Portraits from our Past
Southwest Virginia Music

Carl Martin

Music: 1920's - 1960's

Born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, in 1906, Carl Martin could play anything with strings including the mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and string bass. In the early part of his career, he performed throughout the mountains of Virginia and nearby states. Martin played house parties, dances, and street and medicine shows as part of an African-American string band. Along with Roland Martin (his half-brother) and Howard Armstrong, he formed the Tennessee Chocolate Drops. He recorded with the band on the Vocalion label in Knoxville, Tennessee in the 1930's. Late in the 30's, Martin moved the Chicago where he developed a diverse musical background of blues, jazz, pop, country and non-English songs. In the 60's and 70's, Martin and musical partners Ted Brogan and Armstrong played the folk and blues circuit all over the country. Martin's recordings in the 30's and 60's included selections like "Crow Jane Blues," "Kid Man Blues," "Trouble On Your Mind," and "Goin' Back Home." In addition, he recorded with other Chicago-based performers such as Bill Brooney, Tampa Red, and Bumble Bee Slim.


The Southwest Virginia Museum is a member of the American
Association of Museums, the American Association of State and Local History, and the Virginia Association of Museums.