Born c. 1965 in Maceo, KY; son of Vincent (a factory worker) and Barbara Brown; divorced; children: Crystal, Marty. Addresses: Record company--MCA Nashville, 60 Music Sq. E., Nashville, TN 37293.
A small-town Kentucky singer-songwriter who actually slept in the alleys of Nashville until he was "discovered" in 1991, Marty Brown records his own down-home songs in a voice that has drawn comparisons to the legendary Hank Williams, Sr., and country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers. At a time when the country music industry has attempted to lure new listeners by offering rock- and pop-flavored artists, Brown has made no concessions in his traditional music. Instead, he has taken his particular sound to the people who appreciate it most, performing live at small venues throughout the South and Midwest. Dallas Morning News music critic Michael Corcoran wrote: "Make no mistake about it.... The pride of Maceo, Kentucky, is one heck of a country singer.... Brown sings like he's on a front porch at the end of six miles of dirt road. He's the real thing."
The story of Marty Brown's climb to success is one of the most notable in recent memory. The young artist has estimated that he made more than 100 trips from his small Kentucky hometown to Nashville's fabled Music Row before any industry executives agreed to listen to him. "Used to be that country music did nothing more than make me a good mechanic," Brown told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "I'm used to driving $200 cars and then working on them myself." Now, thanks to exposure on the CBS television show 48 Hours and articles in the pages of People magazine, Brown has found a national audience, released three albums with MCA Records, and received effusive reviews in the Washington Post and Rolling Stone. "What's happening now is simply wild," he told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "It's more than I ever dreamed of."
Marty Brown was born and raised in the tiny hamlet of Maceo, Kentucky (pronounced "May-see-o," population 500). One of six children of a factory worker and a homemaker, he was surrounded by a variety of musical influences. His parents liked traditional country music and early Elvis Presley tunes; his older brother preferred hard rock. From infancy, Brown was completely devoted to country music himself. He learned how to play his father's guitar at the age of nine and began composing his own songs in his teens. "Country music that's good country music--it don't never die," Brown told the Los Angeles Times. "That's what I chose to listen to: early Johnny Cash, early Elvis Presley, Hank Sr., George Jones, Merle Haggard, and my biggest influence, [pop duo] the Everly Brothers."
Brown would shut himself in the bathroom to tape-record songs he had written. He was convinced that they were as good as any he heard on the radio and that, with proper instrumental backup, he could perform them and become a star. By the time he graduated from high school, he had consigned dozens of original songs to tape. "I used to cry myself to sleep at night wanting this to happen to me," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I think if the Lord sees you want something bad enough, He's going to reach down and He's going to help you achieve it. But you have to really prove yourself first."
The trips to Nashville began. Brown, who was supporting a wife and two young children on what he could earn as a plumber's assistant and part-time mechanic, spent his spare time knocking on doors in Nashville, trying to get an agent, a recording contract, or even a dependable performing gig. No one was interested. At home in Kentucky he entered a talent show sponsored by the Everly Brothers--and lost. Time after time Brown found himself penniless and ignored, sleeping in Nashville's alleys while waiting for his mother to come drive him home to Kentucky. "Man, I'd come back from those failed trips [to Nashville] like a dog with a tail between his legs," Brown recalled in the Lexington Herald-Leader. "I'd throw that old guitar down that night and say I'd never mess with it again. But in the morning, I'd be up writing a new song again."
After one particular day of pavement-pounding in Nashville, Brown was ready to give up completely. Trudging down the sidewalk, he saw the words "Trust Jesus" scrawled on the sidewalk in front of a firm that represents songwriters. "I looked up at the sky and just took me a deep breath and I went in there," Brown told USA Today. An agent listened to him perform eight songs and agreed to try to find him a recording contract. Then, in a bizarre twist of fate, Brown found himself the subject of a CBS-TV news documentary on country music that was broadcast on 48 Hours, a popular newsmagazine anchored by Dan Rather. The show gave Brown ample room to demonstrate not only his songwriting talent but also his engaging, down-home personality. After the show aired, Nashville's biggest record companies engaged in a bidding war to sign the would-be country star.
