Q&A with Gregg Martinez, rhythm and blues singer and purveyor of the south Louisiana genre called Swamp Pop.

"Music has had a tremendous impact on social awareness and pop culture. Two cases in point when I was growing up: Bob Dylan had a huge impact on raising awareness during the turbulent 60s that still resonates today. The Beatles changed the way young men looked worldwide. I believe music should inspire, uplift, invoke depth of feelings, and at times bring joy to peoples' hearts."

Gregg Martinez: Bayou Blues, Creole Soul

Gregg Martinez is an American rhythm and blues singer and purveyor of the south Louisiana genre called Swamp Pop. He is also referred to as "Mac Daddy" and is a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. His vocal style has been inspired and influenced by the soul crooners of the 60's/70's including Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Louisiana artists GG Shinn, TK Hulin, Big Luther Kent, and Johnny Adams.  He is the leader of and tours regularly with Gregg Martinez and the Delta Kings. Martinez began singing in public at the age of eight in his home church in Carencro, Louisiana. He began his professional music career after graduating from Teurlings Catholic High School in Lafayette, LA in 1974 by performing in the local nightlife scene of South Louisiana. From 1981 through 1984 Martinez was frontman and bandleader of Gregg Martinez and Kingfish. In 1985 he began to tour nationally with a new backing group called the Heat. Within a few months he landed an exclusive contract with the Donald Trump casinos in Atlantic City, NJ, where he would appear regularly through 1988 and relocated to in 1986.                                                                      (Photo: Gregg Martinez)

In 1990 Martinez began a new chapter in his musical journey in the Contemporary Christian Music field. He released three Christian albums from 1991-97. With the releases of For the Ages and All the Days, 1999, 2001, he began to blend the Christian music with the Rhythm and Blues of his earlier days. He formed Gregg Martinez Outreach in 1998 which most notably consisted of a public school anti-drug program which reached many thousands of students around the country. By 2006 Martinez had relocated back to his native Louisiana and had also returned to the R&B/Blues/Swamp Pop genre with the release of Big Bad Daddy. At this time he also joined the legendary blue-eyed soul group the Boogie Kings. He wrote the title song for The Boogie Kings' 2007 release Never Go Away. Martinez' CD, Soul of the Bayou, was released April 30, 2016 on Louisiana Red Hot Records. On February 9, 2019 he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. "Mac Daddy Mojeaux", Gregg's latest release and first on his new label, Nola Blue Records, is scheduled for release July 17, 2020.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the NOLA music and heritage influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I live and I am based out of New Orleans, but I was born and raised in Lafayette, heart of the Cajun country so my heritage is that. The majority of Cajun people never move away from their native region- been that way for many generations. I, on the other hand, did relocate a couple of times and have traveled extensively both statewide and abroad, but that heritage was always a huge part of me wherever I went. However, the music of New Orleans has had a huge impact on me, especially blues and New Orleans funk.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I describe it as Bayou Blues/Creole Soul, which means Soul/Blues with a distinct Louisiana flavor and personality. My music philosophy is very simple. Heartfelt, sincere, authentic, organic music that tells a story and paints a picture. My songbook is very diverse: I am a product of my influences which includes most of the Soul legends (Cooke, Redding, Pickett, Aretha, Al Green, Bobby Bland,) but also an eclectic list of others including Linda Ronstadt, Nat King Cole, Luther Vandross, Delbert McClinton... I have recorded standards such as September Song, That Lucky Old Sun, to R. Kelly songs, even a Merle Haggard song. My creative drive was always there, I don't remember ever not singing. I started publicly at eight years old in church, but the old folks told stories of me singing well before that.

"I live and I am based out of New Orleans, but I was born and raised in Lafayette, heart of the Cajun country so my heritage is that. The majority of Cajun people never move away from their native region- been that way for many generations. I, on the other hand, did relocate a couple of times and have traveled extensively both statewide and abroad, but that heritage was always a huge part of me wherever I went." (Gregg Martinez / Photo by Gus Bennett)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Meeting jazz musician Joe Ambrosia in 1984. His influence with a prominent booking agency set me on a new career path of national touring. Which led to meeting Keith Benson, session drummer with the legendary MFSB- the Sound of Philadelphia (O-Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Spinners, Patti Labelle…) Learned a great deal from Keith. Best advice was to treat everyone, no matter their station, as important, and no matter where you go or how far, never forget where you came from.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

First time at New Orleans Jazzfest was a dream come true, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was memorable, Festival International in Lafayette, LA with my heroes in front of thousands of friends and family. Opening for BTO in TX- crowd was farther than I could see, and opening for Bobby Blue Bland. Recording in Muscle Shoals, AL was also a dream come true.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Don't get me started. I'll just say I miss everything about the music from the past- today you've got rap.

What would you say characterizes Louisiana's music scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

Easy one. Louisiana is the most musical state in the country. No other state has the various cultures that we do. Many states have no culture of their own at all. LA has several, and the music scene reflects it.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?                                                   (Photo: Gregg Martinez)

Everything is relative to the amount of work you put in. When I was in my twenties, I was mostly interested in the lifestyle that being a music artist brought. I didn't take it serious or begin to work at it until mid-thirties. By then I had squandered many opportunities that don't come around again. You need to have a vision for your career, set short term and long term goals, and work like hell to achieve them...

"However, the music of New Orleans has had a huge impact on me, especially blues and New Orleans funk."

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music has had a tremendous impact on social awareness and pop culture. Two cases in point when I was growing up: Bob Dylan had a huge impact on raising awareness during the turbulent 60s that still resonates today. The Beatles changed the way young men looked worldwide. I believe music should inspire, uplift, invoke depth of feelings, and at times bring joy to peoples' hearts.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Assuming you mean from a musical aspect I would say January 24, 1967- the day Aretha Franklin recorded her first hit I Never Loved A Man in Muscle Shoals, AL. By all accounts it was a tense, yet electric, and ultimately historic recording session to witness.

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