THE name in the history of bluegrass music is Bill Monroe. Taking elements from the jigs and reels of Scottish, Irish, English and German settlers of the southern United States' Appalachian backwoods regions, along with the negro musicians' banjo and hefty doses of murder ballads and gospel, Monroe melded it all into a new form of country music that came to be called Bluegrass. Monroe's brother, Charlie, while not quite as famous as Bill, carved out a respectable country and bluegrass career of his own, and one player the pair had in common – especially in their early days – was fiddle player extraordinaire, James 'Slim' Martin. Slim played with both brothers' bands in the early years, before settling with Charlie. Later he would have his own lineups, a long history in bluegrass and country radio, as well as playing on literally hundreds, possibly thousands of major bluegrass and country recording sessions, live shows and radio broadcasts, with artists including the Monroe brothers, Jimmy Rodgers, Chet Atkins, Molly O'Day, Lester Flatt and many, many more.
Bought in the early 1940s
Born and raised in the western mountains of North Carolina, Slim bought this fantastic sounding German fiddle in the early 1940s and played it his entire life. His son, Chuck Martin, inherited it from his father, but with his own music drifting in more of a Lynyrd Skynyrd direction, (alongside a busy career in Hollywood soundtrack recording), and the fiddle largely untouched for several years, Chuck recently traded it on something that he would use on a more regular basis.
Hand crafted in Germany in the late 1800s, regular servicing and a couple of modern updates have kept the instrument in top condition. You can maybe tell by the perpetual grin on Slim's face in the photos what a pleasure it is to play! And if you ever wanted to see the embodiment of the term 'fiddleback', click on pic # 8 and check out the awesome flamed European Maple on the back of this magnificent instrument!
Charlie Monroe and Wilma
Speaking of the photos, the image to the right shows Slim and his wife, Wilma, onstage with Charlie Monroe; pic # 6 again shows Slim onstage with Charlie Monroe, alongside a nice studio portrait of Slim and Wilma. (Photos courtesy of Martin family and friends)
Sandner Brazilian bow
Recently appraised by two of Melbourne's leading classical music specialists at considerably more than our asking price, this historically important bluegrass fiddle comes with the bonus of an original Brazilian pernambuco bow, by A.R. SANDNER, believed to date to the 1920s.
LISTENING NOTES: Slim Martin features on the soundtrack to the 1971 movie Preacherman, as well as several tracks on the excellent bluegrass box set Can't You Hear Me Callin'; Bear Family's superb Charlie Monroe set, I'm Old Kentucky Bound; and the 1947 volume of Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Hillbilly Music. Some sources credit Slim with writing 'Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms' and he is also credited with the modern arrangement of 'Arkansas Traveler'. Slim's fiddle and vocal work on Charlie Monroe's 'Bringin' In The Georgia Mail', (written by Fred Rose of the legendary Acuff & Rose songwriting team), is exemplary