Brown's debut album, High and Dry, was released in 1991. Almost immediately the artist encountered the problem that has plagued him ever since--many radio stations in large markets would not play his singles; ironically, Marty Brown--with his hillbilly vocals and catchy laments about lost love--is considered "too country" for modern country radio. None of the singles from his first three albums managed to break the top 40 on the country charts.
Brown still managed to find his audience, however. High and Dry has sold more than 100,000 copies. As Corcoran noted in the Dallas Morning News: "The only way to hear Brown's music is to buy it, and fans of real country music are doing that so often that he may become the first album-oriented country artist since Boxcar Willie." However, in a review of Brown's third LP, Cryin', Lovin', Leavin', in Country Music, Rich Kienzle asserted, "It would be an opportune time for Brown to hit the radio since this ... is his best album ever," and added, "Brown's ballads remain achingly intense and direct, with the pure, old-fashioned moralism of a weathered 'Jesus Saves' sign along a rural highway." Kienzle remarked that with the debut of a classic country station in Nashville, Brown may have a chance at airplay alongside staple original country artists including Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.
Brown has augmented his recording with a touring schedule that includes--along with the obligatory state fairs--live performances at Wal-Mart stores, especially in the South. Brown began his Wal-Mart appearances the year after his first album was released and has continued to do them ever since. Typically, the shows, which are underwritten by MCA Records, are performed in a store aisle with modest amplification and a stage about a foot high. Fans give Brown homemade cookies, jam, and fishing lures. "I wanted a tour like this to hit these small, out-of-the-way towns," Brown told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Coming from a town like Maceo, I know that you don't get to see anything exciting come into town very much. I think it's also a neat way to get out in front of ordinary people who would ordinarily never get to see you."
"Ordinary" may be a defining word for Marty Brown. His songs are heartfelt without resorting to cliche, his soulful voice echoes the Hank Williams tradition, and his easygoing personality has not been altered by his brush with fame. "My music is quite real to me," Brown told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "That's why I think real people will relate to it. I've experienced that stuff. That's been my way of dealing with life." Asked what kept him going through all the years of rejection, Brown told USA Today: "I didn't want to turn 50 and look at these songs in a drawer and say, 'I wonder what would have happened if I had tried.'"
by Anne Janette Johnson
Marty Brown's Career
Country singer and songwriter, 1991--. Signed with MCA Records and released High and Dry, 1991. Has also worked as a plumber's assistant, grocery bagger, and auto mechanic.
- Selective Works
- High and Dry, MCA, 1991.
- Blue Kentucky Skies, MCA, 1993.
- Cryin', Lovin', Leavin', MCA, 1994.
- Chicago Tribune, October 17, 1991.
- Country Music, July/August 1994.
- Dallas Morning News, March 2, 1992.
- Lexington Herald-Leader, October 20, 1991; September 4, 1992; March 19, 1993; June 4, 1993; April 30, 1994.
- Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1992.
- People, November 18, 1991.
- Philadelphia Inquirer, August 11, 1993.
- Rolling Stone, November 14, 1991.
- State (Columbia, SC), June 25, 1993.
- USA Today, September 24, 1991.
Visitor Comments Add a comment…
over 11 years ago
This is GREAT music. Please come to New York City. I think you will be a hit.
about 12 years ago
Marty and Shelly, Really enjoyed your show and talking with you in Lagrange Georgia. We continue to enjoy listening to the CDs and hope you will return to this area again soon.
about 12 years ago
Marty used to come to my home town of Selma Alabama, he spent a few weekends at my home on the beautiful Alabama river, I remember we were all sitting around one Sunday playing guitars and singing and my folks walked in, Marty had borrowed a pair of sweatpants from me, I am 6'3 265 the looked liked he borrowed them from a big brother. He was singing as loud as he could, they look on my parents face was priceless! Marty if you read this, I will never forget those times, your still welcome to come get those fishin poles anytime!
over 12 years ago
Marty,here it is 2010. Still love your music, still not hearin' enough of you these days.Ya know Marty, if it was up to me I'd be playing alot more of your music on the radio.You are an original and a classic talent. You should pay a visit to ol' marty (The Pilgrim) Stuart. Now theres a guy who knows exactly what to do with a man such as you. Marty take care,God bless and please keep on writing those great songs of yours, take care....Jeff Webber.
