "Isn’t it Romantic".
Ray also found time to compose film scores, and his song You
Are My First Love (from the 1956 film "It’s Great
To Be Young") won him an Ivor Novello Award. Nat ‘King’
Cole recorded it in the USA. Other films included "Yield
To The Night" (1956), "A Secret Place" (1957)
and "My Wife’s Family" (1957).
‘King’ Cole wasn’t the only recording artist to accept Martin
tunes: Geraldo, Sidney Torch, Edmundo Ros and Ken Mackintosh
were among the many who were happy to record and broadcast
his catchy melodies. Martin’s Blue Violins was a No.
1 hit for Hugo Winterhalter in the USA in 1953, and it was
also recorded by the French maestro Franck Pourcel.
1957 Ray decided to try his luck in the USA, and signed with
RCA Records. Thereafter he made occasional visits to Britain
and recorded six LPs in Paris for the German Polydor label.
He returned to live in Britain in 1972, then departed for
Cyprus in 1977, settling briefly before moving on to South
Africa at the end of 1978 where he built a new career in broadcasting.
He died at his home in Johannesburg on 7 February 1988, at
the age of 69 after a long battle against cancer.
Martin has left us a legacy of many fine recordings from a
period when catchy and melodic instrumentals were still much
in favour with the record-buying public. Through his work
as an A & R Manager, Ray Martin helped to launch the careers
of many successful British singers during the 1950s. Somehow
he also found the time to write and record many enjoyable
pieces himself. His major presence on the British recording
scene lasted well under ten years, but in that relatively
short period he proved that popular, catchy instrumental numbers
can also have many positive qualities which make them outlast
their initial appeal.