over 12 years ago
Marty, I love your music. Your songs touch so many people and isn't that what its all about? I could play your songs over and over. To me your music is the best, real country. Keep the music coming. I just ordered your new cd, can't wait for it!!
almost 13 years ago
Marty, my husband and I love your music and still listen to your songs. We hope you are still making music and loving your life. You have touched our lives and made them better. When we sit at night and the subject of country music comes up and we name our favorites, we always say Marty Brown!
about 13 years ago
Marty I meet you rite after loveing,leaving and crying came out, at tootsies you were great to hang out with, you and your road manager. Me and my freinds listen to you practicaly ever weekend and wonder what the hell happend to you your awesome man we just love all your stuff. Damm music industry sux nor and so dose kenny chesney and all those other record company driven waterd down crap. You sound a little bit like Buddy Holly to. God bless you and your family and your rare music that we lack today.
about 13 years ago
I have listened to Marty since High and Dry came out and I love him. I think he should be listened too more. the radio stations missed a great singer. Remember how they knocked Elvis and many others. Well Marty, many out here love. you.
over 13 years ago
My husband was playing your records today and we wondered what you were doing now. I said you came along too late to suit Nashville. Country is not country anymore. Keep up your touring because you are as good as Hank, Sr. Good luck with your future engagements.
over 13 years ago
Put on High and Dry after not listening for awhile. Thanks Marty
almost 14 years ago
I have purchased every cd that Marty has produced. I think he is the greatest country/blues singer ever. I even has his newest cd he offers on his myspace page. I wish the country fans would embrace a great like him instead of the pop singers (crossovers) if that is what you call them. He is the greatest ever.
about 14 years ago
It was great meeting Marty and his wife and boys at a friend house. It's a small world because, I know a friend of his (Manuel)which my sister Doni is friends with. I didn't know who he was, but do know the songs that he has written. Wow. Great to meet you! Til Next time, Jess and Family
about 14 years ago
marty brown you are the best thing thats ever happened to country music todays county aint country thats for sure wish you the best in your music ventures
about 14 years ago
My husband and I saw Marty in the early 90s in St. Paul MN. He put on an awesome show! We got lots of autographs and pictures. He even signed out Casette! We remember words from a song that he sang, but can't remember the exact title. I am not sure if he ever released the song, but we would love to get a copy of it if we could. It involved the words "I always get lucky in Kentucky. Everytime I cross the Mason-Dixon line. I always get lucky in Kentucky, cause Kentucky is a friend of mine."
over 14 years ago
Marty, you're one of the best ever. I had contacted Hightone & Owensboro, but no help. I'm glad you're still out there. Please send me any kind of tour schedule you may have. I was on-board with High and Dry and have never been able to get enough. I saw you at the Indianapolis State fair back in the early 90's. I'll be sending my $$ for the new cd. I would be interested in anything you have. You're too good a treasure to go to waste. Your friend Randy!
over 14 years ago
I have always loved your music. I actually live down the road from your parents and went to elementary school with your Daughter. Just wanted to say I am proud to know one of the last true country musicians came from Maceo Ky
over 14 years ago
Gday from the land down under. I am a country DJ and I can't get enough of Marty Brown. This guy is amazing. True country at it's best. I would love to contact Marty to set up an interveiw. I get request's for Marty every week and His songs just keep getting better. For all you record guys that slammed the door in Marty's face you have missed out on having a true county legend on your books. If anyone can help me get in contact with Marty that would be great. Thanks again.
almost 15 years ago
Benn listening to you since "it must be the rain" video. I even played hooky from work to see you at the Wal Mart in Columbus Ga back then
over 15 years ago
I am releasing some new music that I co-wrote with my son, Marty Brown, Jr. for the purpose of promoting Marty, Jr.'s music. This album, called Somethin' Real, can be purchased for $11.98 by writing to P.O. Box 11, Maceo, KY 42355 Hope you enjoy the new tunes! Checkout my websites at URL:myspace.com/martybrownrecordingartist and http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-martybrownmusic Marty Brown